Assassin's Creed is a series that has continued to reinvent genres, and expectations. Now, after an extensive hands on with Revelations' multiplayer component, Assassin's Creed somehow managed to flip my game world upside down -- literally and figuratively!
The in-game camera hits the floor, reeling.
“Bloody hell,” I say audibly. Instinctively I scramble for an invert Y option. That’s right folks -- I’m an inverter.
“Sorry Mark,” A voice from behind. The Ubisoft rep. “You can’t invert in the demo.”
I grumble, muttering something in response.
“Yeah, I know,” he replies. “I’m the same. I spent most of my time playing staring at the ceiling.”
I frown. But this is just the start of the demo. 40 minutes later I left the building with a stupid grin on my face.
Literally -– and figuratively –- Assassin’s Creed Revelations flipped my gaming world upside down.
Not being able to invert -– it’s not a problem we’re likely to have in the complete game. The ability to flip the Y axis has been available in all previous games, it’s safe to assume it’ll be available in this sequel -- but despite this, minus said option, I steeled myself for a frustrating 40 minutes.
This was, after all, a multiplayer demo. In most multiplayer games, where matches are won and lost on swift reaction times, the ability to out-aim your opponent in a split second takes precedence. Not being able to invert my controls would be a game changer. This was the reason for my grumbles -– I had already foreseen the outcome…
Death -– on multiple occasions. ‘I could have got that guy if my controls were right’. That’s what I would say. My frustration would build. I’d try to hide it, but asilent grimace would betray me; forming as my teeth clenched together with a bitter, jealous rage.
With my world flipped on its head, there would be no way I could have fun with this game. I would leave the room with a poorly informed opinion of Assassin’s Creed Revelations, coloured purely by my inability to control my own movements with any sort of dexterity.
That’s what I thought would happen. I was wrong
Once I understood precisely what behaviour was being rewarded in Assassin’s multiplayer, and what was required of me to win, I quickly realised that, unlike almost every other tacked on multiplayer section ever created, there was no need to outshoot, or out-reflex your opponent. The fact that I constantly found myself disorientated was irrelevant. Assassin’s Creed Revelations required a different skillset altogether
Assassin’s Creed Revelations demands that players outthink one another -- that they bluff -- that they wait patiently for the correct moment and strike when the time is right. I never had to circle strafe in Assassin’s Creed Revelations - not once. No-one is screaming ‘BOOM HEADSHOT’. They’re emerging from the crowd to silently lodge a hidden blade in your kidneys before slipping into the shadows.
My expectations, like my controls, were flipped.
If you spent any time online with Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, you’ll be familiar with the mechanics of it. The game begins, you’re given a specific target. In amongst the crowds of NPCs and other players you have to find your target before someone else -- who has you as their target -– finds a way to stab you in the back.
And the stakes get higher. The more successful you become at killing, the more enemies are assigned you as a specific target. During one particularly successful game I had four of the eight participants on my tail, watching for signs of my presence, whilst I attempted to stalk one single player. With only one person searching for me in the crowd I could afford to be reckless -- but four? I had to be a little more delicate -- more precise -- with my movements.
Flipping the script
What I eventually discovered, bizarrely, was that being precise -- being delicate with my movements -- actually translated to an bigger flip than my un-inverted control scheme could ever provide. In order to remain unseen, and strike efficiently from the shadows, I had to think, move, and act like an NPC.
It’s an interesting switch. Game development has spent years, decades, attempting to create AI that thinks, moves and acts like a human player, but now –- once again –- Assassin’s Creed Revelations was flipping the script, forcing me to blend into the crowd, to become part of the furniture, like an NPC.
The multiplayer maps in Assassin’s Creed are littered with non-playable characters - walking at a steady pace, moving in groups, standing next to stalls. To attack efficiently, and approach my enemies without them noticing my presence, I have to behave like them. My movements must be sterile, mindless, pedestrian. If I start running like a hooded gazelle, I’ll be spotted.
And then I’ll be dead.
This is the tension. This is how Assassin’s Creed multiplayer works, and it’s incredibly compulsive, an elaborate game of hide and seek. Do you bluff or double bluff?
Dissolving into the crowd can be fun, and it’s not unlike Metal Gear Solid in that the act of simply waiting -- and allowing the tension to build -- can be rewarding in itself. In Assassin’s Creed Revelations you can be standing completely motionless and still be engaged. You’re circling the camera; scanning for strange movements, looking for your target, constantly aware of your assailant.
Flipping the bird
Towards the end I start taking risks. Instead of hiding in the crowds, and mimicking the movements of AI, I take to the rooftops. It’s a dangerous move, but it has its own rewards.
In essence it’s a double bluff –- while I was on the ground I assumed others were in the crowds like me. Very rarely did I flip my camera upwards towards the rooftops. I was banking on others doing the same.
And it worked. Sometimes. On other occasions I was quickly spotted and garrotted within seconds -– but that’s the magic of Assassin’s Creed multiplayer. Even within the 40 minutes I spent playing I could see strategies in flux -– what was successful at the beginning of games had the potential to become redundant within the course of a single game.
It was at this point, in a brief moment of reflection, that I realised I had completely forgotten that my controls weren’t inverted. I had completely adjusted. It made complete sense –- I’d done a lot of adjusting over the last 40 minutes.
Because, in a lot of ways, Assassin’s Creed Revelations is a game that is constantly flipping your world upside down.