All of the action takes place in Rome, a large city full of familiar landmarks and faces. It won't take long for Ezio to get mixed up again in the drama of the city, forced to run errands for friends and kill people to gain more information. There's a sizable story here, one that includes a lot of really exciting events in famous buildings and outdoor locations. Usually I would be disappointed by returning to a familiar world (see my Crackdown 2 review
), but I was excited to travel back to 16th century Italy. This is such a rich time, a perfect setting for a game like this. I'm glad the developers had a chance to dig deeper into the fiction of this world.
It doesn't hurt that there's always something to do in Rome. It takes a few hours before it becomes clear, but Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is a completionist's nightmare. There's so much to do here that it's almost intimidating. When not taking on story missions, Ezio is working to eliminate the Borgia controlled areas of Rome. He does this by killing a marked officer and then literally burning down their tower. It's not subtle, but it sends a message. Once he's destroyed the Borgia control, Ezio is free to invest in local shops, banks, landmarks and more. The more property he owns, the more money is earned. It won't be long before our hero is rolling in more money than he knows what to do with.
Another new gameplay mechanic involves using your brotherhood to fight your battles for you. As he makes his way through Rome, Ezio will pick up a few followers that will train under him. Players choose to either keep these computer-controlled characters around for protection or send them off to fight far away battles. Either way, these characters are gaining money and experience from each battle. At home these fighters are just waiting for you to push the button. They spring into action by jumping out of hay bales or leaping down from a rooftop. Not only are they great at taking down guards, but they make such a commotion that it's easy for Ezio to sneak past undetected.
All of these ideas make Brotherhood a more interesting game, even if the story isn't quite as epic as previous installments. I was happy to see that the present Desmond and the other present day elements were saved for the beginning and end, leaving the Ezio portions of the game uninterrupted. The good news for Kristin Bell fans is that the user is now able to control when they enter and exit the animus. Considering how dull present day is (not to mention how annoying those characters are), I didn't have a lot of reason to exit Rome.
Actually, that's not true. I had plenty of reason to leave Rome, but it wasn't to hang out with Lucy and her science buddies. Instead it was to play Brotherhood online. Much had been made about this game's online multiplayer component leading up to its release, but I was skeptical that the developers would be able to translate Assassin's Creed's unique gameplay into the online arena. They have. While I won't say it's the highlight of the package, there's no denying how much fun Brotherhood can be online.
The concept is surprisingly simple: You play an assassin trying to blend in with the crowd, stalk your opponent and take them down without being noticed. Points are earned by how quietly you perform the attack, the skill level and more. It's up to you to earn as many points as you can before time runs out. There's just one problem - you are also a target. This means that while you stalk your prey, you will need to be mindful of who else is trying to kill you. It's a nerve racking experience that leads to some truly tense matches.
Much like the recent Call of Duty sequels, players are rewarded for leveling up their virtual assassin. Online players who put a lot of time and effort into their character will earn new abilities, new clothing options and even extra characters. It won't take long to earn powers that make it easier to blend in with the crowd and run faster, all making you rethink your online strategies. It's a cool concept that I would like to see explored in future Assassin's Creed games.
I'll be the first to admit that this game genuinely surprised me. I knew it was going to look good and the voice acting was going to be spot-on, but I had no idea that I would have this much fun controlling Ezio again. This game is full of new gameplay mechanics that improve that game in substantial ways, all while reminding me why I enjoyed Assassin's Creed II in the first place. And just when I thought it couldn't get any better, the game offers a worthwhile online multiplayer mode. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood proves once again that this series is headed in the right direction.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
It may not have a number after its name, but Brotherhood is the sequel Assassin's Creed fans have been waiting for. With new gameplay mechanics, improved combat, exciting new online multiplayer options and a brand new storyline, Brotherhood is packed with an overwhelming amount of content!
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