After playing through Assassin's Creed II, many gamers were taken aback when it was announced that the next Assassin's Creed title would feature multiplayer. Many were worried that Brotherhood's multiplayer would be a worthless tacked on feature to create another bullet point on the box. In the end, Brotherhood's multiplayer turned out to be a fairly original stealth based multiplayer experience that was fun for short bursts, but at least for myself, didn't hold my attention long beyond the initial few playing sessions.
After putting several hours in with the Assassin's Creed Revelations Beta, have my complaints with the original multiplayer disappeared like a skilful assassin in a alleyway crowd, of is it just more of the same?
While I found the multiplayer action entertaining, especially the new team based modes, I'm still not sold on the multiplayer's long term appeal. After only a few games it started to feel stale and repetitive, just like in Brotherhood. By the way, don't take my comments as a recommendation to avoid the game. The single-player campaigns in the Assassin's Creed games have always been a superlative experience, as will no doubt be the case with Revelations.
But going back to multiplayer, the experience essentially always boils down to trying to blend in with computer controller NPCs while hunting down a human player target. Depending on the mode, you'll either be working in teams of hunters and hunted, or you'll be chasing down one target while another hunter chases you down. Usually, the hunting party will have access to a compass to bring them in the general area of their targets. While the set up is undeniably original, I found that too much of it relies upon sheer luck. Killing or being killed is too often simply a case of being in the right place at the right time.
The modes you're given include stealth based variations on free for all, king of the hill, team deathmatch, and a team based objective mode. My favourite was the team deathmatch, as one group of players is on the run while the other team hunts them down. Hiding from other players was surprisingly the tense highlight of the multiplayer package in Revelations. There was no more satisfying moment for me as when I was hiding in a haystack while I watched another player kill a nearby civilian thinking it was me. I then jumped out of the haystack, stunned the sucker, and disappeared into the nearest crowded alley. It was certainly a heart-pumping moment.
There are ways to throw pursuers off the trail and kill more effectively. If you hide near an identical NPC, or within crowds and haystacks, you can throw your pursuers off. When you're hunting, you can use throwing knives or trip wires to set up traps. However, most of the time you'll just calmly walk up behind your target and jam your blade into their back. If you're the one being hunted, you can punch your enemy to stun them when they come after you, provided your timing and awareness are nearly perfect. If you run up to an assassin and try to stun him, you'll be "rewarded" with an honourable death, which takes points away from your pursuer and gives them to you, but still results in your death.
In the end, scoring is based more on the quality of your kills than quantity. A player with few well planned kills that strikes from the shadows or sets effective traps will end up with a higher score than a player that runs around the levels at top speed, chasing down any target and accidentally killing civilians. If you're on the run, you can also trigger a chase. The longer a chase goes, the more points go to the pursuee than the pursuer. If the pursuee escapes, then the score a boatload of points too.
Like most multiplayer focused games these days, points can be spent to level up and unlock new perks and bonuses for your character. These can be perks such as being able to spot hidden players, change your costume, or weapons like trip bombs, smoke bombs, and throwing knives among even more unlockables. You'll also be able to create custom loadouts that best suit your own tendencies as a player.
The beta had access to three levels, which I felt were the perfect size for this sort of action. Big enough to not be crowded but small enough that it's not impossible to find your targets as well. Of course, you can parkour run through the levels like in the single player mode, but this will make you a much more obvious target in exchange for being able to view the level from above.
Even at the beta stage, I didn't encounter a lick of lag or frame rate hitches. As far as I'm concerned, the netcode seems very polished and extremely playable.
As stated before, the multiplayer is definitely fun, but there's only so long that this sort of game will appeal to you. I doubt that most people will be buying Revelations solely for the multiplayer aspect anyway. In that regard, tacked on to another fantastic 30 hour single player campaign, the multiplayer becomes more of a excellent throw-in than package defining feature. Assassin's Creed Revelations hits the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC on November 15, 2011.