Since its very announcement back at the start of 2010, many people cast a shadow upon Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. “This is just franchise milking!” some shouted, whilst others claimed Ubisoft were turning into Activision, and rightfully so. A full retail title announced within an earshot of Assassin’s Creed 2 being launched?  How dare they. Were fan’s comments true? Is this just another hashed on sequel for another franchise? Well read on, because I’m about to tell you.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood picks up right where Assassin’s Creed 2 left us, with Desmond and the rest of the modern-day Assassin’s on the run from the Templar’s. Right from the start Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (Brotherhood from now on) sets itself at a fast but concise pace, offering a beautifully told story but never forcing it right down your throat.  Right from the start of development, