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Review

Review: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

Vittoria agli assassini.

Well, he needs his nails clipped.

The wind catches under your cape, roof tiles slipping slightly beneath your feet as you sprint towards the Basilica di San Pietro. Your white-peaked hood is pulled low, covering your face. Greaves, vambraces, pauldrons and chest plate are all freshly repaired and glinting in the rising sun. You feel your Milanese sword gently patting against your hip with each footstep as you run and the crossbow on your back is reassuringly weighty. You stop, alerted to the danger nearby and throw a couple of knives into a patrolling archer. He crumples silently to a rest on the edge of his rooftop and your sprint begins again, atop ridges, across high-wires and along protruding beams. You reach the edge of the rooftop at full speed. Heart pounding, you leap into the air.

an experience like no other

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is an experience like no other. Actually, that’s not entirely fair. Brotherhood is very similar to the Assassin’s Creed II experience. You return as Ezio Auditore di Firenze, master assassin and new unofficial leader of the Assassin’s Guild. Brotherhood starts literally seconds after the ending of ACII, that massive plot climax still hanging in the air of this well-imagined universe.

The Assassin’s Creed series is almost without compare in the world of video games – part action, part free-running platformer, part stealth and part puzzler. Each section can be reasonably compared to something else. For example, the streamlined, free-flowing combat system present in Brotherhood, slightly improved on ACII’s, puts you in mind of Batman: Arkham Asylum. The platforming sections are reminiscent of Uncharted. The puzzles brings back the older Tomb Raiders. The stealth aspects feed off Metal Gear Solid and Ubisoft’s other stealth action title – Splinter Cell. But nothing puts it all together like this.

Brotherhood is similar in style, look and feel to Assassin’s Creed II. On the surface you might ask whether this could be called a large-scale expansion pack rather than a full game in its own right. That would be a fair assumption to make on surface evidence but a couple of hours in the company of Ezio (and Desmond, for far more time is given to the modern counter-balance in the narrative) will completely dispel that notion. What Brotherhood has successfully accomplished is what every sequel should strive for: a growth and refinement of the things its predecessor got right and solutions for as much of what it got wrong as possible.

I can see your house from here.

There are still repetitive elements to some tasks within the mission structure but the tedious labours that started to drag a little in the previous iteration have, for the most part, been eradicated. This is thanks mostly to new systems in place for regenerating the city and rebuilding your underground network.

Each area of the city must be liberated from the oppressive overview of the Borgia family by assassinating their captain in the area and then igniting the watchtower. Once this is done you will be able to purchase the shops, utilities and buildings in that area. Later in the game you will also be able to rescue and recruit citizens to join the Assassin’s Guild and aid your cause. These recruited assassins are then manageable via the city’s pigeon lofts where you can send them to major European cities on missions of their own. Each recruit levels up individually to obtain better armour and weaponry and each mission they go on gains you money and items to sell in the shops (or use to complete shop quests and unlock new goods).

a wonderful system that really makes you feel like you’re the mastermind

It’s a wonderful system that really makes you feel like you’re the mastermind behind a network of assassins stretching across Europe. Recruited assassins can also be used, when they’re not away on a mission, to attack your foes remotely. You simply target an enemy soldier and hit the left trigger. Your recruits will leap from the nearest concealed spot and rain down death without you ever getting your hands dirty – or your face seen.

The main story of the game is set in Roma. There are short sections in other cities which are delivered via flashbacks and optional side missions but for the most part this is a one-city game. That’s not to say that this game is short or limited in scope, far from it. Brotherhood is slightly more focussed and streamlined but there is still an awful lot of content here. The city is much larger than any one area in the previous game and staying largely in one location makes sense to the position this game takes in the overall narrative.

The sheer volume of side missions and optional puzzle rooms will keep you entrenched in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood for a very long time. Despite stalling somewhat in the final stretch, the main story has a pace and an energy to it that is rare in this medium. None of the side missions are essential but completing them will make the main story easier to accomplish. In this way the player is rewarded for engaging in the optional content but not unnecessarily punished for just wanting to experience the central narrative.

Smell the glove.

