Even as the series moves forward to the tale of Ezio in Assassin's Creed II, Ubisoft isn't quite ready to part ways with assassin extraordinaire Altair just yet. Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines puts him on the front lines of the secret war with the Templars. It may be cut from the same cloth as its predecessor, but can the PSP really contain the Assassin's Creed experience?
Bloodlines' story centers on Altair some time after toppling his former master, Al Mualim. The legendary assassin has his sights on the last remnants of the Knights Templar, as well as learning more about the true powers of the Apple of Eden. His journeys bring him to the island of Cyprus, where he once again works in the shadows to usurp Templar rule.
You may get to play as one of the coolest protagonists out there, but there isn't much to redeem this tale. The plot is largely forgettable, with weak dialogue that fails to hold your attention, and the poorly scripted cutscenes do little to move things along.
Bloodlines doesn't stray from the Assassin's Creed mold, letting Altair do what he does best. There are new cities to infiltrate, familiar objectives to complete in order to advance the story, and you have the option to kill time in the open environments with several side tasks. The extracurricular excursions, though, aren't as well done as the ones in the series' other games. Even the collectibles, which unlock various upgrades in the menu between chapters, don't amount to much; you never feel they're crucial, given how easy the game is.
The main objectives are all about assassination, with an occasional interrogation or fetch quest here and there, but the excitement of the kill and the tense moments leading up to it have been completely botched. The trudge as you run from target to target is repetitive and boring, and it can become incredibly frustrating to boot should you fail in your endeavors. Failure means restarting from the beginning of any mission, which is fair enough, except when an assassination attempt is stopped short by a random glitch.
Far from approaching the staying power of its more expansive cousins, Bloodlines is a condensed version of the Assassin's Creed experience that's over almost as soon as it begins. Expect a playthrough to clock in at around six hours from start to finish.
3D games with manual camera controls have been a challenge on the PSP, and Bloodlines is no exception. The core mechanics from Assassin's Creed have been recreated on the handheld, but the execution is far from ideal. Having to adjust the camera with the clumsy interface is the most egregious offender, as it often dashes any hopes of moving swiftly and effectively. Sure, there's an option to quickly reposition the camera behind Altair, but it's simply too jolting and does little to alleviate the problem. More often than not, you'll find yourself running blindly around corners or missing jumps due to the poor camera.
It's easy to fault the button layout of the PSP, but it's not entirely to blame. The controls are just not responsive enough, occasionally leading to trip ups in some of the stealth kills, and forcing you to instead rely on swordplay. Though that aspect of the combat works well enough, it's repetitive and simple. You'll catch yourself wanting to run away from battles whenever possible as a result.
Overall, Bloodlines feels sluggish to play, which is exactly the opposite of what we've come to expect from Assassin's Creed.
The look and feel of Bloodlines should be familiar to if you've played the other Assassin's Creed games, but there's not much variety in the environments or characters, resulting in a look that's bland and boring, not to mention there are a few graphical hiccups every now and then. And though the soundtrack is decent enough, the voice work leaves something to be desired. Bloodlines is not very polished overall.
Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines not only fails to live up to the high standards set by its console brethren, it also fails to deliver an experience worthy of your time and money. If you own a 360 or a PS3, and are looking for a worthy successor to Assassin's Creed, pass on this and pick up the proper sequel.
Reviewed on Sony PSP.