Assassin's Creed Revelations 2-Years Later ReviewGuest_Jim_* - November 6, 2013
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In other reviews for this franchise, I have mentioned some challenges of improving the games' graphics, because each game has had the same hardware limitations of the consoles. Only by optimizing the graphics engine to make better use of the available resources can the graphics be improved, but at the same time, optimization cannot achieve miracles. A balance of graphics must be achieved, where some graphics are improved and others are not, or even degraded to, hopefully, achieve an overall better looking game.
One area that has definitely seen improvement is the character models. Ezio has never looked so good, even if he is getting long in the tooth. His robes and armor have beautiful and obvious patterns on them, as do other characters. Exactly how the developers achieved this, I am not certain. I can easily see some of the detail is contained just in the textures, but some of it appears to be more than that.
Sadly one aspect of character models that does look worse than in the previous game is hair. Though no longer transparent, it often looks pixelated, with harsh edges that you would believe are cutting through the person, as the hair sometimes clip through the models. Oh yes, there is plenty of clipping as weapons pass through clothing, and hair moves through necks and shoulders. To be fair, even though some of these incidents occur in quicktime events or cinematics, the open-world nature of the game makes perfect behavior next to impossible to expect. There are just too many variables to consider in the world, but fortunately the clipping is never too bad. I mean, you never vanish through a wall or something substantial like that.
Animations are still very pretty to watch, and counter maneuvers are as satisfying as ever. At times though, things did not… mesh properly, shall we say. I would initiate a counter kill, which starts into motion an animation for my character and for my opponent. On occasion though, another enemy would strike me, cutting off my animations, but my opponent's complimentary animation would continue, causing him to move in response to an invisible sword piercing his body. It is obvious when this happens, and unfortunate, but at least that opponent still ends up dead.
Some new animations have also been added, such as petals and straw falling off our Ezio after jumping out of the appropriate hiding spots. It is a minor effect, and the falling objects are not necessarily that good looking, but it is a nice touch.
Occasionally you will notice artifacts in the graphics (which I am not sure I caught in any screenshots) that are present because of the state of the Animus. These look like small areas where the frame is blurred, as though the Animus is not rendering it correctly. Their presence is intentional.
The environment has its good and bad spots. In some places, you do see low polygon counts hurting the realism, but high quality textures make it, overall, look very good. Shadows are also good looking, but have softer edges than I would like. Still though, they are better than the shadows seen in some of the earlier games. There is more to discuss about the environment, but it belongs in the performance section, which is coming up.
Fluids, such as water and fire, are challenging graphical elements to render accurately, which is why we see many techniques used to create them. Generally the worst looking are just animated textures displayed on a flat plane, and fortunately that is not the case in Revelations. When appropriate, water will appear to be churning into waves, but the edge of the water is hard to see. It actually appears to have been blurred (perhaps the developers were going for a mist effect?), which is not very appealing, as it makes the water or object in the water standout, as though it should not be there. This churning also has a texture on it to give it foam, which is a nice touch. Probably the best touch, though, is that boats will actually leave a misty wake behind them. Calmer water on the other hand will reflect the boats on it, though with distortion from ripples. This is very welcome.
Fire, sadly, appears to be one of the graphical elements that has been degraded to free up resources. Though it is not as bad as an animation on a plane, it is still a pre-rendered animation. Actually it appears to be a kind of pre-rendered, animated volume, which is passable for its appearance, but does not have any obvious relation to what it is burning. Still, it has a certain level of depth to it that keeps it from ruining the immersion of a scene. Looking to the previous games though, we can see that sacrifices have been made, as some of those titles have superior flames.
Specs so we can talk about performance:
- Processor: AMD A10-5800K @ 4.40 GHz (44.0x100)
- Motherboard: ASUS F2A85-M PRO
- GPU: EVGA GTX 570 1280 MB
- PhysX: MSI GTS 250 1 GB
- Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 4x8 GB (32 GB total) at 1866 MHz 10-10-10-27
- OS: Windows 7- Professional 64-bit
For the most part, the performance was great at the highest settings. I did notice some stuttering at times, especially on Animus island, where it may be intentional, but it was never too severe. The framerate stayed above the mid-fifties, always, but I cannot say it was very consistent at 60 FPS. So, not bad performance from a pretty good job of optimizing this port, but it is not a great job of optimizing for the PC.
I mentioned that there was something to do with the environment's graphics to discuss in the performance, so here it is. Being an open-world game, there is a lot to be rendered around you in Revelations. Naturally a console and computer cannot render everything around you at the highest detail, so there is a distance at which the level of detail changes, so what is near you looks better than what is far away. If done well, this is a very effective way to conserve resources and is barely noticeable to the player. When done badly, details and entire elements will seem to pop in, which is very noticeable. Fortunately, Revelations represents the former scenario as the shift from lower to higher quality is barely noticeable. Truly, you have to stop and look for it in most cases, or else you will never spot the differences in detail.
One good example of a difference between elements in the distance and directly in front of you are the rooftops, which are often shingled. Close up you can clearly see that the shingles vary, causing the roofs to have a more complicated appearance to them. Far enough away, you can catch that the roofs are actually flat, with the shingles only existing in the texture. Even at distance though, the shingle-texture still has a good amount of detail so you may not have ever noticed the difference, if I did not point it out to you.
Shadows will, however, change in detail quite obviously. In at least one instance, it is evident that some shadows are only present when you are close enough.
Over all, the graphics and performance are very good. The detail of models and textures represents a definite and distinguished step forward for the franchise, though some elements, including fire, are a step back. Performance was also very good for me, even if I could spot some stuttering.