Ubisoft's juggernaut franchise Assassin's Creed vaults onto the PSP with Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines. But should it have stayed perched on home consoles?
While Assassin's Creed II tells the story of Renaissance nobleman assassin Ezio, Bloodlines brings players back to 12th century and the story of the original Assassin's Creed's Altair. The game picks up where Assassin's Creed left off, and Altair must hunt down the remaining Templars who have fled to the Island of Cyprus. It also serves as a link between the first game and the second.
Bloodlines is not Ubisoft's first stab at bringing Assassin's Creed to handhelds. Assassin's Creed: Altair's Chronicles appeared on the Nintendo DS in February 2008. It was later ported to the iPhone in spring of this year. Unlike the DS game, the PSP's Bloodlines features gameplay similar to the home console versions of the game. Players can roam around Cyprus, blend into crowds, jump into haystacks and sneak up on targets to snub them out. But just because something works on a home console, that does not mean it will work on a portable system.
Loved Combat, Cool Combos...: The most fun to be had in Bloodlines? The combat. Players hone in on their target and go in for the kill. Counter attacking, likewise, is fun and the first twenty or so times you see the mini cinematic for a finishing move is also satisfying.
Once Upon A Time: For fans of the series, the real draw here is not the gameplay, it's the story. What is the connection between Altair and Ezio? Are they related? If so, how? The game touches on those issues, and those who have been following the AC plot will be interested in picking up bloodlines if only to fill in some of the blanks between AC1 and AC 2. Maria is also a stand-out story wise in Bloodlines.
Graphically Impressive: Bloodlines looks solid for a PSP title. While the brown colour palette of Cyprus is largely drab, it's very cool to see Altair running around on the PSP's screen. The frame rate is generally smooth. Like with many PSP games, however, this look great from far away, but not so great close up. That's simply hardware issue, and all and all, the game's pretty.
Hated Not So Intelligent: The A.I. in Bloodlines is, sorry to be frank, dumb. Enemies are not very smart! Sometimes guards notice when you are slaying your prey, and sometimes, even when they are standing close by, they are blissfully unaware. On other occasions, they'll draw a sword for no apparent reason. Bosses aren't too bright, either.
Setting: The game's developers picked Cyprus to set the game. There's lots of brown! Okay, fine. I can live with that. The real issue is the way the city is divided up into sections. It's impossible to get an expansive feel when there are invisible walls and divides. It's hard to build up any real rhythm moving around. Then, Cyprus itself is mostly barren and empty, and it seems like guards outnumber the regular population — maybe that's how it was in the 12th century! But it doesn't make for the most seductive game environment.
Confusing: Let's say, you've never played Assassin's Creed. Who is this Altair? Who are the Templars? What's with this Maria lady? Animus, wha? The tutorial is suitable, but more story exposition is needed to bring this title to a wider audience. If you are familiar with the series, dive in, enjoy. If not, this is not the game for you. Go play one of the console games. Pronto!
Camera Issues: The developer makes a valiant effort at addressing the camera controls in Bloodlines. I applaud what they tried — more importantly, I respect it. Thing is, it doesn't work. To access the camera, players must press one of the shoulder buttons. Then that allows them use the triangle, square, circle, etc. buttons to look up, down, right, left. Players must stop dead in their tracks, and access the camera. It kills the flow — rather, it ensures that there really is no flow.
Hoping to repeat the commercial and technical success of something like God of War: Chains of Olympus, Bloodlines leaps high, but ends up falling flat on its face. Just because Assassin's Creed can be developed on handhelds, that doesn't mean it should.
Assassin's Creed is a big title — it needs the power of home consoles to fully play up the strengths of its gameplay. The developers did attempt to reproduce the console version on portable systems, but perhaps, retrenching for the PSP could lead to more satisfying gameplay.
Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines was developed by Ubisoft Montreal and Griptonite Games, and published by Ubisoft for the PSP on November 17 in North America and November 19 in Australia. Retails for $US39.99/$AU69.95. A digital copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Completed single player.
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