ACR makes me want to assasinate myself.
ACR is my first attempt at console gaming. It's been clear for years that PC gaming is practically dead (thank you, children with unlimited credit lines!). So if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. So I got a PS3, and now my beloved mouse is gone, along with any need for fast fingers. It's all thumbs, now, which sucks, because those are the two digits that PC gamers almost never use.
I say all this so you know that a part of my experience is a metaexperience with the world of consoles. Triangles, squares and circles are no substitute for the bliss of a custom layout on a keyboard. But if there was a game where I could crash course in console, ACR would be that game. And for that, I'm a little grateful.
Here's my gripes with this title that I *think* have little to nothing to do with my crappiness at handling a console controller.
1. Free camera from Hades. Players of AC2 remember the dread of the locked camera at crappy angles during some of the exploration side missions. It was the worst part of that game, when you could get a longer look at your full environment. So now Ubi has been kind enough to knock that crap off. And that's a good thing. Until you realize that you have to control the camera *entirely* whilst moving and everything else. So instead of two functions simultaneously, you have three. That's an added layer of complexity. THis is a really hard game (for me) to move quickly in and feel like I'm in control of my player. Obviously my newness to the controller thingee makes that ten times worse, but this would still be brutal even with a mouse and camera hotkeys. In the end, I think they should have just met in the middle and had a fixed camera, but just made it a better fixed camera. That would have helped enormously in anything involving rooftop running.
2. There's a story here....somewhere. This is a messy game. Most of the gameplay is taken up by superficial item collection (another by-product of the console craze where trophies for most times a butt was wiped are apparently highly desired) and a large collection of minigames. It's the feathers game, but worse. The time sucks in this game pull me out of any story continuity. The truth is that this is less an adventure game as it is a "hidden items" game. After three hours, I stopped opening chests because a) there were too many (Oh, honey, look! a treasure chest in the mailbox! Again!), and b) they were all crap. If I never see another bomb item again it'll be too soon. At least give me some dang cash.
After about ten hours, I forgot what I was supposed to be doing and why I was supposed to be doing it. And worse, I think that was the point. If you got rid of all the sidequest/timesuck idiocy and just wrote the story down on paper, it would be maybe two pages long.
3. My kingdom to climb a tower that isn't guarded by the entire empire!
One big difference than in the past is how hard it is to just map the bloody city. Almost all of the viewing spots ar ein hostile territory. And the guards are more numerous and much touger than in previous games. Gone is the old "counterstrike" until you wipe out the sector. That's good and bad. All I wanted to do was see what was where so I could plan my game. But to do that, most of the time I had to take a Templar den first. In short, there is zero stealth in this game. Even going out for burgers probably requires an absurd deathmatch against pikemen. The first ACs probably were a bit too easy once you mastered the counterattacks. It's good that they threw in a little variety. I just don't think it's very balanced. In early levels, Ezio's pretty tame, and somne of these guards are ver, very tough, and since you don't have a good layout, you can wander into some brutal spots completely overmatched.
4. One city to rule them all. Okay, yes, the map's huge. But it's the same neighborhood multiplied by twenty. I get dizzy looking at the Istanbul map and just the sheer volume of sameness. I miss multiple cities. I hate Constantinople.
5. I HATE BOMBS. Okay, I don't, but why on earth is a largely incidental wqeapon the subject of so much attention and detail? I'd rather buy art for the villa than look at the 50 varieties of shell casings for crap I'm not going to use. This game could be renamed Bombers Creed and it would probably be more accurate a description.
6. Snipers suck. And they're everywhere. In the toilet, in my kitchen, in the garage. Snipers everwhere. And they have range. More than you. Snipers...you gotta be kidding me. Now it's not even Bombers Creed. It's Splinter Cell in robes. This is the first AC where swords are incidental to the rest of the game. That made me sad. I used to feel like a king on the rooftops. Now I only go up high if I absolutely have to. It's too dangerous up there!
7. 21st century politics in a 16th century bun. Normally I leave this stuff out of reviews, but I can't help noticing how everything is for sale in Istanbul. It's just like neoliberalism! Istanbul may be the center of the Ottoman Empire, but apparently, everything's subject to private ownership! When I found out that I could buy the Grand Bazaar itself, I wept a little inside.
Now for a few good things, because they're there, otherwise I wouldn't have given this a 6 or 7 (I forget which, I was too busy chasing animus fragments).
Ambient sounds are great, as is the crowd distribution. The artwork for which this series is famous is still top of the line. Ubi has almost no peer on that score with the arguable exception of Bethesda. When you are able to climb something unmolested, some of the views are absolutely eye-popping. Especially around the water. I probably would have loved to just explore this city without the incredible concentration of hostiles. Voice acting is decent to above average as well.
In the end, if you're good with a controller--unlike me...:)--and you like that AC is pretty much devolved into a shooter now, this is probably a really good game for you. You'll learn some nifty history--always a plus--as well as a neverending stream of fighting. I fyouplay Ezio like a soldier, you're best off. But if you like the emphasis on old fashioned assasination of the first two games, this title might prove disappointing.