Ezio swaggered into Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood with the look of an older, well-seasoned Italiano, demonstrating Ubisoft's first step nudging their assassin mascot through his life cycle with the help of a few physical changes to his character model. Now a cross between Christopher Lee and Jason Statham, in Assassin's Creed: Revelations his age is more telling but the maturity is equally notable in the new mission-types that have been introduced.
Since the introduction of assassin recruits, the Mentor position he had in Brotherhood is expanded. Assassin recruitment is still as available, but Ezio's role as head honcho is more clearly defined than in Brotherhood.
Now, in the newly devised Tower Defence sequence, he has Field Marshall-like technique and directs his underlings to attack from strategic spots along a gauntlet. It's an interesting change in pace when, while Revelations still continues Assassin's Creed's legacy of being 'that parkour series', in "Den Defence" Ezio commands units from a completely stationary position on a rooftop.
His abilities are limited to shooting enemies moving toward the entrance of the den. Similarly, he can control the aim of cannons held in the base, a feature clearly evolved out of the residue of Brotherhood's early cannon fight. While Brotherhood experimented with first-person cannoning, Revelations' is thoroughly a strategic affair which gives you a rooftop view of the available area to bomb. This becomes your primary offensive tactic when the final wave of enemies meanders in with a battering ram to break through your fortifications.
Barricades can be set up along the path as a defensive measure to keep incoming units out, but these degrade when attackers begin batting them down by hand. Thinking offensively, you can choose from a number of Assassin sub-types which each have different skills. Riflemen are a high-damage class but slower than Crossbowmen, and further classes like Air Assassin units unlock later on.
In Ubisoft's vocabulary age translates to power, so Ezio's assassins continue to rear their heads as an established element in combat while he stays at the helm as the guiding hand. This command hierarchy was suggested back in Brotherhood last year when Ezio was first able to boss assassins, but never in a way that had you legitimately interact as part of a tag-team.
Revelations includes missions where distraction is equally as important as the letting of blood, and Ezio will regularly find himself playing the role of passive distraction on top of his standard job description.
While trying to infiltrate a public party, Ezio helps take down key templar members simply by dressing as a minstrel and providing a distraction for the crowds while an assassin slips in and drags the target out of view. Playing your lutes with the face buttons of your controller attracts their attention, but his first order of business is targeting the correct victim using Eagle Sense, Revelations' upgraded Eagle Vision. Switching to it provides you with the standard Eagle Vision black-lit backdrop, but with the addition of being able to find specific characters within crowds by selecting each individual until one - the correct one - glows.
It goes without saying that the hyperactive free-running is the real mainstay of the game, and even in his fifties Ezio is as limber as he was when we first met him in 2007. Along with the traditional parkour and stealth kills are additional Uncharted-styled set pieces that put Ezio toe-to-toe with rock formations, jumping from tiers of platforms as they crumble beneath him into cavernous depths.
But Revelations has already expanded the horizons of Assassin's Creed simply by experimenting with entirely new mission types that go beyond the usual ilk. Even with Ezio's retirement looming, the game has more enthusiasm behind the mission design than any previous iterations in the series. And for a blossoming franchise set to continue even without its favourite character on the frontlines, that's a more significant step than the new grey hairs.