How Assassin's Creed Flipped My World Upside Down

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.

Flipping controls

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

Flipping expectations

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.


Comments

    I really hope they've made the single player campaign more stealth like, I love the multi-player element, it was the best addition to brotherhood. The single player still felt like playing God Mode, more stealth like stuff please! Only problem is I don't think anyone has seen the campaign yet?

    "... demands that players outthink one another"

    In fact this is what all high-level competitive play is based around. Sure you can have reaction speed and aim, but that levels out. Outsmarting an opponent is very core to success in MP play, even in twitchy FPS's.

    Having said this, game mechanics often determine how meaningful 'outthinking' an opponent is; if it there are few rewards or opportunity for outthinking an opponent, then most probably the game does not have much depth.

      That's a really good point actually. At a high level, with other players at a similar level, that makes a difference - but put a pro player in with scrubs and he doesn't even really have to think about it, he can just outshoot them.

        Really, that just means that the skill ceiling is rather low in Assassin's Creed.

        Not that that's a bad thing, makes it accessible. Some would consider it good game design.

    "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."

    I volunteer at a youth community media organistation and last year we did this IRL (minus the NPCs). Available weapons were Nerf guns, plastic knives and 'poison' (wasabi, vinegar, tabsco sauce). Work places were off limits but otherwise everything was fair game. It was terrifying :D

      well, I guess technically we did have NPCs, but I doubt a group of stangers would continue standing in a circle if you slipped in the middle of them :p

    My most satisfying moment was stabbing you in the back moments after you killed someone during the demo, Serrels.

    I can't wait for the full game...

      I miss your musk.

        Why don't you sit this next one out, stop talking for a while.

    Now let me take a minute,
    Just sit right there
    And let me tell you all about this guy named Altaïr.

    Sorry, couldn't resist.

      Iiin West Israel, in the Third Crusade,
      On the rooftops was where I spent most of my days,
      Killing guards, grabbin' stabbin' all cool,
      And all shootin' some archers outside of a school.
      When a couple of guys, decked out in black hoods,
      Started makin' trouble in mah neighbourhood!
      I go in one little fight and the Pope got scared,
      He said, "Somebody stop that Assassin named Altair!"

        Is that actually a song?

    My wife keeps saying that one day a game developer will simply forget to allow Y-Axis inversion and prods me over and over: "whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna dooooo?".

    I honestly don't know if I could adapt properly. Somertimes when I babysit her controller in a multipalyer game for a minute while she runs to the bathroom I can very carefully negotiate myself around, sometimes line up some kills, but when it comes to that split-second reaction, I push forward to look down and wind up emptying a clip into the sky like some kind of cloud-hating dickhead.

    It'd take more than 40 minutes to change me, I'm sure.

      I once was like you.

      Don't worry, you can be cured of your affliction.

        Cut off his hands... reattach them upside down.

        It's the only way.

          Easy tiger. First try playing with the controller inverted, so the triggers are on top. If you are not on top of the leaderboards in half an hour THEN go the handectomy.

    I'm late to the party. Making my way through the campaign in Brotherhood at the moment, and have yet to try MP.
    Is there still a decent enough online pressence?
    (PS3)

    Dammit, I wasn't going to buy this game but now you've made it sound really appealing.

    My poor wallet :(

    The only thing I hope they add is a penalty of some sort (points or something) for those who just sprint around all the time. Hate those people. Especially when they're your target, because then you have to run around like an idiot to get to them.

      They've actually changed how the "incognito" bar up the top works. You actually start at about half way or something now, and I think to get it higher you have to stay in hiding while your target is in sight, or something similar. Hopefully that should help with it a bit... I think it's also easier to stun now (so if they give themselves away they might get screwed easier). Plus there's also "honourable deaths" where you get points for punching them in the face while dying or something. So I guess there's a few more things to try and counter the running around like an idiot thing... Don't know how well they'll work--I don't have a PS3, so couldn't try the beta :(

        Yeah, that's basically it, the stealthier you do it, the more points you get, but I'm not entirely sure how the detection meter worked in revelations. I think it drains as you run around normally too (that's the penalty for those people who run around like idiots). And if you go to stun you pursuer, but they still kill you, you get an "honorable death" bonus. The pursuer gets a "contested kill", which is still 100 points (like a normal kill), so I think it might just be to tell them that their target got some extra points.

    Still find it amazing they managed to do this, and do it well.

    You look at Assasins Creed II and wonder "How the hell can you make an interesting and fun action game set during Renaissance Italy...and they succeded at it.

    You look at Brotehrhood and wonder how the hell can you introduce Multiplayer into this franchise and not make it seem tacked on and unnecessary....and they succeeded at it.

    This series has always thrown up questions of "How the hell can they manage that?" being answered by complete success...Hell, they even showed us it was possible to put out annual games that actually built upon the previous title and brought new successful elements in while minimising the feeling of it being rehashed.

    I love what Ubi has done with the series, and I cannot wait for this game...Its my most hyped title of the year. Screw MW and BF...this is the best series coming out this year.

    If anyone has played The Ship, they will understand this type of gameplay. In that game, you had one target on a cruise liner and one other passenger had you. What was cool was how you could see from the passengers "body language" when they spotted you.

    You might see someone coming the other way down a corridor. You pass each other on opposite sides, turning so you can see what they are doing and that they dont bean you with an axe.

    At this point they see your current passenger name (this is generated) and be sure you are the target. They have a picture of you but it is possible to change clothes to disguise yourself from a distance.

    If you are the target, they may still pretend that you aren't who they are looking for. nonchalantly they will continue, and so you might also continue down the hallway looking back and see them go around a corner. At this point I would usually wait a few seconds. If the person was actually chasing you, they might peek back around. Now you know they are chasing you... or maybe they are checking if you are chasing them and now think you are their assassin. It can be amusing when two people who arent actually chasing each other read the situation wrong and one takes the other out.

    Reading the behavior of the avatar is a very important part of the game.

    Inverters should be shot. It's wrong! It's... wrong.

      Bigots should be shot. It's wrong! It's... wrong.

        Wolves should be shot. It's...right

    Sounds like Mark is flipping out about this game.

    His perceptions of the game were flipped on their head.

    He'll be flipping out his wallet and flipping Ubisoft some cash on release day for sure.

    He seems really impressed with the mother-flipping game.

    .....flip flip flip.

    This pretty much describes my impression of Brotherhood (you never played Brotherhood Mark?)

    @ andye - I beleive the same people who designed "The Ship" and "Bloody Good Time" also did this - but through a huge franchise like Assassin's Creed the style of game has gotten more exposure than it ever would have with the other two.

    This is why Assassin's Creed Multiplayer was a wonderful idea that I did not appreciate until I actually tried it.

    The only thing that ruins it is the 13 year olds who run around stabbing NPCs until they get lucky and then gloat into their headsets.

    I'm not going to play the multiplayer component of this game, singleplayer is all that matters.

      You'll certainly be missing out on one of the most interesting and enjoyable multiplayer components I've ever had the pleasure to experience then. I'd definitely suggest you give it a go if you get the chance.

    This sounds like all kinds cool

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