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I wish ACR was better

For the past few hours I've been trying to draft up a review for Assassin's Creed: Revelations (which I just finished last night) and I'm having a hard time writing it. I think I need to get some thoughts out and my biggest thought is: it could have been better. I wanted to like the game a lot more but I can't. I can't help but feeling that the game did not put out it's full potential. I was thinking that the story of Altair, Ezio and Desmond would be wrapped nicely with only so much of the story left for Desmond to make AC III. Was I wrong. All that was wrapped up was Ezio's and Altair's.

There are still so many questions left about Desmond's story. That's not what I was expecting. I clearly set my expectations in the wrong place but now I'm feeling disappointed with a game that had great gameplay but the story, which is a big part of AC, left me empty.

I wish the game was as good as AC II and Brotherhood but it isn't, in my opinion. There are some good things done in the game and some nice improvements gameplay-wise like combat but the story just didn't do it for me in this game.

So frustrating...


ACR Notes *spoilers*

  • The mission I started trying to escape from was a bust. It was glitched. My objective was to escape from the camp so I decided to run and use my hook and run to get around the guards in my way. As I ran around the city, more guards would chase me and I would lose those but all the way back at the camp, there were red arrows still pinned on me preventing me from "escaping the camp." I kept running around the city dodging guards and I would end up by myself no one chasing me but those four red arrows remained all the way back at the camp. I decided to go to the other side of the water and the arrows still stayed fixed on me! They had infinite vision. It was the biggest glitch I ever came across in a AC game. I had to restart the mission and instead I decided to fight the Jannisaries and after a few tries of a combination of fighting and running, I finally escaped but only after beating down a few Janniesaries and other guards so it became more "kill the guards to escape" otherwise, there would be an infinite lock on you. Very obnoxious.
  • Another mission started with the screen completely black. The only thing I could see was the radar and the red arrows of the guards while I'm hearing guards attack me. I had to restart the mission.
  • Combat is a lot tougher as I found out. While it become moderately more difficult in Brotherhood, the chaining kills made it easy again but the chaining kills in Revelations is tougher because the Jannisaries can shoot you and cut you down. They can block kicks, block throws, etc. If you're not careful and on your toes then it's possible to lose a lot of health very quickly. There were times I found myself down to 3 bars left out of 20 in a matter of a few hits.
  • While the game is called Revelations, there are still questions that need to be answered but that's more for Desmond's story. Ezio's and Altair's stories were revealed but Desmond's still remains to be elusive. The story behind Lucy's death still remains unanswered and how the team feels about Desmond remains in limbo.
  • Constantinople isn't very fun to navigate. The narrow city streets and the lack of grand landscape create a stifled city to navigate and uninteresting. The city itself is beautifully rendered but it doesn't feel grand like Rome or Italy or even the Holy Land.
  • Final Thoughts: The game was a little disappointing in terms of gameplay and the city wasn't as interesting or fun to navigate and the game feels like it was done in a year despite the "bigness" of it all. Despite this though, the graphics are great, the animations are still smooth, the cutscenes and voice-acting are very solid, the story is still engaging although slow and the combat is a lot more challenging.

ACR notes

There seems to be more glitches in the game than I saw before. At this point in the game, I've noticed that soldiers are not being highlighted anymore. I can still my options to use Assassin's but no matter how close I can get to a soldier, they do not highlight which makes it hard to lock on and assassinate from above and throw knives.

Another I've noticed since the beginning of the game is that locking on, in general, is not as quick as it used to be. I've been finding myself having to hit the LT button several times before it actually locks on and I'm taking damage in the process. In all the past AC games, this has never been a problem so it begs the question why is it now?

Den Defense is pretty cool but it is tough. I haven't won Den Defense yet. What is confusing is that in the very first tutorial, you have at least two rooftops you can use. When you actually have the challenge, you only have one rooftop. I also noticed that once the big hitter got through my barricades and started attacking my Den, the camera angle switched and there were no more rooftops to put soldiers on to continue attacking the beast in a greater way. It was very frustrating and it shouldn't be that confusing and hard to tell which rooftops can and can't be used. I will say, sometimes it's easier to let them capture the Den and I retake it by killing the captain.

