A secret network of rivers flow below Istanbul's streets, slowly eroding the deep bases of caverns glimpsed by just a handful of human eyes. While Ottoman and Byzantine armies patrol the city of stone and wood high above, Ezio falls victim to rotting boards in an abandoned building and tumbles down into darkness.
At one point the greying assassin is one hookblade away from death. The quick-thinking acrobat lodges his new toy into a beam and spares himself a crunching fall in the nick of time - but his job is far from over. Methodically, but urgently, he pulls himself up the stanchion and swings and leaps his way onto safer ground. There's no ladder back to the world above, but horizontal progress through the grotto takes Ezio through crumbling caves until he reaches a cistern and spies a boat of Byzantine Templars on the trail of Altair's next cache of well-hidden treasure.
In some secret locations Ezio takes out the Byzantine threat with stealth - combining high vantage points and dark corners
to prey on unsuspecting guards and eliminate herds of enemies one-by-one. Here there's nothing subtle about his approach. The boat takes off down a fastflowing channel and Ezio uses overhanging beams, arches and walkways to keep up.
At full pelt he manages to dodge the bullets being fired back at him until, after two minutes of expert parkour, he's positioned to leap down into the boat and kick those Byzantines (who aren't direct recipients of his) out into the deadly rocky waters.
The entire sequence took us just under six minutes to complete - the threshold for 100% synchronisation - but it felt more like twenty. From fall to finish we'd delicately clambered around precipices, zip-lined across fraying rope, jumped off of scaffolding as it crumpled beneath our weight and enjoyed a gentle spot of stabbing too. At times, when Ezio's free-running looked to be scuppered by collapsing environments, brief prerendered interludes saved our bacon. And when we were back in control the camera swung dynamically to play up the dangers of his actions.
Through it all we felt very much like a certain Nathan Drake from a certain PlayStation 3 exclusive. Better, even. We felt liberated. We felt alive.
What I can say is the Desmond chapter will end - but there will be many more games...
STRAIGHT AND NARROW
These linear sections are Ubisoft Singapore's creations and they're in serious danger of actually overshadowing the rest of the game. Not due to the overworld action being boring (far from it, in fact, as Revelations is home to many superb refinements) but because they're supremely crafted morsels of gameplay utterly unlike the 'regular' game.
These six-minute, edge-of-the-seat set-pieces bring back memories of Prince of Persia's best moments. That Assassin's Creed's open-world parkour system could even work in channelled, linear environments was a pleasant surprise we first discovered when the secret locations were debuted back in Assassin's Creed II. That they now make up some of the series' finest aspects is, to be frank, nothing short of astonishing.
Part of that is down to Ezio's new hookblade. At first we thought it would have a negative effect on movement: it speeds up cross-city navigation, sure, but it does so by making climbing easy. Ezio can now scale towers like a monkey and leap straight up to previously unreachable handholds without so much as breaking a sweat. It's automatic too, so there's no more 'jumpand- grab' button jiggery-pokery to worry about.