Character models and facial textures and animations are much improved over ACII but they’re still not quite up to the industry’s leaders in that respect. The voice acting is top-notch though, mostly, and the wealth of information that the game gives you is incredible. What the Assassin’s Creed series has always excelled at, though, is the narrative. Brotherhood doesn’t disappoint here either with one of the most intelligent, well plotted and cleverly presented narratives yet seen in the medium.

There are still occasional quirks of control, with very rare instances when it wasn’t as consistently easy to make a jump as it had been to make previous ones of a similar nature. It’s nothing to worry about and very rare but it’s worth mentioning so there are no surprises. The decision to allow horses into the city streets is also something of a mistake. They are too cumbersome to turn and too large in the narrow streets to make the experience of riding through Roma an enduring one. They also look faintly ridiculous when they walk up or down steps. It just appears that the urban maps weren’t designed with horses in mind.

an exceptionally compelling game

Let’s not get bogged down in the very minor niggles though. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is an exceptionally compelling game that gets so much perfectly correct. If you’ve played and enjoyed the previous games then this is an essential purchase. If you’re late to the series you really are missing out on one of modern gaming’s best franchises. The single player story is so rich and deep and there is clearly still a lot to discover in future instalments in this series. Certainly, the truth behind the conspiracy plot from the modern world setting seems to be as far away as ever.

The addition of multiplayer was initially a worry to some but it has been done with aplomb. The feel of the series is retained thanks to the interesting hunter/hunted mechanism in place. You are assigned a target and guided towards them but there is often another assassin who has you as their target. This provides something of a first for online multiplayer: a system which is in keeping with the narrative and doesn’t just rely on the traditional game modes like deathmatch. There is a levelling system with perks and streaks in place to keep you coming back and it all seems to fit brilliantly within the world of Assassins, Templars and Animi.

Pros:

  • Utterly engaging narrative.
  • Compelling pacing and character growth.
  • Streamlined mechanisms to put you in charge much more.
  • Multiplayer feels unique and intelligent.
  • Builds on previous iterations but leaves you wanting more.

Cons:

  • Horses feel cumbersome and look out of place on narrow city streets.
  • Very occasional control inconsistencies.

Brotherhood is not perfect but it’s difficult to imagine how it could be improved upon. It could be called a perfect sequel, even if it is just a branched-off stop-gap after Assassin’s Creed II rather than a fully-fledged Assassin’s Creed III. The mistakes in game design from ACII have been addressed and there are a few other improvements, particularly to make the combat flow more naturally. All while building on the parts of Assassin’s Creed that make you feel powerful, deadly and silent. Without question, this is one of the best games of 2010.

Score: 9/10

57 Comments
  1. socya
    Member
    Since: Oct 2010

    Nice review, I’m just about to start playing AC:II. Took a long time to get over the disappointment of the first.

    Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 09:07.
    • Person678
      BOOM! Headshot!
      Since: Jan 2009

      ACII is really a absolute world over AC1.

      Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 09:16.
    • jayjay119
      Member
      Since: Apr 2010

      I liked the first, really I saw no major improvements in the 2nd apart from the less repetitive gamplay. The new systems such as the suspicion and weapons bar were needlessly over complicated compared to the first one and the fact that your objectives continuously kept poppin up on screen wee down right annoing.

      Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 09:19.
      • kevatron400
        Drake, baby.
        Since: Dec 2008

        I’d say that the less repetitive gameplay _was_ a major improvement over the first.

        Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 10:25.
    • philzy85
      Member
      Since: May 2010

      The assassins creed series is just getting better and better, I finished AC:Brotherhood last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked it so much that I’ve ordered both the novels for christmas :)

      Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 14:31.
  2. R4U Eldave0
    andUandU
    Since: Aug 2008

    Just about to read the review but I just thought I’d say I was toying with the idea of buying this tonight so a big thanks in advance for posting your thoughts to help my decision ;)

    Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 09:09.
  3. Person678
    BOOM! Headshot!
    Since: Jan 2009

    This review should be entirely in Italian.

    Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 09:16.
  4. spooner_22
    Member
    Since: May 2009

    nice review. im gettin this for xmas off my gf and cant wait

    Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 09:18.
    • Jackarseboyz
      Member
      Since: Jul 2010

      LOL me too!

      Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 11:45.
      • ashw92
        Member
        Since: Aug 2010

        Me three! haha

        Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 12:04.
    • rht992
      Member
      Since: Apr 2009

      well my birthdays on the 7th and i’m dropping some serious hints now

      Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 12:22.
      • spooner_22
        Member
        Since: May 2009

        my birthday is 22nd so i might get 2 copies ;)

        Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 14:13.
  5. jayjay119
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    Nice review. I’m gonna have to wait until next summer/ autumn to play it for myself though unfortunately!

    Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 09:20.
    • moshi
      Member
      Since: Jun 2009

      Why so long.

      Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 09:41.
      • jayjay119
        Member
        Since: Apr 2010

        I’m on my residence abroad part of my studies until next August, I’m gonna be moving around a lot so I won’t have a PS3 or 360 until then.

        Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 11:30.
  6. moshi
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    Top Review . Iv’e played it solidly for a week and now the journey is over and I want more already. Totally love the setting of Italy and its going to take some topping for AC 3 to match the love I have for the game. I may just wonder around in the game for the hell of it from time to time.

    Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 09:31.
  7. masoke
    Member
    Since: Oct 2008

    I just finished the story mode last night. I enjoyed ACII a lot, but this is better. There’s something badass (although perhaps *easy*) about wandering around a restricted area, and hitting L2 whenever someone first notices you, then just watching as your assassins despatch them for you. I just need to finish a couple of things for the single player trophies before devoting myself to the multiplayer.

    Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 09:32.
  8. Aquastyle
    Member
    Since: Jul 2010

    Great review, great game. The singleplayer is surprisingly long, and loaded with sidemissions and stuff to do. Looking forward to getting home from school today and continue this epic adventure!

    Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 09:40.
    • shields_t
      Member
      Since: Oct 2008

      I was a bit peturbed by the trophy list suggesting a few less memories to sync, but like you said, the single player is actually pretty long. I’m enjoying Brotherhood at the moment and am looking forward to getting the hang of the multiplayer, after being absolute pony at the beta.

      Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 10:02.
      • Aquastyle
        Member
        Since: Jul 2010

        About the trophies, they’re glitched, atleast for me. For example, I didn’t get the Sequence 4 trophy after I finished the sequence. Actually the only complaint I got about the game…

        Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 10:14.
  9. eirekun
    Member
    Since: Sep 2009

    Traded in FNV for this & I’m very happy with that choice.

    Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 09:44.
  10. moshi
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    I can’t decide if the next AC could do with a difficulty setting as the enemy are a push over (and this is coming from someone who plays games on easy) when you are armoured and tooled up but then again you are a Assassin so it should be easy killing. Hmmmm

    Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 09:47.
    • Aquastyle
      Member
      Since: Jul 2010

      Though the combat admittedly is very fun, it’s way too easy. The AC-series is meant to be stealth-oriented, so therefore they should encourage being stealthy, and make the combat harder in AC3.

      Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 10:05.
      • jikomanzoku
        Member
        Since: Jan 2010

        Agreed, once you have you’re timing down ie:an hour or two in there’s no threat left from anyone or any situation.

        It’s just too simple to be a medieval rambo, cast aside any notions of stealth and stride merrily through town murdering everything in your path.

        I know the gamer wants a sense of empowerment through their actions but when that so quickly jeapardises the central mechanic or theme, somethings wrong.

        Having said that, I do thoroughly enjoy this series, they’ll tide me over nicely till #47′s next outing.

        Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 15:10.
    • gazzagb
      Master of speling mitakse
      Since: Feb 2009

      I think they have increased the difficulty in a way by introducing the 50% and 100% sequence completions. 100% is far more difficult, and sometimes requires more than 1 play of the sequence to get it.

      Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 17:17.
      • moshi
        Member
        Since: Jun 2009

        Good point and some of them do require a different take on your technique but when it comes to a major point in the plot and you can kill the enemy with a few bashes of X it feels like a cop out. I know there is no Giant Demon end of the level bosses etc and I’m just coming to realise that’s what I expect in games these days be it good or bad. I guess that’s what makes AC a bit different from the usual standard.

        Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 18:45.

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