Subtlety. The way that guard went slightly outside the usual path. The way that priestess turned around at the barrier that the rest of her group walked through. The way that Count ran across the roof, jumped down, and stabbed that guy in the neck.
Subtlety is the name of the game, except the name of the game is actually Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. More specifically, the beta of the multiplayer of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. The beta ran for a couple of weeks, first only for PlayStation Plus members and invitees, but after a while it opened up for everyone with a PS3.
When Ubisoft first announced that Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood would have multiplayer, it was met with well-deserved scepticism. How would this fit into the free-flowing, sneaky gameplay of the single player? When it was then explained, people started getting interested, and when it was finally released, the multiplayer was hailed as one of the best facets of the game.
Where the evolution of multiplayer games has gone from “in this one, you run AND shoot!” to “in this one, you get POINTS for running and shooting”, the multiplayer of Assassin’s Creed is a refreshing breath of trying to make you use other skills than split-second button-pressing. It’s a game that makes you feel paranoid and helpless, but that in turn makes you feel all the greater when you land the perfect kill.
Let me explain the premise, in case you’re not familiar with it. You play one of a selected number of characters, each with their distinct appearance. All the players are then dumped in a busy city environment, populated solely with NPCs that look like each of the player characters. The game then show you the picture of who your assassination target is, and you have to pick them out from the crowd.
While chasing your target, you usually have someone else chasing you. So you end up trying to scout out your own target, get close enough, and do a good kill (the more stealthy or stylish, the more points you get), all the while trying to move in such a way that looks the most like an NPC would.
This deceptive approach to game design makes you very tense, but in just the right way. The game is expertly balanced to make you feel nervous, predatory, panicky, sly, meticulous, vengeful and exhilarated all about each other. Even if you get killed continuously, you never get the frustrated feeling of “ but I had him that time!”, since all you really can do is, well, run away better.
As I alude to in my opening paragraph, not everyone plays it sneaky. However, in my experience those kinds of guys usually end up at the bottom of the leaderboard, while people who take the time to stand around and stalk out their target end up with way more points. Imagine that, a multiplayer game that rewards patience!
The game also has levels, perks and killstreaks, because it’s 2011, and the International Board of Video Games has decreed that every multiplayer game must have them now. You unlock two basic sets fairly early, but it takes quite a while to level up enough to customize it properly.
If you’re already familiar with the AC multiplayer from Brotherhood, you have no doubt noticed that this sounds very similar. That’s because apart from minor changes here and there, they’re practically identical. But that’s okay! This mode is so refreshing and unique, I have no problem with Ubisoft pretty much recycling it for this years release.
My only complaint has been with the way they present information to you. The tutorials are kind of clumsy, and forces you into your first match before telling you about some of the more essential tools. Then again, Brotherhood had no introduction to the multiplayer at all, and this is something they can easily fix before the full game comes out on November 15th.
As someone who has only had passing contact with the AC franchise, I enjoyed myself a lot in this beta, and I would even say it has raised the bar slightly for what I expect from a multiplayer mode.
A code for the beta was given to The Gaming Vault for preview purposes.