I also completed one Desmond's Journey parts and it wasn't what I expected. In was first-person and you walked around and minimal jumping. It was like platforming light. The landscape was graphically lit with wooden blocks and cement blocks that Desmond stepped on. The controls felt a little weird in the first-person view. There was a section where you had to create your own platforms to move forward which felt weird and pointless. The whole thing allowed for Desmond to have monologue talking about his past and where he came from. It was nice to hear this while not having to solve intense puzzles but some of the puzzles felt placed in there for no particular purpose other than giving the player something to do while Desmond talked since they limited the players movements so much.


AC: Revelations Multiplayer experience

My thoughts of Assassin's Creed multiplayer is already a scary one. The concept of walking around stalking people trying to assassinate others while I myself try not to get assassinated is a stressful thought. But it's a good sort of stress--or should I say was a good sort of stress.This update from Brotherhood only makes the already stressful multiplayer even more confusing and obnoxious from what I tried and after three matches, I wanted nothing to do with it any more.

The biggest problem I had? The modification on stunning. Now, stuns can be countered with something called "Honorable Death." This allows you to stun even though you get killed and reduces the killers points. The problem is, the three times it happened to me, my animation for stun starts before their killing animation begins so it seems like it's a cheap way to settle lag issues when trying to figure out who got who first. This also happened to my friend who was playing with me.

The multiplayer outside of that, is pretty much the same. What has changed are the abilities and perks which simply add things from the repertoire of Ezio's gadgets.

I played one new mode, VIP, which was completely fail. It wasn't until the end of the match where I realized what the point of the game was. I thought a certain assassin on the opposing team was the VIP but apparently, random citizens become the VIP and it's up to you defend them while you kill their VIP. The actual game is okay but it's too bad there was no explanation for it before the match started so I'm left wondering why I cannot kill any opposing assassin's but they can stun me. Which still doesn't make any sense because I'm not the VIP.

I left the multiplayer more confused and dissatisfied than I did with Brotherhood. I believe Brotherhood was more solid and made more sense. I could jump into that multiplayer quicker than I could jump into this multiplayer that is pretty darn near the same. Yet, the small differences create a very frustrating experience because they make no sense.


AC: Revelations notes 2 *spoilers*

Sound in Assassin's Creed is imperative. While playing with the sound low, the game did not have the same intensity and it felt a lot more boring. I didn't realize how much the little sound effects like the footsteps and the crowd noise really made a difference in the gameplay and my own feelings toward the game. It makes me appreciate the sound a lot more.

I will say that some missions do get a bit boring and repetitive as throught AC II thru Revelations, there are always missions of tailing someone and not getting caught. And even though there are new tactics what with bombs and such, the only thing still needing to be done is blend. In fact, to 100% synch one of the tailing missions, you have to distract guards with bombs. It feels like a lame way to include this (although it did make the mission easier).

I don't like the new Eagle Sense. In every game, Eagle Vision gave the ability to see who is who. They've taken this function away by now having to take a moment to identify who is who in some missions. It's an unnecessary change in gameplay. It slows down the gameplay and it's not like using the Eagle Vision in the past games made the game "too easy." I think it's just plain pointless.

However, while there are some routine missions, later missions are much more excting and break up the monotony. The third Masayaf key had me keeping up with a boatful of Templars while they were trying to shoot at me. It required a lot of jumping and leaping across things. It was a lot of fun. It also helps to go take over a Templar Den which requires some fighting and/or plain Assassinations.

Stalkers are absolutely annoying. I had to tail a man in one mission and a stalker came up on me and tried to kill me. I killed him and then I was the one who got caught and was desynchronized. It kept happening until I shoved the stalker off and the Janissaries went after the stalker. I'm still not sure if that was part of mission or that because the stalker came then that the game replayed it that way every time I had to restart.

There's still too much dang clutter on the map.


My wife played Halo with me. And she liked it!

My wife saw me playing Halo and decided that she wanted to try her hand at it. I laughed, not because she wanted to play but because the last time she tried a first-person shooter (Modern Warfare 2), it didn't go over too well. She could not get the dual-control sticks down. We spend hours on the training mission teaching her how to coordinate her thumbs. So hearing that she wanted to try this, I was very amused.

