Video Games Review: Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection (Xbox One, 2016) is not the comprehensive retrospective Ezio deserves

As is well documented on this website by now, I am an avowed Assassin’s Creed fanboy. Where others have abandoned the series due to a lack of innovation after the revelatory experience of Black Flag or the unmitigated disaster that was Unity, I’ve stuck with it. I made it through Assassin’s Creed 3. I even played those side-scrolling Chronicles titles nobody gave a shit about. The three games included in Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection are, in my opinion, among the best the series has ever produced, but they are also the ones that everyone played which makes this anthology difficult to recommend, even for a die-hard like me.

Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection puts together three titles from early in the series, Assassin’s Creed II, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. These three games tell, from cradle to grave, the story of master assassin (and perhaps the franchise’s most beloved hero) Ezio Auditore da Firenze. We spend all three games watching Ezio grow from a recalcitrant rich kid into the reflective and world-weary elder statesman of the Assassin order. They tell the kind of story we don’t get to see in games very often — one in which we see not only the hero’s moments of greatness, but their lowest moments too. We see Ezio on days where his aging bones ache when he leaps from rooftop-to-rooftop. We see him at the end of his life, exhausted, wondering if any of the derring-do ever mattered or if the thousands of lives he’s taken changed a damned thing.

The thing that playing through all three of these titles will throw into sharp relief for you is just how far this series has come since then, from both a technical and mechanical standpoint. I didn’t realise how used I’d become to the downward and horizontal climbing and parkour of newer titles until it was taken away from me. Suddenly I was thrust back into 2009, a grim era in which Ezio would grab literally every ledge except the one I wanted or fling himself off a building despite never once being asked to do so. Back then, these quirks were par for the course — nobody had ever implemented parkour in a video game before Assassin’s Creed and Ubisoft were figuring it out as they went. But that was eight years ago and once you’ve experienced the aerial ballet of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, it’s unbelievably hard to go back.

All three games now run at a consistent 30 frames per second in 1080p on both PS4 and Xbox One which is nice because anyone who played them on last-gen consoles will happily tell you about how up-and-down the performance was. What’s more of a bummer to me is that, for whatever reason, Ubi couldn’t squeeze 60 fps out of what are now decidedly last-gen titles. The draw distance is far greater than the originals, however, so climbing Italy’s many towers results in some incredible views and the load times are significantly improved.

At first I thought that each game’s textures had been given much needed overhauls but on closer inspection it seems that Ubi have simply dropped in the hi-res textures from the old PC versions instead. Assassin’s Creed II seems to suffer from numerous issues with global lighting too, which results in everything having a rather flattened look. They’re not dealbreakers by any stretch but it did keep me from being totally absorbed back into Ezio’s world.

Fans of the Ezio-era multiplayer modes will also be left disappointed because it’s been dropped entirely from this release. This wasn’t an issue for me at all since multiplayer has never been what interested me about the series, but it is something you should know about if you were ready to jump into some classic AC MP.

Also included in the collection are Assassin’s Creed Lineage and Assassin’s Creed Embers, a short film double feature that fill in the handful of gaps in Ezio’s life the games don’t cover. These are welcome additions to be sure, but it would have been nice to see Ubisoft take a page out of the Rare Replay Collection‘s book and include some behind the scenes materials or making of documentaries given how influential these games were both at the time and now, almost ten years down the track.

The long and short of this collection is that, if pressed, I wouldn’t be able to tell you who it’s for. For die hards, it’s a nice trip in the way-back machine but likely a short one given how much time we’ve already spent with these games and the lack of anything truly new. For newcomers, there’s nothing here that could beat a recommendation that you simply play Syndicate instead.

It was nice to see you again, though, Ezio. Requiescat en pace, bud.

Score: 6.5 out of 10
Highlights: Ezio still one of the best protagonists the series has ever had; Italy still a gorgeous city to explore
Lowlights: Nothing you haven’t played already; Few bonus features
Developer: Virtuos
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: Out now
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Reviewed on Xbox One with a code provided by the publisher.

 

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David Smith

David Smith is the former games and technology editor at The AU Review. He has previously written for PC World Australia. You can find him on Twitter at @RhunWords.

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