I think that the bigger developers have only themselves to blame when gamers, whether they’re journalists or consumers, approach PSP iterations of big PS3 titles with some apprehension, wondering whether the title has been produced with the same aspirations as the glamorous home console versions, or simply squeezed through a short production pipeline to capitalise on the hype.
Usually, the task of creating these portable accompaniments falls to smaller developers, but that doesn’t always mean the game will be bad – PSP titles like Ratchet and Clank, Daxter, and Motorstorm: Arctic Edge are proof enough of that. But on which side of the fence does Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines fall?
Developed by Griptonite Games, Bloodlines is the PSP’s first taste of Ubisoft’s intriguing sci-fi franchise. The story takes place a few years after the end of Assassin’s Creed, and players are once again put in control of Altaïr, who visits various cities in the Mediterranean while hunting down the new leader of the Knights Templar – a man named Armand Bouchart. More of the story unfolds as Altaïr cuts his way through Bouchart’s generals, bringing the battle ever closer to his nemesis. We also get to see another side of Altaïr through his blossoming romantic relationship with the Templar, Maria.
Griptonite Games has managed to keep the gameplay true to the original, which is a bit of a pity. Had they included some of the improvements from Assassin’s Creed 2, Bloodlines would surely have been much better. Controlling Altaïr as he runs across rooftops, scales walls, slips his hidden blade between victims’ shoulders, and fights armies of enemies, feels exactly like it does in the PS3 version. They’ve had to make a few compromises here and there to suit the PSP, but on the whole, the control system is solid. The camera works pretty well, and the standard PSP third-person scheme applies – tap the left bumper to centre the camera behind Altaïr, for example.
Just like other versions, if Altaïr wishes to populate his map with useful info, he must find and climb a high tower of some kind, called a Viewpoint, to synchronise with his surroundings. Thankfully, Griptonite realised that monotony was one of the first game’s biggest shortcomings, and there is now only one Viewpoint per district. The side quests are still in there, but there are far fewer of them, too, and all are entirely optional.
For players who possess both Assassin’s Creed 2 on the PS3 and Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines on the PSP, there are some enticing connection bonuses to be had -unlocking new weapons and abilities, and spending money in both games. I’d recommend doing this sooner rather than later in AC2, because the weapons you acquire will only be worthwhile if you don’t already have the more powerful weapons in the game.
Taking all of this into account, it looks like Altaïr narrowly avoided plunging into the “cheap PSP accompaniment” bin, even if he barely managed to grab on by his fingertips – but, hey, that’s what he does.