Immediately following the conclusion of it's predecessor, Assassin's Creed Brotherhood once again places the player in the dual role of Desmond Miles and Ezio Auditore da Firenze. The year is 2012, caught within a war between two secret organizations Desmond and fellow assassins Lucy Stillman, Shaun Hastings and Rebecca Crane travel to Monteriggioni in order escape the pursuit of Abstergo industries, a modern incarnation of the Knight Templars, a Western Christian military order endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church.
They successfully set up a new hideout within the ruins of Villa Auditore. Having restored power to the abandoned location, Desmond is once again placed inside of the Animus, a machine with the ability to access the genetic memories of the users ancestors and allow the user to relive them. They intend on using the Animus to locate artifacts containing tremendous power known as the pieces of eden, before they fall into the hands of the templars. Within the animus the player resumes control of Desmond's ancestor Ezio where we last saw him exiting the vault in 1499. In hopes of restoring peace to Rome, Ezio and his assassin's continue their power struggle against the Borgia and Knight Templars.
Brotherhood's story does a great job of immersing the player in the world. With many familiar locations and the return of great supporting characters such as Lucy Stillman and Claudia Auditore, it is an experience any Assassin's Creed fan would not want to miss. It is important to be clear that this is in every way deserving and acknowledged as the direct sequel to Assassin's Creed II, not just an optional side story or add-on.
As with previous installments, Brotherhood is an open sandbox game. The map is filled with various missions both optional and mandatory, and a ton of things to keep a thorough player busy through till the end hours of the game and beyond. The game takes place primarily in Rome, and within Rome the player can use underground passages to fast travel to locations within the city. Weapons armor and items can be purchased from local vendor shops identical to the merchant system in the previous title. Much like previous installments, the locations contain various collectibles such as treasure chests and flags, as well as rewards for completing a collection. In many ways Assassin's Creed Brotherhood will be familiar to returning players, however there are several improvements such as a larger variety of missions, less repetition and more variety in events and sequences. The core mechanics from Assassin’s Creed 2 are left intact and players will still spend the majority of their time executing targets and following politicians for a quick eavesdrop. The economy system encourages players to renovate buildings and create new locations for businesses to help bring prosperity to Rome, a good new addition to the games expanding variety. Brotherhood is easily a 15 hour game for the main story, leaving tons of open hours for the extras.
The controls are largely unchanged from Assassin’s Creed 2 allowing fluid movement through the city. As with previous installments and similarly the Prince of Persia franchise, the animations and transitions of Ezio climbing walls or jumping from plank to plank above the city streets remain seamless. The controls are responsive and accurate with the most noticeable improvements saved for combat. Unlike previous installments in the series, Brotherhood's Combat is both faster and smoother with the combat system is no longer being centered primarily around your blocks and counters. Now players are rewarded with quick kills for good offensive strikes. When you perform a counter attack, you can now chain several fatalities to the end of one counter. Experienced veterans will find themselves being able to counter a single attack and chain 10 or more fatal blows to it. To balance this out the difficulty has been turned up on the AI, leaving players squaring off against a much faster and aggressive AI then ever before. Another new challenging aspect is the addition of specific requirements and conditions that must be met in order to achieve 100% synchronization during the missions between Ezio and Desmond. Requirements vary from not getting wet to damaged during a mission or killing a target using only a summoned assassin.
The new assassin management system adds a bit more variety to the game with the ability to rescue endangered citizens from perusing guards and recruit them into your assassin's guild. Ezio can then assign jobs to each assassin. During the jobs the chosen assassins will be sent away for a set amount of time, upon returning the assassins receive experience points that can range from minimal to massive depending on the number of assassins sent as well as the difficulty of the job. After earning enough experience the assassins begin to level and are able to be assigned new weapons and skills through earned skill points. The recruited assassins can also be used in combat when summoned by Ezio.
For the first time ever, multiplayer makes its debut in the Assassin's Creed series. In this mode the player is placed in the role of Abstergo Industry employees training to become assassins via animus use. The players can choose between a variety of multiplayer game types such as wanted, manhunt and alliance. In wanted each assassin is assigned another assassin as a target, the objective is to discreetly assassinate the assigned target while remaining concealed from their own pursuers. The key to remaining concealed in this mode is to move with the NPCs, and most importantly to move LIKE the NPCs. Within the city there will be many identical models of each player controlled by NPCs, it's very easy to cause a pursuing assassin to make a mistake by moving close to another NPC and walking casually. If a player mistakenly assassinates an NPC instead of a player, the contract is lost and a new target is assigned. If during any pursuit the player gets too close to the target, the target is warned, and a chase sequence is initiated.
Manhunt is a 4v4 team game type. One team hunts the other and the roles switch every round. Assassination points are awarded to successful hunters and points are awarded to the other team for actions such as escaping, stunning their pursuers and remaining concealed. Alliance mode is Brotherhood's version of team doubles and consists of up to 3 teams. Players must do what they can to protect their partners and vice versa. Similar to wanted mode, each team is only assigned one specific team as targets. This mode requires more teamwork then the others. Overall the mulitplayer is a nice change of pace from traditional multiplayer modes, and the use of concealment and discretion is done in a very innovative style. Connection to servers and overall match making was a bit slow, but can hopefully be addressed and patched in the future.
Veterans Roger Craig Smith and Kristen Bell provide a realistic feel for their characters with splendid voice acting, in addition life-like character models allow Ezio to continue be a believable and realistic strong protagonist. Through realistic environments and gorgeous graphics, Assassin's Creed continues to deliver a cinematic almost theatrical experience to old and new players alike. From canon smoke and wood debris to Stone walls and hay stacks the beautiful visuals of Rome are detailed and vibrant, the character animation is fluid and life like. The sound team continues to deliver dramatic scores fitting the action and drama in each unique set piece within the game. The game includes a elaborate and detailed journal consisting of bios on characters and locations for anyone interested in researching deeper into expanded world.
Assassin's Creed Brotherhood is overall a complete package. When it comes to the story newcomers may find themselves lost or playing catch up, therefore it's highly recommended to try a previous installment prior to taking on brotherhood. Returning fans will find themselves satisfied the continuaton of the story and the several improvements made to the game’s core mechanics. A solid story, strong balanced multiplayer, and an cliffhanger ending that will give birth to many theories in anticipation of the sequel, Brotherhood is sure to satisfy anyone looking to continue the assassin's creed saga.
This review is based on a retail copy of the 360 version of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood.