When not blinded by the mad opinion that Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is the best in Ubisoft’s stab-happy, history humping series, most sane folks tend to gravitate towards the more sensible notion that Assassin’s Creed was at its best when the original Italian playboy, Ezio Auditore, was running the show. Perhaps realising this fact, Ubisoft has cobbled together Assassin’s Creed II, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations into a single package for PS4 folks to get stuck into.
Tremendous, if familiar value
If you were either an Xbox 360 or a PS3 owner back in the day that later made the well-judged leap to PS4 in 2013, chances are you’ve encountered one or more of the games in this collection at some point. Now with that in mind, it’s important to understand just what you get in this package; you get all three of the Ezio flavoured Assassin’s Creed titles, but you also get the Embers and Lineage mini-movies which both help to pad out the mythos of Ezio’s tale (and that of Shun in Assassin’s Creed Chronicles), a little more.
In the case of the three games, nothing has changed from a content perspective; there are no extra missions, no new side-quests and nothing in the way of additional narrative bits to get stuck into, though each game does come packed with all its additional single-player DLC, though it’s mildly annoying that you have to redeem them for free from the Ubisoft Club in order to play them. On the flipside though, by virtue of including three frankly massive Assassin’s Creed games in one package, Ubisoft is offering a good couple hundred hours of gameplay here; with each game being absolutely rammed to the hilt with missions, side-missions and more collectibles than you can shake a feather at.
Related: Did you know the real history behind the Assassin’s Creed franchise?
Of the three games, both Assassin’s Creed II and Brotherhood remain arguably essential; by using sumptuous renaissance-era Italy as a backdrop to Ezio’s titanic struggle with the Templar backed Borgia family, these efforts remain as enduringly entertaining as they ever did; the act of taking Da Vinci’s flying machine out for a clandestine flight against the Florentine night sky in particular proving to be a gaming moment that has endured over the years.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations by comparison however, is much more of a decidedly downbeat affair. Eroded by age, conflict and responsibility, gone is the trademark sly wit and affable playfulness that characterised Ezio in the two previous games, since here he simply becomes a far less interesting character who has traded raw charisma for stodgy Hollywood stoicness. This transformation that occurs in Ezio is one which is also reflected in the shift of locale; the relatively garish and muted hum drum of Revelations take on Constantinople being a far cry from the rich cultural opulence of Florence and her other sister cities.
For longtime fans of the franchise, one thing that does take some getting used to is how the free-running and environment traversal is handled in these games. Indeed, in the time since Ezio was last spotted leaping about the place on our screens, Ubisoft has made a number of subtle changes to how its free-running protagonists navigate the scenery and because of these changes (such as being able to slide and properly run down surfaces before jumping for example), returning to the earlier state of affairs control-wise can prove a little disorientating in the early going.
Ultimately, these three games encapsulate Assassin’s Creed when it existed in its most pure form – long before the series began to lose the plot (somewhat literally) with the likes of Assassin’s Creed III and beyond. Such an added dimension to the appeal of The Ezio Collection is one that it becomes even more important with the news that apparent wholesale changes to the game structure are on the horizon for the series, making The Ezio Collection a pointedly nostalgic throwback to the series halcyon years.
A technically unambitious remaster
When The Ezio Collection was first announced, most Assassin’s Creed fans (myself included) had grand visions of an ambitious remaster; one that brought 1080p resolution alongside new textures, new lighting and shader effects and of course, a much smoother and consistent framerate than what we had before. Sadly, what we actually get with The Ezio Collection is something quite conservative that falls short of such delusions of grandeur.
Chiefly, aside from a bump in resolution to 1080p and some higher quality textures, each of the three games pretty much look the same as they did before. Such a conservative approach towards remastering these games extends to the framerate too, with each game clocking in at around thirty frames per second for the most part; something that remains hugely disappointing considering that the console is easily capable of bumping up both the visual detail and the framerate with little issue. It also doesn’t help matters that as a point of reference, we have Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered strutting about the joint, setting an imposing, yet attainable standard for what we should expect from remasters of last-gen titles.
Elsewhere, pre-rendered video sequences are ugly to say the least; displaying a level of macroblocking that manifests itself as the result of converting lower resolution video to a higher resolution, these videos (and that includes the two mini-movies, Ember and Lineage) suffer both from off-putting animation stuttering and poor visual quality; a telltale sign that, again, this remaster is nowhere near as ambitious as it could and should have been.
PS4 Pro owners sadly have only the most incremental of visual upgrades to enjoy here, as each game bumps up the screen resolution above the 1080p threshold, but the framerate remains unchanged; a travesty when you consider that the sheer power of the PS4 Pro could enable a number of presets to allow the user to tweak the experience for higher quality visuals and/or better framerate as other games do. Again, this just reeks of a poorly handled remastering effort that should have gone the extra mile but didn’t.
Something else that grates a fair bit is the missing multiplayer modes. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood had one of the best and most enjoyable multiplayer modes in the business, but it has been removed from this package because Ubisoft wanted to concentrate on the single-player side of things. While I completely understand that argument, it remains the case that Assassin’s Creed fans who want to do some online multplayer just aren’t catered for anymore since the most recent Assassin’s Creed Syndicate doesn’t support it, and with a good year or more until the next game, it’ll be a while until players can compete with each other in that kind of setting. It’s a disappointing omission quite honestly.
If for whatever reason, you’ve found yourself buried under not just one rock, but a whole landslide of the things and missed out on the Ezio-era Assassin’s Creed games the first time round, then The Ezio Collection is definitely the best way to experience them. For the more discerning fans who have been there and stabbed that however, The Ezio Collection’s unambitious remaster treatment and distinct lack of new content render its appeal somewhat limited.