After asking me what all the controls were, I decided to take her to Firefight on the newest Installation 04 but on Gruntpocalypse. It's pretty darn predictable and pretty much all points of the map can be seen from the middle of the map. Of course, she spent most of her time on the ground. She actually started out okay nailing a few headshots and even managing a double kill. She's only used to the 2D Sonic era so I think the freedom threw her off and she ended walking off the end of a cliff giving her the only death she had in her first match. She actually did okay. We played about 4 or 5 matches with me basically letting her get all the kills and if she was dire danger, I'd go in and kill some Grunts.

She was getting to a point where I didn't totally need to baby her anymore and she asked me to play like I normally do. I told her I'd get most of the kills cause it's on easy. She didn't care so we played. She actually got 54 kills and 2 deaths which was really good for her considering I was slaying everything else on the map. We tried one more and she got 52 kills and 0 deaths! Then we played one more on infinite rounds and 4 lives and she never died after 5 rounds! I actually died 3 times from random Grunt explosions and a Banshee blowing up on me. She 240 kills. I had 768. But she never died which I think was excellent.

She's ready for normal! That'll stretch her.


Assassin's Creed: Revelations Notes *spoilers*

This is not a game I could just get right into because of all the info I needed and wanted to put in having the Signature Edition. Outside of those, entering a code to unlock multiplayer was annoying. I understand the reasoning behind it but it's obnoxious.

The game picks up from Brotherhood when Desmond fell into a coma after stabbing Lucy in the stomach. In Revelations, Desmond wakes up in an island world with broken fragments of stones in sand, water and in the air. I quickly learn that Lucy does not survive the stabbing and the team is wondering if Desmond is a Templar.

Desmond finally meets Subject 16 who's stay in the Animus has turned him into a lunatic as they he talks to Desmond and his perspective. The area Desmond is in is now the new overworld--Animus Island. It's a part of the Animus and part of Desmond's subconscious. The Animus is what is keeping Desmond alive at this point but if Desmond doesn't come out, he will end up like Subject 16.

Entering Ezio's memories are as simple as running through a giant, glowing door. From there, it's Assassin's Creed as normal with Ezio Auditore da Firenze as the hero. The game plays exactly like Brotherhood. There aren't many changes until he get your first upgrade, the Hookblade. The Hookblade allos you to traverse rooftops by hooking onto ropes that the people of Constantinople have set up.

I travel around with another Master Assassin, Yusuf. However, every calls you "Mentor." Ezio is the most talked about Master Assassin in the European region but similar to Brotherhood, my time so far has all been in Constantinople. The city is beautiful. The light orange glow given to the art gives Constantinople a feeling of old but also a feeling of grand.

Yusuf is a fun guy who does not take himself very seriously but has a heart to save Constantinople and make sure the Assassin order remains in tact. The personality differences between Yusuf and Ezio is entertaining as Yusuf is constantly clowning. The relationship makes Ezio look stoic like Altair.

I've only played one mission with Altair so far and it was short. It was a flashback to when he was 24 and the Templars raided Masayaf. It shed some light into how Al Mualim became fond of Altair and vice-versa. It makes it seem like Al Mualim did not start off with evil motives.

How did Ezio get to Constantinople? He's looking for five keys that Altair hid which reveal the truth. The truth about? I'm not sure yet. But apparently, Altair hid them in various parts of Constantinople. Ezio traveled to Msayaf (which is unfortunately, where Ezio's journey starts in the game) and tried to get into the library but he needs these keys and finds out that the Templars already have one.

Back to the hookblade, it allows you to execute a new getaway maneuver and it creates new execution style moves during combat. Speaking of combat, it's as smooth as ever although in the beginning of the game, the audio was noticeably slow to keep up with the action. That didn't remain forever.The combat is exactly the same as Brotherhood and there are no in-game tutorials to assist. However, there are tutorials that can be accessed during loading screens or when a new concept is presented by pressing the Back button.

The tutorials might come in handy in practicing launching bombs, a new equipment in the game. There are three types of bombs: Lethal, Tactical and Diversion bombs. And I have to collect the supplies to create the type of bombs that I want. Bomb crafting is very, very simple. The hard part is finding the necessary pieces to create them. Each type of bomb has three parts. I don't remember the exact name of the parts right now but the first one is the shell, the second is what affects the blast radius and the last determines what kind of bomb it is--lethal, tactical or diversion. The bombs are very useful and create new gameplay opportunities and ways to stay stealthy or be even deadlier.

