£32.99 - Ubisoft - PS4, Xbox One

Like a university student taking a gap year to recharge their batteries after a particularly gruelling exam period, the mainline Assassin's Creed series gets a much-needed rest this year. Having spectacularly failed their French A level and scraped a pass in the mandatory post-Brexit Victorian English GCSE, here Ubisoft offer up some old past papers for assessment.

Comprising Assassin's Creed II, Brotherhood, and Revelations, this remastered Ezio collection arrives in timely fashion before the franchise hits the big screen next year. With a plot more convoluted than Swindon's notorious magic roundabout, Michael Fassbender and co. probably had a tough time simplifying its famously labyrinthine narrative in the name of cinematic sanity.

The titular Assassins are apparently the good guys, despite their deadly name and the fact that they plug our modern day hero Desmond Miles into a Matrix-esque machine called the Animus and make him kill cartloads of people, using only the genetic memories of his ancestors and an alluring array of daggers and swords. Both the Assassins and their Templar opponents are obsessed with finding the Apples of Eden, which are basically Golden Delicious on steroids, full of knowledge and almost certainly worth getting chucked out of any garden for. It's often said that an apple a day keeps the apothecary away, but seeing as the death count in the second Assassins Creed game alone could fill every hospital in Italy fourteen times over I don't think that particular ancient wisdom applies here.

Coming off the back of more recent titles, playing the original Assassins Creed II shows us the lithe, stripped-down Ezio before our AC protagonists got bogged down with pirate headscarves, companion apps and soothing syrup. The base building in the Monteriggioni Villa remains strangely enjoyable as a mechanic, helping out the family by collecting pick-pocketed cash to fill the villa with paintings and other finery. It also contains the series' best comedic moment, courtesy of a jovial Italian uncle, and overall still holds up well today.

With improved draw distance and a more solid frame rate, it's certainly preferable to digging out the original copies, even if some bugs remain unfixed. All the DLC is included, but Brotherhood and Revelations' enjoyable multiplayer modes are absent. The loving renders of historical buildings of Florence and Venice are improved significantly in resolution and colour by this remaster, even if Ezio himself now seems to suffer from a slight skin condition, making him look like he partakes frequently of the local grape.

Having said that, if you were our modern-day avatar, Desmond Miles, you'd probably want to hit the bottle. Kidnapped, plugged into the Animus and confined to a nondescript flat where he is forced to listen to the execrable Danny Wallace being constantly obnoxious would be enough to drive anyone to the drink. As are the in-game sections where you take control of poor blundering Desmond, oblivious to his own tragic role as the-conceit-that-is-stopping-you-having-fun-playing-the-actual-game. At least in Brotherhood you get put in a coma by the end so that you no longer have to listen to Wallace or face the fact that you've just stabbed your love interest to death.

By the third game, Desmond is washed up in a cut-price Aldi Dali beach scene, talking to some bloke who was probably in one of the earlier games but is so nondescript as to render him anonymous, despite the fact I only finished Brotherhood fifteen minutes earlier. Still, at least players can attempt cool new cut-rope-fly-three-stories-up moves like some kind of Renaissance Batman, once you get past the modern day filler to the historical rendition of Constantinople.

Giving the main series a break this year really feels like a positive move from the French developer. Although the franchise never truly fell apart, even after the catastrophic Assassins Creed III, there was definitely a sense of over-familiarity setting in with regards to the gameplay. As a company, Ubisoft has become the wanted-poster-boys for critics claiming that open-world gaming is creaking under the weight of pointless collectables, and this remaster is at times a handy reminder of what went wrong. Extraneous quests fill your HUD with pointless icons, with tasks begging to be completed if only to achieve the serenity of a clear and uncluttered map, showing why there has been encouraging talk of taking a new direction with future titles.

It’s quite interesting seeing the feature-bloat happen in real time as you progress through the three games here. By 2011’s Revelations, the finalé of the Ezio trilogy, fatigue sets in. Looting the pockets of the first four unfortunates that I dispatch by hammering the square button repeatedly yields approximately seventy-two different inventory items. These include fake gold coins, smoke bombs, incense and a signed 7" of the latest single by Italian garage rockers Go!Zilla. OK, perhaps that last one was the result of my fever dream staying up until 3am wrestling with Ezio's occasionally questionable climbing skills, but you get the idea.

For all their creaky joints and historical sins, Assassin's Creed: the Ezio Collection is still a disc comprised of three very good games, if you have the patience to wind your internal gaming clock back a few years and enjoy them - like Ezio’s Italy - as a lovingly-created museum piece. The whooshing sound and eagle cry that accompanies leaping from high towers into haystacks always brings a nostalgic feeling of joy to me, and will for many others who loved the games the first time around. Those who haven’t already parkoured this path might prefer to try a more recent title in the series, unless they’re a glutton for Italian architectural history.

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