When Ubisoft teased Assassin's Creed: Revelations with a screen of Ezio in Constantinople, we were skeptical--not of the setting (a city at the crossroads of the world, with acres of exotic architecture to clamber on), but of the new hook blade: the curious hooked deal sprouting from beneath Ezio's sleeve. It would be a boon for climbing, as seen in the screenshot, but in combat? It wasn't clear how the puny wrist hook would bring the required assassin badassery to a fight.
Alex Amancio, creative director on Revelations, made it clear for us in a single-player demo at E3 2011. In a brawl, Ezio hooks a guard in the face and tugs him in close for a kill. A second unlucky guard gets the hook blade smacked under his chin and then reeled in like a fish for another melee finisher. In this way, says Amancio, the hook blade adds fluidity to combat, but it speeds up traversal, too: Ezio also uses the new hook to slide along zip lines between rooftops.
In the demo, an older and more bearded Ezio than the hero of Brotherhood battles his way toward a tower that's anchoring a great chain stretched across the harbor, trapping his ship. On the way, he passes belly dancers and fire-breathers--Constantinople natives we wouldn't be surprised to find as new avatar choices in Revelations' multiplayer suite--and deploys an incendiary bomb against a cluster of guards. The grenade-like device is one of the varieties of explosive that can be crafted from found materials in this new Assassin's Creed.
The zip lining comes after Ezio destroys the tower and boards a ship in the harbor. From it, he sets every vessel but his own ablaze with a kind of mounted flamethrower, then makes his escape by clambering and zip line sliding through the burning wrecks. We're also pleased to see the signature Assassin's Creed leaping wrist blade double kill, with Ezio dropping from a rope zip line stretched between ship masts.
Amancio promises refinement to the storytelling (a more "meaningful narrative," he calls it) but not by means of stripping out the property purchasing and assassin team management of the previous game. He tells us, albeit vaguely, that the game's various non-murdering, non-free-running sideshows are being brought together more coherently in the service of the plot. And what a plot it needs to be to resolve the tangle of timelines and Templar conspiracy fiction set up by Assassin's Creeds 2 and Brotherhood. (Players who have yet to finish Brotherhood, be warned: there are spoilers below.)
The way Amancio tells it, Desmond, who fell into a coma at the end of the last game, has been plugged back into an Animus machine to keep him alive. There, he's fallen into the lower levels of the machine's code--into the operating system, Amancio says--where, a new story trailer informs us, he'll be navigating free-floating blocks in an abstract space that somewhat resembles the neon alien computer level at the end of Brotherhood or the abstract training environments of that game.
Ezio, meanwhile, is retracing the footsteps of his and Desmond's ancestor, Altair. On his Altair pilgrimage through Constantinople, Ezio must beat the Templars to five keys--important artifacts that open the way to, at a guess, more unimaginably powerful alien technology. The keys, however, let Ezio relive Altair's memories in the manner of an Animus; Amancio tells us you'll play each of the Assassin's Creed trio in Revelations. He also describes Revelations as the end of a "trilogy"; the end of the Ezio story arc that begin in Assassin's Creed 2, and also an end for Altair, though not necessarily for Desmond.
Andreane Meunier, producer for online elements in Revelations, doesn't have a multiplayer demo to show us ahead of E3 proper, though she says there is one on the show floor. For now, she tells us to expect to see the vicious new hook blade in multiplayer, which builds on that of Brotherhood. Some maps from that game's multiplayer will appear alongside new environments, she says, as well as new characters and modes, plus a new post-kill taunt option. Character customization elements are stronger this time, too, and though progression in Brotherhood's competitive multiplayer won't carry over to Revelations, there will be some offering, says Meunier, for those of us who sunk hours in it. We'll have more on Revelations multiplayer when we get our hands on it, so Assassin's Creed fans should keep an eye on GameSpot's continuing E3 2011 coverage.