As­sas­sin’s Creed Chronic les: Rus­sia

A five-tsar thriller, or a load of Bol­she­viks?

XBox: The Official Magazine - - REVIEW -

It’s Niko­lai Orelov’s last day on the job. Pretty rou­tine, re­ally: he just has to steal a vi­tal arte­fact from un­der the noses of the Bol­she­viks, who are hold­ing Tsar Ni­cholas II and his fam­ily cap­tive. Alas, he’s picked the day they’re all to be ex­e­cuted; worse still, his con­science is pricked by the Tsar’s lone sur­viv­ing daugh­ter. With macguf­fin in hand and Anas­ta­sia in tow, he must es­cape with both of them be­fore he can leave the Or­der for good.

Orelov’s tim­ing is lousy, but it’s not al­ways his fault. Or ours ei­ther: as in its In­dian pre­cur­sor, the chal­lenge is ar­ti­fi­cially height­ened by un­for­giv­ing de­sign. If you fin­ished the two pre­vi­ous Chron­i­cles games and fig­ured the way to im­prove them would be to make di­rect com­bat even more un­us­able and toss in a hand­ful of stodgy snip­ing set­pieces, then you’ll be de­lighted with this. The rest of us will won­der how a tril­ogy that had such prom­ise got more dis­agree­able with each in­stal­ment.

It’s not that this doesn’t try any­thing dif­fer­ent, merely that most of its new ideas are fail­ures. Not all, mind: de­spite a pre­pos­ter­ous plot (even by Creed stan­dards) and some honk­ingly bad di­a­logue, con­trol­ling two char­ac­ters adds a cer­tain dy­namism. As Orelov, you’ll snipe pa­trolling guards be­fore they can spot your young charge. As Anas­ta­sia, you’ll sneak through cor­ri­dors, open­ing win­dows to give your ally a clear line of sight to his tar­gets. It’s sin­gle-player co-op, in essence, and there are sat­is­fy­ing mo­ments when the two are able to work to­gether.

Sadly, th­ese are too few and far be­tween to off­set the frus­trat­ing bits. Most of the time you can’t af­ford to be spot­ted: cause any kind of alert, and the grey cur­tain of death in­stantly falls. It doesn’t help that you can some­times be seen when you’re out­side a guard’s cone of vi­sion. Worse, any time you dare try any­thing clever, there’s usu­ally a “gotcha!” mo­ment, as the de­sign­ers tut: do it our way, or you’ll be ban­ished to the last check­point. Yes, in Soviet Rus­sia, game plays you – and it turns out that’s not much fun at all. OXM

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