In the year 1499 where hoodies are back in fashion, Ezio Auditore da Firenze thought his days of slaying pesky officials were over. Think again Ezio. We still need you for another game.
The first thing you’ll notice about Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is the name. For some reason Ubisoft Montreal decided to forgo Assassin’s Creed III in favour of Brotherhood.
Maybe because Ezio is back? Maybe they’re sick of numerals? Who knows?
After a brief interlude of what’s to come, you’re put straight back into Ezio’s greaves as he leaves the mysterious temple from Assassin’s Creed II.
It’s good to see an old face. It’s a more friendly approach than handing us on from Altair to Ezio. I feel more connected to the character. Though by the end of the game I think Ezio has done his course.
Just so you don’t get your hopes up, the sci-fi element won’t be explained this time around — you’ll have more questions in fact. But there is a nice juicy cliff-hanger, and a Subject 16 file for you to ponder over.
The start of Brotherhood is the most memorable — taking cinematic cues from Uncharted 2. Returning back to the Monteriggioni Villa, the Auditore’s home.
Lifts are introduced. These catapult Ezio into the air and straight onto the roof, shaving a few seconds off climbing time.
No longer do you have to say your sad farewells to your animal companion at the castle gates. Horses can now be ridden practically anywhere. Though understandably they are a little afraid of water and heights.
The Villa also has some new defences: cannons. Make the most of them, from what I played, they are a one time deal.
If Assassin’s Creed II gave you only a glimpse of Rome and left you wanting, Brotherhood is here to help. Rome is your only destination (apart from the Villa).
Don’t get too annoyed. Rome is a big place, and it feels like a much different city to the ones before.
In ACII you had a slight taste of Desmond’s new found abilities. Brotherhood takes this further. It’s mostly linear acrobatics, but there’s also some free roaming for Desmond back at a familiar location. This is where the Animus base is set up.
There you can leave the animus at any time to check emails, chat to your scientist buddies, and free roam to your heart’s content.
Nolan North, the voice of Desmond, (AKA Nathan Drake and every other character ever) seems to be channelling more of Drake’s wit. Though not to the same standard, it’s definitely an unsettling feeling having two different games collide like that.
Brotherhood isn’t just a new coat of paint.Yes the HUD has changed design somewhat, and it’s the same old climbing, jumping, stabbing and speaking Italian. But ringing true to the title, Ezio can now recruit a guild of assassins.
At the press of a button you can summon them to swoop in to take out a target, or assist you in battle. These newbie assassins were once ordinary citizens, but now you’ve got them doing your dirty work.
You can send these assassins away on missions to level up. These have a success rate depending on your killer’s rank. And you’ll have to wait on a timer before you can use that assassin again. Mafia Wars style.
These recruits aren’t invincible either. Far too often my assassins would fall in battle. And it’s no small thing either. You would then have to recruit and train new ones all over again. My guild of blonde assassins ended before it had even begun.
As well as summoning assassins to his aid, Ezio can also call a horse at the press of a button, or you can hijack one GTA style. It’s very handy being able to ride across the city, especially for those long distances.
Believe it or not, parkour does get a little tiresome after three games. I like to mix it up a bit.
There are underground tunnel shortcuts for fast travel, but they aren’t much use until you renovate the entrances.
Going by horse you may run into quite a few dead ends. Thankfully it doesn’t matter too much if you bowl over a few pedestrians in the process.
The combat is more free-flow this time around, like in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Killing an enemy, you can select another nearby, and he will die in one hit. Select the next and so on until you’re either standing over a bunch of corpses, or an enemy rudely interrupts your killing spree.
Each mission has an extra challenge or ‘Full Synchronisation’ as they call it. It could be something like don’t lose any health, performing the task in a certain time frame, don’t be detected, or don’t swim for example.
Besides facing off against the Borgia and the French in the main missions, there’s just so much to do in Brotherhood; Courtesan missions, Leonardo Da Vinci’s weapon blueprints, Borgia towers, assassination contracts, Subject 16 fragments, collecting flags, treasures & feathers, renovations etc. etc.
Ezio needs to renovate blacksmiths and other merchants before he can use them. You see the buildings renovated right in front of you, sped up to several seconds. Banks replace needing to go back to that damn box in the Villa in ACII.
Project Legacy is a Facebook game that connects to Brotherhood for unlocks in both games. I’ve been too afraid to touch it in case of my Mafia Wars addiction returning. But if you’re into that stuff, the option is there.
A very neat, but completely optional (as is a lot of the things you do in Brotherhood) is the ‘Virtual Training’. These are timed objectives awarding medals upon completion. Taking place in a grey Matrix-like Limbo. The Animus’ operating system as it seems.
Reminds me a bit of Mirror’s Edge as well, with the red markers and giant block shapes to climb. The training covers most of Ezio’s important skills; Free Run, Stealth, Assassination, (Flag Hunting), and Combat.
You may have heard of Brotherhood’s other standout feature; multiplayer. For the very first time you can now hunt down your mates. It’s no ordinary tacked on deathmatch either.
I’ve been watching its development closely and for the most part it does succeed in what it set out to do.
Your aim as part of the ‘Abstergo Animus Project’ is to track down your target using only a picture and a compass. As you get closer to your target the compass will fill up completely, indicating your target is near.
The only problem is that your target is far from unique. The levels are populated with identical clones. So you have to watch for the character’s behaviour.
Does it look like an AI, or does it look like a human? Kill a civilian and it’s all over. A new target is assigned.
The more stealthy and creative you are with your kills, the more points you will receive. Rushing gets you nowhere.
At the same time there’s usually another assassin (or more) on your tail. There is a block button to counter an attack, but more often that not, it fails.
And you hit the ground in slo-mo, blood spurting out of a new hole in your character’s now limp body. It shocks me every time.
Chases are triggered when you attract too much attention near the target. As in single player, you need to break the line of sight in order to get him or her off your back.
Brotherhood’s got all the multiplayer bells and whistles; Leveling, customisation, perks, and unlocks. It gives you a reason to keep coming back for more.
So don’t play the multiplayer expecting sword fights and target practice. If done right, it’s slow-paced (apart from the odd chase). But it is very rewarding and a great new way to play online. There’s also various team based modes, with a slight change in formula.
It feels different running around in multiplayer. Almost like it’s sped up. It feels quicker to climb up buildings, and I don’t think you can get hurt from falls either.
The multiplayer is not without its problems. Searching for a game seems to take forever.
And any other option apart from ‘Quick Play’ seems to never load. After a while my patience snaps and I revert back to the Quick Play option.
Playing with friends, the game didn’t seem to accept everyone into the game which was a mighty annoyance. Possibly strict router issues (I don’t know, this networking stuff isn’t my forte).
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood improves upon what was already a good game. Adding more variety, and giving us more of Ezio’s story.
If you’re a fan of the series, and you’re not sick of running along rooftops, I see no reason not to recommend Brotherhood.
Along with its creative multiplayer mode, it’s a solid game with more to offer than its predecessor, even in its one year of development.
My question is: Will the next game be Assassin’s Creed III? Or are we saying farewell to the numeric sequencing?
Not such an exciting mystery as the sci-fi behind the Assassin’s Creed series, but it’s one I can safely display, spoiler-free.