If you think you know Ezio Auditore da Firenze, think again. In Revelations he's a changed man; weary with age and haunted by the past. You would be too if the fate of the entire world rested on your ornate spaulders.
This is one of the best Assassin's Creed yarns yet: a dark tale laced with mystery, political drama and shock revelations. It gives the old assassin some unexpected depth, and answers many lingering questions. Only a constant feeling of familiarity blights the experience.
The year is 1511, and Ezio's travels have brought him to the Middle East. He's in Constantinople - better known today as Istanbul - searching for five keys hidden there by his ancestor, the legendary assassin Alta´r Ibn-La'Ahad. The keys unlock a secret buried beneath Masyaf, an ancient castle that was once the headquarters of the Assassin Order, and that fans will recognise as the starting area of the first game. The bad news is that the Templars, sworn enemies of the Assassins, are looking for the keys too.
Known historically as the crossroads of the world, Constantinople is the 16th Century equivalent of New York City: a bustling metropolis teeming with people of all races, religions and cultures.
The first time you clamber to the top of a large tower and see the hazy afternoon sun falling over the buildings, which seem to stretch for miles, you'll spin the camera around in awe. It's one of the most beautifully immersive open world settings we've ever explored, rich with history and character.
Each area of the city has its own distinct feel. The Galata district, home to the Assassins, is made up of busy, winding streets lined with beggars and merchants. The Imperial district is a relative paradise, with green, flower-filled gardens and palatial mosques. The docks are dominated by huge galleons, their colourful sails reflected in the shimmering water. It really does transport you to another time and place.
It's massive too, which is where Ezio's new Hookblade comes in handy. This acts as both your hidden blade - the trademark weapon of the Assassins - and a new way of navigating the city's rooftops.
As you leap towards a building, hold Circle and Ezio will stretch his arm out and slam the hook into it with a satisfying, tactile thunk. This allows you to cross wider gaps, and 'double jump' while climbing to scale buildings faster. It's only a slight tweak to the series' established platforming mechanics, but a useful one nonetheless.
It's not all about Ezio. Desmond plays a significant role in Revelations too. In the real world he's comatose, but his mind is active and trapped inside the Animus on a bizarre desert island made up of abstract shapes and flickering data streams. Here he meets the enigmatic Subject 16, who tells him that the only way he can free himself is to complete as many of his ancestor's memories as possible.
It gets weirder. Whenever Ezio locates five data fragments hidden around Constantinople, optional side missions called 'journeys' are unlocked on the island. These are perhaps the strangest new addition to the game, like a cross between Portal and LittleBigPlanet.
They're viewed from the first person, and set in chambers that wouldn't look out of place in an Aperture Science facility. The goal is to get from one end to the other by making bridges from 3D rectangles and wedges. It's simple at first, but they get more complicated when gravity reverses, or changes direction, moving your shapes around.