Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines Review for PlayStation Portable (PSP)

Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines Review for PlayStation Portable (PSP)

Size Matters…but only a bit

More than two years have passed between the release of the original Assassin’s Creed and it’s direct follow-up Assassin’s Creed Bloodlines, so it’s easy to assume that some refinements have been made to the system. But, has the original formula that prompted critical praise and retail success for the predecessor grown stale in the meantime?

Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines screenshot

The short answer is no; it has not. This is a good game based on a similar design as the first game in the series, so if that was something you enjoyed, then Bloodlines with give you more of the same – albeit, this iteration in the series is somewhat optimized for its portable system, so there are some changes.

The major staples of the Assassin’s Creed series are here, though. It’s still based on stealth and platforming gameplay in which you sneak around to silently assassinate key figures of the 12th Century. The full, free roaming 3D world is here as well, although it’s obviously not nearly as big or as detailed as the console versions. The city is chopped up into small sections of a few blocks, and the whole area is traversable from the city streets to the rooftops.

It might be scaled down, but it’s still an impressive feat for a handheld system. It shows that even after nearly five years on the market, developers are still finding new ways to push the PSP and tap into previously unknown potential.

However, there is a trade-off for the free roaming world: there’s virtually no color in this place. Even more so than its console predecessor, Bloodlines color palette seems to be made up purely of gray and other colors mixed with gray. The entire AC series technically takes place in a dreamlike state, so it’s possible the developer was trying to display a dream-like aesthetic. But even if that’s the case, it’s still not very attractive, making for a rather boring world.

Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines screenshot

Despite being quite similar to its console predecessor, Bloodlines does have subtle differences which generally seem to have been implemented to offset the shortcomings of a portable device. For instance, guards are much less aware of their surroundings in this game. That may be something of a backhanded compliment, but the fact is that the game would have been extremely frustrating if they were more alert. Due to the difficulties the PSP has in controlling a 3D gaming world (lack of camera control), the guards needed to be a little dumbed-down, otherwise the player would get caught every two minutes unless they spent a gratuitous amount of time struggling with camera control to survey the surroundings before striking.

The toned down enemy AI allows the game to be more free flowing and keeps frustration to a minimum. As a result, this game is faster than the original. The population of the city streets is lower, so it’s easier to get a mark alone and take him out quickly. It’s usually as simple as sprinting up to him, jumping on his back, and driving Altair’s signature knife through his neck. If that sounds harsh and visceral to you, that’s because it is. The PSP still manages to maintain the thrill of the kill when Altair takes out an enemy.

Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines screenshot

The only thing that serves as a detriment to the intensity of the kills is the constant sound glitches that plague much of this game, especially the combat. The anti-climactic silence that will often come when you plunge your sword through an enemy can’t be understated. It’s really a bit of a letdown when you’re in the full swing of combat. Imagine pulling off a counter that will crescendo with Altair stabbing his sword fully through an enemies back, just to have the sound cut out as the sword makes contact. It detracts from the intensity of combat and pulls you out of the experience.

Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines screenshot

The sound glitches rear their head consistently in dialogue as well. Perhaps a quarter of the spoken lines in the game will experience at least minor glitches such as repeats, two of the same voice speaking the same line at once, and sometimes the sound just cuts out completely.

While the sound is a glitchy mess, the controls are much better. It’s far from perfect, but Bloodlines does a pretty decent job of mapping a lot of complex functions to the PSP – a system notorious for horrid controls. The only aspect that isn’t fluid and intuitive is the camera control. Being able to center the camera behind the character is a nice touch, but in order to move the camera you have to hold the L button, and then use the face buttons to pitch the camera one direction at a time. When you’re standing still it’s not so bad. But moving the camera while moving is practically impossible. So even a simple task like looking behind you to see who is chasing you isn’t really practical.

Overall, I think Bloodlines is going to surprise a lot of people. Many times publishers will release a throw-away portable version of their console hit just to capitalize on the good name of their series. These games are almost always terrible, but Bloodlines has a lot more going for it than most titles of its ilk. Ubisoft really took its time with this game, and it has kept the good name of Assassin’s Creed intact. Plus, this is releasing alongside the heavily Italian-themed Assassin’s Creed 2, so if you’re getting weary of Ezio and the flashy Mediterranean aesthetic, give Bloodlines a try and return to the Crusades with Altair.

If you like the Assassin’s Creed series, then you’ll most likely enjoy Bloodlines as well, but it’s not a guarantee. The game certainly has its problems, but they are generally overwhelmed in the face of great technical prowess, the big open-world, and impressive fluidity of gameplay. We only wish it was a bit longer, because the storyline will only take about five hours to get through.

There’s some really impressive visuals in this game, which push the limits of the PSP. However, environments tend to be drab and colorless. 3.5 Control
The controls are surprisingly fluid given the PSP’s reputation for hand-contorting control schemes, though camera control is still woefully lacking. 2.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound becomes distracting often, with constant glitches during sword fights and dialogue scenes. 2.3 Play Value
The game is only about five hours long, though that doesn’t include side-missions. However, what’s here is quite good and worth playing if you’re a fan of the series. 3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Dynamic Locomotion – Like the next-gen SKUs, Altair on the PSP reacts to the terrain fluidly, diving through holes and climbing ledges with only the creative application of the Free Run button.
  • Tremendous Visuals – Altair and his environments are beautifully rendered to maximize the PSP’s visual capabilities.
  • PS3 Connectivity – Collect Templar Coins and Treasures on the PSP, connect to your PS3, and share value across both SKUs. Additionally, as players unlock Health and Weapons upgrades in Assassin’s Creed 2 PS3, the same upgrade will be unlocked in Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines PSP.

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