AC: Revelations Beta - Hands On - September 8th 2011

Ubisoft introduced a multiplayer component to the Assassins franchise for the first time in Brotherhood. When it was first announced, there was some concern that it would offer little more than a watered down version of the single player. Even though it ended up being something of an acquired taste, it was polished and resonated with many fans. Its innate potential clearly warranted revisiting the idea, which brings us nicely to Revelations.

The Playstation Plus and Uplay exclusive Beta kicked off a few days ago, and we've been playing it since the initial release. It is also now available to the general PS3 gaming public, but it's due to close on Sunday 11th September. Obviously this isn't the final version of the Revelations multiplayer, but right off the bat there were a few technical hiccups. The background graphics often froze for a few seconds upon reaching the main menu, and load times were pretty excessive. Hopefully these will be ironed out before launch.

Thankfully though, the actual gameplay itself was pretty smooth, which is great considering it's a work in progress. There's a couple of tutorial levels to play through before you're launched into matchmaking. This is a welcome feature, as I have personally spent very little time with this franchise. Using A.I. characters, you're given a rundown of the underlying principles, which consist of tracking down targets and eliminating them, or escaping from pursuers.

This is going to be messy.

It's quite disorientating to play at first, but once you get to grips with the controls, everything starts to fall into place. Navigating the world is very easy. The consistently superb climbing animations, coupled with some wonderful character design, make you feel like a nimble and deadly assassin. And because not everyone has invested in the mythology heavy story of the campaign, it is more important than ever that the multiplayer is satisfying and therefore keeps you coming back for more.

So it's safe to say that relative newcomers, like myself, are being looked after. But die-hard players needn't cry foul and dive off a roof into a bale of hay. Ubisoft Montreal have gone to great lengths to ensure there's enough new additions to keep everyone happy. Your Templar profile now displays your Abstergo credits, which can be exchanged for specific abilities and perks. Customisable clothing, weaponry, and emblems have also been added, so if you're planning to put a fair few hours into this experience, you'll be handsomely rewarded. Support for leaderboards and challenges is present and accounted for, and generally speaking, there's enough here to keep you busy for a decent amount of time.

There's two maps on offer: Knight's Hospital and Antioch, with a third, Constantinople, due to be added in later. The play space is quite generous, especially when you factor in rooftops as a potential hiding spot or escape route. There are four different gametypes available: Wanted (kill targets, avoid pursuers), Manhunt (team based play, where one team hunts while the other avoids detection), Deathmatch (kill and avoid but in a restricted area), and finally, Artifact Assault, which is Revelations' spin on Capture the Flag.

Why not just take the stairs?

The core mechanics remain the same across each of these modes, and they're a lot of fun. Pursuers have the upper hand, in the sense that if you're caught, you're going to die. As a target, you do have the option to stun attackers with a punch, which earns you an honourable death XP boost, but this is awkward to pull off in the heat of the moment. The thrill of the chase however, from both perspectives, is spectacular. Whether you manage to execute a target or evade an adversary, the games feels dynamic and addicting in equal measure.

It might feel daunting to begin with, but from what I've played so far, the multiplayer in Assassins Creed: Revelations is extremely accessible and rewarding. And the good thing is, if you've played Brotherhood, you'll feel right at home here. I still don't think it's going to be everyone's cup of tea, but Ubisoft have done some solid work here. The full game is due out November 15th 2011, for Playstation 3, PC, and Xbox 360.

Jon Titmuss

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Ubisoft Montreal
PC PS3 360