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We Review: Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood

It seems to be my turn to review nothing but sequels, so in that vein, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood (not Assassin’s Creed 3—this is an interim game) is the direct sequel to Assassin’s Creed 2. When I say “direct sequel”, I mean that the story resumes quite literally seconds after the action in the previous game stopped, so I guess you could say it’s the final chapters of Assassin’s Creed 2. The biggest selling point of Brotherhood is the multiplayer aspect, but surprisingly, it’s not the biggest part of the game; Brotherhood still has a fairly chunky single player campaign. Let’s take a stab at reviewing this game, shall we? More after the jump.

Brotherhood, or Assassin’s Creed 2½, as I like to call it, resumes the story of Desmond Miles and his ancestor, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, and starts with the conclusion of the events in Assassin’s Creed 2 as Desmond, Lucy, Shaun, and Liz escape to Monteriggioni. For those people who’ve never played an Assassin’s Creed game before, a short video outlines the story of the battle between the Assassins and the Templars for control of the planet (why stop at the planet, I always say? I’ve always admired the Sith and their plans to dominate the known universe, but I digress), and briefly explains the events of Assassin’s Creeds 1 and 2.

An assassin’s life cut out for me

From there, the game starts where the previous one ended, and you take Ezio back to Monteriggioni, where you learn that Ezio made a boo-boo and didn’t outright kill Rodrigo Borgia. I smell a plot device! While you’re there, bid the place a fond farewell, since it’s the last you’ll see of 15th century Monteriggioni; the place gets leveled by the game’s Big Bad. After that, the game lets you see how much of the so-called “bleeding effect”—the way that the skills and abilities that Ezio has learned are passed back down the genetic line to Desmond—is going back to Desmond. It’s fascinating to see how much Desmond has learned, and controlling him is almost as much fun now as controlling Ezio. He’s been de-wussified, if you will.

After that, say hello to Rome. With the exception of a few tiny sequences, you’ll be here for most of the game. Not that this is a problem: Rome is mind-spatteringly huge, and there is a heck of lot to do, once you’ve gotten past the first few obligatory missions. In addition to the standard exploratory nature of the game, you’re now also tasked with the financial burden of rebuilding Rome. Under rule from the House of Borgia, Rome has fallen into decay and things are pretty bad (this part is historically accurate, too).

The killer prices!

Shops are no longer automatically available to Ezio as he surveys each section from his lofty perches above cathedrals and basilicas: you now have to purchase them. Prostitutes, thieves, and mercenaries are no longer an automatic feature of each street corner: you have to unlock the guilds and then spend money buying faction buildings to place these resources in each quarter. Even if you have the money to spend on renovating the shops or placing factions, you cannot do so until you’ve freed that particular region from Borgia influence (simple, in theory—kill the guard captain and burn down the Borgia tower).

When I said that there is a lot to do, I was not exaggerating at all; this game will consume a small portion of your life if you decide to pursue every activity. Aside from the city-building, there are guild-specific quests, the memories of Subject 16 from the previous game to find, Templar agents to hunt down, trainee assassins to manage, shop quests to fulfil, catacombs to explore, machines of war to destroy, assassination contracts to carry out, memories of Ezio’s earlier life to explore, virtual training to perform in the Animus, not to mention the companion game on Facebook, and that’s all if you decide to ignore the main storyline and multiplayer aspects.

The bloody storyline

Which leads us nicely into the issue of the story. In my opinion, the story was far less focused and tight than AC2’s, and it’s possibly the only thing that is not a drastic improvement over AC2. Given the sheer amount of things to do in this game, though, it’s not TOO much of a loss. The storyline simply seeks to close the chapter on Ezio’s life and close up any remaining plot questions about his early life in Florence. There’s also a minor Desmond-related plot cliffhanger that happens right at the end, and I’ll say that that bit right there had me more excited for Assassin’s Creed 3 than anything else.

Visceral combat

The combat mechanic for Brotherhood has been tweaked with improvements over AC2’s. The familiar counters, disarms, and stealth kills are still there, along with special moves such as throwing sand in the faces of your enemies. A new kick has been introduced that breaks your opponent’s guard and a kill streak mechanic comes into play where you make successive kills quickly, allowing for a faster paced, more aggressive game. On top of that, you also have horse-based mounted combat, combat in a tank, combat from a glider, a new poisoned dart weapon, and a new crossbow weapon. There are more ways to kills guards than I’m sure I’ve even discovered. I’m told there’s a way of killing a guard with a broom, and if that isn’t a thorough clean sweep of possible kill moves, I don’t know what is. And if that isn’t enough for you, once you’ve managed to cobble together a band of trainee assassins, you can summon them to kill the guards for you in case things get too hairy. It’s a sheer joy to see them swoop in from nowhere, or from under one of the ubiquitous haystacks with that screech, and then have no more guard problems.

The multiplayer kills me

The multiplayer portion of the game is surprising fun, and a nice change from the standard multiplayer games you see. The premise of the multiplayer section is that you’re an employee of Abstergo (the cover operation for the Templars), and you’re being dumped into the Animus for training purposes and to acquire skills via the bleeding effect. Bright eyed spotters will recognize the facility with the banks of Animus machines as the same one that Lucy leads Desmond through at the beginning of Assassin’s Creed 2. The game has five multiplayer modes, called Wanted, Advanced Wanted, Alliance, Advanced Alliance, and Manhunt, but they are all basically variations on a theme of being presented with a target, and then hunting down and killing that target, either alone or in teams of killers, whilst eluding others who are out to kill you. Points are awarded for stealth kills and remaining unseen.  As you improve, you gain points to level up. This allows you to buy new skills and abilities that you can use during matches.

Requiescat in pace?

If you’re thoroughly sick of Ezio, then I doubt this game is for you, since the single player campaign is nothing but more Ezio with dashes of Ezio, basted in Ezio marinade and served with a generous helping of Ezio. For dessert, you get to manage assassins. For the rest of us, Brotherhood is absolutely busy with activities, and it’s hard to resist the lure of “just one more little mission” before the clock strikes 4am. This is possibly the best Assassin’s Creed game ever, and in a world where a third sequel usually sucks harder than a tornado filled with hoovers, it’s unusual to see a game shine so brilliantly. There wasn’t a single point in the game where I felt lost, bored, out of depth, or annoyed, whether it be following the main story, nurturing my little brotherhood of assassinos, completing guild quests, or just out killing guards for fun and profit (and you CAN profit off them!). Simply put, its one of the best games I’ve ever played; I can’t recommend this game too highly.

Score: 9.75/10 (I really don’t have any decent justification for the 0.25 point loss, except to say that no game is perfect and that I’m a bit of a dick that way.)