Syncing challenges return although I don't really care about them. If I was a completionist, I would although maybe after I finish the game, I will try to 100% synch all the missions. Most of them require me to remain undetected which is difficult sometimes but it's made a little easier with bombs to help out.

Using the map is the same since AC2. What's annoying is the amount of clutter that can appear on the map and although you can turn all of it off, it doesn't save so the next time you play, you have to go through the menu's and turn everything off again.

The Borgia Tower concept returns in Revelations except Assassin's try to take over Templar Dens and use them for themselves. What is new about Revelations is Den Defense which is an RTS type of system where you can place Assassin in certain parts of a map to keep Templars out. Each wave of Templars gets increasingly more difficult. Assassin's have the ability to boost "morale" which are basically spending points to get more types of Assassin's like Rifleman Assassin's or Crossbow Assassin's and if you've gained enough Assassin's into the master ranks, you can send out Master Assassin's to replenish morale. It's a nice touch and it's a good break from the somewhat monotonous fetch quests that happen in the game. Unfortunately, when Templars try to take over your den, you cannot use the underground tunnels to transport yourself closer or else you will automatically lose the den. Constantinople is huge so this element seems pointless.


Halo Anniversary Notes

I played co-op with a friend and we picked up on the Truth and Reconciliation mission. The detail of that level is amazing. Sparkling lights, green grass and a lit up purple sky. Compared to the classic look, which looked like a desert with a night sky, the updated look is so much more appealing. However, there was lag in the game and it did come from the updated graphics. When switched to the classic version, there was a decrease in lag. It also only happened only with whoever ws not the host. After the "sneaky" portion of the level was over and we entered the Corvette, the lag ceased. I don't know if it happens in single-player but it did in online multiplayer.

A noticeable glitch remained too, in the next level. You can still drive the Warthog deep into the water without dying. While this may not be an actual "glitch," it is mildly entertaining and good for laughs especially looking at the difference between classic and updated graphics underwater.

This is actually my first run through on Legendary for Halo: CE and I'm finding the difficulty to be a little simpler than I expected. Perhaps that comes from my experience with Halo 3 and Reach on Legendary. I don't know. But it's not easy. Not at all. Elites dodge, duck and shoot with abandon; jackals are terribly annoying with their plasma pistols firing at perfect rate. Grunts surround me everywhere and take two hits to beat down. And this is co-op. I'm sure single-player Legendary is a lot harder. And it is. Finishing the Pillar of Autumn mission today required a lot more patience than Heroic. Compared to Heroic where I never died versus Legendary where I died five times and shields were frequently down. The next mission, Halo, was already difficult once coming on the base where the Elites and Grunts totally surrounded me and shot me down with little effort. I stopped there for now.

What I do enjoy is that there are a lot of grenades again. In Reach, there are not many grenades. I think it's a lame way of increasing the difficulty but perhaps it's story related. I don't know. Either way, having constant grenades at my disposal is nice. The blast radius is also huge for frags and stickies.

Respawning is smooth. It's exciting when me or my teammate dies and I have to move to decent cover in order for them to respawn. It adds a sense of suspense because once my friend dies, staying alive becomes the priority or else go back to the last checkpoint.

The terminals are a nice touch adding more to the story and giving the player something different to look for that is not in the original game. The skulls add that value also and are similar to the Halo's of recent as they can enhance enemy health, make bigger explosions and there's one that won't let you pick up Covenant weapons. I haven't used any yet though I do look forward to using Grunt Birthday Party with Boom.

The audio and music is so good. The Assault Rifle still has the same bassy sound effect and the pistol has some extra bass to it also but audio sounds such as the Needler are touched up nicely. Explosions sound great and voice audio is still clear as before. The music is the most noticeable right from the title screen as it's more clearer and crisper. It also sounds like there are some reinstrumentations but all the music is exactly the same.

The menu's resemble the Halo of old and even the controls with the menu. If I press down on the control stick too hard, it'll skip two or three menu options forcing me to use the control pad. Not too big of a deal but I don't think that's a piece of nostalgia people actually needed or missed.

The ability to have several controller options are nice. I'm fond of the Halo 3 setup and it's nice to know that particular setup is available. However, the controls from the original game are default and the only difference is the black and white buttons now mapped to the Left and Right shoulder buttons. There are a good variety of controller options but there are no custom options but there are enough preset options that people should be able to find something that suits them.

