Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood Review
Brotherhood begins precisely where the last game ended, with Ezio defeating the pope and hearing Minerva’s message to Desmond. After a brief transition, Ezio’s home in Monterigonni comes under attack and he is forced to relocate to Rome, where he plans to take on the Borgia and put an end to the evil family once and for all.
To do this he will need the help of several guilds, and building this network is what drives forward the progression of the plot. The courtesans, thieves, and fighters all have a dozen or so missions associated with them that unlock over the course of the nine memories Desmond must complete. These missions range from assassinations to escort missions, but I was a little disappointed that there’s no reward for completing all of them. Even the guild challenges -- a list of tasks that “rank up” each guild upon completion -- have very little worthwhile reward, usually unlocking a weapon that was inferior to the one already equipped.
The titular Brotherhood itself comes into play nearly halfway through the game, where Ezio just ups and decides to start recruiting people to become assassins. I was a little disappointed at the execution of this feature, as it feels totally half-baked despite being the namesake of the entire game. Ezio literally just walks out on to the street, finds a random peasant getting their ass beat by soldiers, saves them, then they join the assassins guild. Just like that.
Once recruited, there is a system of missions you can send your assassins on to level up and gain new equipment, but the customization possibilities are very limited. Eventually they all end up looking exactly the same, and having the same abilities. Even the assassin ceremony seems rushed, like the game wants to show you everything else that is going on. But the actual utility of the assassins knows no ends, as you'll be able to call them in to take out targets or even help you in a fight. By the time you have a pack of fighters and six master assassins by your side, there really is no obstacle that can stand in your way.
And there is a lot going on; Brotherhood is one of the most robust open-world games ever created. My biggest complaint about the second AC was that you eventually get all of these cool abilities and toys and then the game ends. I only fired my gun once in ACII, and that was mandatory for a mission. In Brotherhood, the gun and the throwing knives and the poison all play a much larger role, if you want.
Aside from a few snags, Brotherhood has some of the most refined and fluid combat and free-running ever seen in a game. Rome is three times larger than the setting of the previous game, and yet I didn’t mind running and climbing my way across all the beautiful architecture because Ezio controls so damn well. Truly, Ubisoft Montreal deserves to be commended on how superb Brotherhood feels.
Brotherhood’s biggest addition is, of course, the multiplayer. It was a letdown that no combat modes were included, but what is here is one of the most unique and compelling multiplayer offerings available. The basic idea is that players assume the roles of Abstergo assassins-in-training, and use the Animus to practice their skills by hunting each other down.
Each match starts with players being given an assignment (ie. another player to find and kill), but the catch is that someone else is also looking for you. So you’re both hunter and prey simultaneously, and that’s as never-racking and exciting as a multiplayer game can get. Sure, you know you’re going to encounter enemies in first-person shooters, but none of them have a picture of your face with a bullseye on it.
The virtual world you’ll be playing in is made up of a bunch of clones, so it’s easy to blend in with the crowd. If someone starts running or climbing up a wall, you know that’s a player. Many times your prey will simply come to you though, as heading in their general direction while maintaining your own cover will allow you to sneak up on them and perform a stealth kill. Hopefully your own hunter won’t see this though, otherwise yours will be the next throat to be slit.
There is a Modern Warfare-esque leveling system which grants the use and customization of abilities, perks, and even killstreaks. These really do change the game up a great deal, as once pistols and smoke bombs get involved, it’s basically a bunch of Ezios all out to kill each other. You might not expect this all to work well, and yes there are a few kinks, but I’d rather play this than Black Ops any day of the week. It’s nice to have an experience that isn’t a carbon copy of what's currently being offered for multiplayer.
It becomes immediately obvious that Brotherhood is the missing piece of Assassin’s Creed II. Not that ACII was lacking on content, or that Brotherhood does not stand well on its own two feet, but there are a lot of ideas carried over from last year's title that have evolved or been fleshed out far better. I find myself comparing Brotherhood to Fable II; both are incremental releases to a pre-established formula, and both have a ton of ideas that are not implemented to the fullest of their potential. The difference is that what Brotherhood does, more often than not, falls just short of brilliance, yet even when operating at 80 percent Ubisoft has crafted a game far better than most others on the market, and the superb multiplayer puts it over the top.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]