Review: Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines (PSP)December 1st, 2009 | Written by Chris Selogy | Topic: Reviews, Sony PSP
The PSP has seen a lot of console franchises make a good transition to the portable system this year. Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines certainly makes a lot of fundamental changes that should’ve made for a great PSP version of the parkour sandbox franchise, but the execution left a lot to desire.
Bloodlines takes place right after the first Assassin’s Creed as Altair has traveled to the island of Cyprus in the search for more Templars. Specifically, the game takes you to Limassol and Kyrenia, though not before Altair runs into a Templar he knows named Maria, who reluctantly helps him after he captures her and she’s mistaken as a traitor. The story doesn’t really add much that you’d really need to know before going into Assassin’s Creed II, though you won’t get a glimpse of anything outside of the Animus since Desmond Miles is nowhere to be seen outside of the Animus-style menu interface.
At first glance, the compromises that were made to allow Bloodlines to fit on the PSP with gameplay as close to the original seemed like good choices at the time. The large cities have been cut into a handful of districts that you can move between when needed and each district is about the right size to allow for some space without it feeling claustrophobic. When you first enter a district, you can see about three or four side missions that have a bit more variety than the original had. The structure of the missions feels a lot more linear here, so it’s not too open like the first. With a coin-collecting aspect, you can use the points you earn to upgrade Altair’s attributes to give him more health, stronger attacks, more throwing knives, and more that you can only access from the main menu.
All of those changes we mentioned above don’t really take much away from Bloodlines’ ability to feel like Assassin’s Creed. It’s the sloppy execution of basic things like controls and AI that ruins the game. The first issue with controls is the camera, which can’t stay with you when you get into narrow paths and smaller areas and the mapping of camera controls to face buttons when you hold down the left shoulder button goes against our natural instinct to use the d-pad. Just running around can elicit some nostalgia of how parkour worked on the original, but those clunky, unresponsive moments are much more common with the ease that Altair can slip off of ledges, miss jumps, get picky about what you can climb onto, and many other issues that reeks of a rushed game. The AI is as dumb as a bucket of dirt, as it’s easy to get away from enemies that notice you and there are literally times during assassination missions where we weren’t even spotted by guards after taking down our target with the hidden blade.
Bloodlines’ fighting captures the same rhythmic, counter-focused combat that the original Assassin’s Creed had, though there are times when countering attacks don’t work as well in a big group of enemies. Boss battles are also a big pain since they are very different from the rest of the game, usually in smaller, contained areas that until you trigger the one-on-one boss fight. Each fight is unique, so while you may be able to beat one boss by just beating on his shield until his health is drained while another features three distinct sword attacks that each require different timing for a chance to counter them until you just spam the dodge and attack buttons until you win.
When all is said and done, Bloodlines takes about five to six hours to beat and you don’t even have to do everything to max out all of the upgrades. There is one reason that this may be worth enduring and that is for the connectivity the game has with Assassin’s Creed II, which transfers over the weapons of all of the bosses you’ve beaten and a lot of money depending on how many coins you’ve collected throughout the game. These aren’t going to unbalance Assassin’s Creed II, but will provide a good start to the game.
The PSP does the Assassin’s Creed art style some justice, though it’s expected that the character models aren’t going to look that good. The cities look pretty good for their modest sizes that the districts cover, though you definitely won’t see the large crowds that the series is known for. The level design is pretty good until you have to take on the bosses, which are usually filled with many small corridors that just constantly conflict with the camera to make that issue as bad as it can be. The soundtrack is pretty good and the sound effects can be rather sloppy, especially with half of your stabbings sounding like they’re you’re actually skewering them. Even dialog has occasional repeats that add further evidence that this game was rushed to make it out in time for the launch of Assassin’s Creed II.
Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines certainly sounds like a good PSP iteration of the series on paper, but in practice, it’s pretty much a sloppy disappointment that continues Ubisoft’s bad track record on the PSP. The only way you should consider playing this is by renting it to get the bonuses it offers to import into the PS3 version of Assassin’s Creed II, though your spare time might be worth more than some extra money and weapons. As an obvious rush job, Bloodlines is perhaps the only big PSP game of this year that fails to be at least a good game.
Final Score: 5.4 | Recommendation: Skip It