The actual controls still feel smooth and it's very evident that Halo's overall feel, even in Reach, has not changed much, if at all. Any major differences are felt in the physics as strafing is very easy in Halo and that remains. The controls hold up very nice with no complaints about an outdated feel.

The multiplayer maps that come with the game are the best maps in the Reach multiplayer--period. The default maps that came with Reach are bad so it's nice that these classic maps are here to stay. They are recreated beautifully with nice textures, great lighting and meticulously rendered environments. It's very, very evident 343 put a lot of effort into making the maps look nice with obstructing original feels of the maps. Even the variants that 343 created, which do add some slight differences to the original Halo maps, don't kill the original style. You won't find those variants outside of Anniversary multiplayer however. Only within Reach style with Armor Abilities and original Reach gameplay. But there are Anniversary gametypes which take out AA's and speed up movement and decrease bloom on the precision weapons. Purists will be upset about it but I don't think it's that bad at all. The pistol is still a 3 shot pistol but just harder to connect due to the slight bloom that still exists.

The Firefight map included, based on the second mission, is a lot of fun and very challenging. I actually played the Halo mission and as I was playing in that base area, I had the thought "This feels like a Firefight mission" as Covenant poured from the drop ships. Well, turns out Installation 04 is that exact same area. It's a slight bit more predictable than other Firefight maps but it's just as difficult, maybe more difficult as Covenant pour in from all sides. Playing with two people makes it very, very tough. Playing with four is a little bit easier but it's definitely challenging.


That's Extreme

Some weeks ago I was debating with a guy who claimed that being extreme is something that should be avoided in the Christian walk. He proposed that there needs to be balance in life and if you get too extreme, you will fall back into sin and being perfect like Christ is impossible because of our flesh.   
If any of you know me, I'm black and white--physically and mentally (God is so funny). Most of the time, there is only one of two ways to go about something; you either do something or you don't; you lie or you tell the truth; you win or you lose. I'm learning things are not that simple all the time but that is the mindset I gravitate towards characteristically.
So I asked him, "By balance, do you mean an equal amount of sin and godliness?" He said no. He replied saying that since one cannot be perfect like Christ, it is pointless to be so extreme because in the "extremeness" you will not measure up and end up falling flat on your face all over again.  
I told him "If you mean being flawless, then no, I can't be flawless. If you mean being mature and complete, then we can talk." Well, his context ended up being flawlessness and he would not veer from that thought process and after some roundabouts and some explanation of my thoughts, the debate ended.
During the debate, I did tell him that Jesus was an extreme guy. In reference to sin (adultery in this case), he said if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away (Matt 5:29). He did not say close your eye. He said gouge it out and then throw it away. In Colossians 3:5 Paul says to put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature and he goes on to list what those are in the same verse. Putting something to death means making it lifeless.  That's extreme too. Romans 8:13 says if you, by the Spirit, put to death the misdeeds of your body, you will live. Once again, extreme. In Revelations 3:16, Jesus was about to spit the church of Laodicea cause they were neither hot or cold--not on one extreme or the other.  
I think it would be safe to say, when it comes to sin, it's good to be extreme. Crucifying the flesh is already hard enough sometimes and when we allow the flesh to get an inch on us, it becomes that much harder. For a time of my life, I've had to "put to death" the TV; I've had to "put to death" the video games; the internet. A lot of music I've had to "put to death" permanently--certain movies too. Don't want to leave distractions out of this list also. I've had a lot of problems with sin. Don't judge me. :) 
When it comes to sin, it doesn't seem that there can be a "balance." You can't have a little bit of sin and a lot of God. No. Jesus said be mature and complete. It is mature to deny sin as Jesus would. When was the last time you resisted the devil until blood dripped from your pores? Don't tell me that's not extreme. 


Something Big Happened

What happened did not occur at work or my church where we just had something big recently happen already there. This time, something big happened at our campus group Ignite. My man Ikaika got saved! Whoooo!  He has accepted Christ into his heart and is saved! Whoooo!  
Okay. Enough whooing. If you have not met Ikaika (pronounced ee-kai-kuh), then you need to meet him. He's a really cool guy, got some toughness about him and is pretty chill. Either way, he's part of the kingdom of God now and 

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