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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. djhsecondnature
    Since: Forever

    Great review and fully agree. An awesome game.

    Oh and as to how to improve it, co-op. A separate story-arc (like Conviction) where you and two other assassins have to carry out the required missions.

    Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 09:49.
    • double-o-dave
      Member
      Since: Nov 2008

      Co-op would be amazing!

      Comment posted on 26/11/2010 at 12:04.
  2. DrNate86
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    I’m really looking forward to getting this! I love the AC games, even the first one, but they are getting better and better. Looking forward to the multiplayer the most!

    Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 09:54.
  3. Amphlett
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    I’m new to the series and don’t normally like these type of games but I’m now hooked. There’s a really addictive RPG element to the game, not only in building up the central character but also in building the skills of the very helpful assassins.
    It was a toss-up between AC:B and NFS:HP as both came out on the same day. I certainly made the right choice!

    Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 10:09.
    • SpikeyMikey23
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      You should pick up ac2 for cheap also! Goty for around £12 and while your at it, the original shouldnt cost you more than a fiver! ;)

      Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 10:57.
  4. david
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    I’ve watched my son play AC1 and AC2 and I just cant see the attraction of this game. Look really boring and overly filled with narrative.

    Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 10:15.
    • kevatron400
      Drake, baby.
      Since: Dec 2008

      May I ask how old your son is? Both games have a PEGI 18 rating and as such may not appeal to a younger person, which may be why your son was getting bored with it.

      Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 10:30.
      • BrendanCalls
        Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc - YOHIMBÉ!!!
        Since: Forever

        I think it was david that was getting bored of it, not his son.

        Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 10:45.
  5. Sympozium
    Member
    Since: Aug 2009

    I might wait until the price drops…. I liked the second a huge improvement over the first so I will wait

    Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 10:23.
  6. kevatron400
    Drake, baby.
    Since: Dec 2008

    Great review. I can’t wait to get this (fingers crossed for christmas). Loved the first, second was even better, third sounds like the best so far. Really interested to see how the multiplayer aspect works too.

    Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 10:31.
    • djhsecondnature
      Since: Forever

      It starts off pretty frustrating as there’s just a dog-pile of bodies that builds up, but once you work out how to flee the scene properly it is brilliant.

      Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 10:35.
  7. BrendanCalls
    Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc - YOHIMBÉ!!!
    Since: Forever

    I bery much enjoyed ACII, so i am certainly looking forward to this. Unfortunately though its christmas time and the “dont buy anything for yourself, you might get it for christmas” rule has been brought in.
    If I don’t get it on xMas morning I’ll be getting it soon after

    Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 10:41.
  8. bunimomike
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Oooo, lovely review. Been meaning to dip my toes into the Assassin’s Creed franchise. I think you’ve finally convinced me. Top stuff.

    Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 11:04.
  9. Charmed_Fanatic
    Member
    Since: Aug 2009

    Nice review, 9 though? is it really better then I and II, will have to see…

    Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 11:16.
    • colossalblue
      Team TSA: Editor
      Since: Forever

      Yes, it’s streaks ahead of the first and makes substantial improvements on all the slightly tedious parts of the second.

      Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 14:18.
  10. double-o-dave
    Member
    Since: Nov 2008

    Spot on review! I normally charge through a game but I’ve been making sure I do most of the side missions too as I don’t want it to finish.
    The scenery and graphics are some of the best I’ve seen for a game this size, definitely a step ahead of other sandbox games like Red Dead etc.
    This is a game people should of been hyped and excited about, not your Black Ops or GT5 which incidentally for me is a real let down but thats another story! :)

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

      You can carry on with the side missions after you complete the game if you don’t get carried away with the last few final sequences like I did.

      Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 13:59.
      • double-o-dave
        Member
        Since: Nov 2008

        Want to do the 6th Romulous lair thing but its not appeared on the map yet. Think I’ve gotta do another sequence

        Comment posted on 25/11/2010 at 14:31.

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