Among Assassin’s Creed fans there is pretty much no point in debating – Ezio was the best assassin the franchise ever created. With three games to follow his character, we saw his charm, humor and growth as a character. Now with the Ezio collection, the whole experience has been remastered, letting new fans experience the most raved about games, as well as giving veterans the chance to return to Italy. But is the Ezio collection all it’s cracked up to be?
As the story and characters are the same, we won’t reassess them here. Suffice it to say that Ezio is still as charming and human as I remembered, making his story a delight to play through. Desmond is actually less irritating than I remembered, and the story as a whole is intriguing, fast-paced and enjoyable. But you can read more about those aspects in our original reviews of Assassin’s Creed II, Brotherhood and Revelations. So, let’s look at the remaster separate from that.
The quality of the remaster is greatly varied between the three titles. Assassin’s Creed II is by far the weirdest looking game of the batch. At first, I thought that textures had been upgraded without making changes to the original models. Instead, it looks like the models have been adapted slightly, but not all of them look better – Ezio’s Uncle Mario looks bug-eyed most of the time, and the various enemies range from looking outdated in their rendering to outright absurdly awful. It’s all the more jarring when beautifully remastered fabrics are draped over such characters, making them look like their human suits don’t fit but their clothing is perfectly tailored.
Thankfully, by the time you get to Brotherhood, and particularly Revelations, the characters look significantly better. Ezio’s beard might occasionally shift pigment range, but for the most part he and his allies are consistently well created. Plus, the bustling city filled with people and outfits of all types look phenomenal; it’s this installment that looks the most like what we’ve come to expect from a PS4 game.
The cities, too, are well recreated. The signature moment of syncing with the high points of towers, looking down on the panorama of the city below is still breathtaking and highly enjoyable. I did have a couple of those cinematics bug out on me while playing, but they were mostly the, um, high point of exploration. I was still confused about the placement of notoriety posters sometimes, though – who is putting up posters in places only those doing parkour can see?
While the cities are still vibrant and enjoyable, filled with the hustle and bustle of various groups of pedestrians who are perfect to use as camouflage for your assassinations, they aren’t nearly as expansive or complicated as nostalgia led me to believe. Most locations are pretty close together, and with buildings practically on top of each other, running alone rooftops is a breeze even without the extra gadgets that came in later Assassin’s Creed installments.
That said, the parkour in the early games is still rather frustrating. Ezio just doesn’t do what I thought I was controlling him to do, and I often found myself shouting at the screen that he wasn’t meant to jump, or fly off to the side, or whatever other fumble took place. It’s still fun to traverse the cities, but the advances to the parkour in more recent installments are much more apparent when you attempt to control Ezio’s clumsy movements.
Combat is also still the same as it was originally, which means not too great. I usually play pretty stealthily, filling every haystack with dozens of enemies. However, when forced into open combat, it’s perfectly viable to simply wait for them to attack one at a time, doing a counter kill against each opponent. It’s so basic and easy and boring; sure, it’s really satisfying to kill all the enemies with wonderfully gory animations, but you can only see your hidden blade go through an enemy’s skull so many times before you lose interest.
If engaging in open combat is boring, it is more than compensated for in the joy that is the assassinating mechanic in the game. I still enjoy falling down from the rafters to kill an unsuspecting baddie, or using a poison dart or unique distraction bomb to cause absolute mayhem from the safety of my hiding spot.
The remaster runs rather smoothly on the whole, with only a few stutters and issues that I encountered along the way. Most notable is that loading times have been almost eliminated. Going from one map to the next, or reloading after desyncing from a sequence (because Ezio decided to leap off a high point instead of climbing like you were trying to get him to do) now takes only a couple seconds instead of the ages that I used to spend running around the blank space of the animus. This is a significant upgrade from the original release and makes the whole experience much more enjoyable; I was actually willing to travel back and forth from the cities to my base of operations and back again as often as I liked without being hassled by the irritation of loading times.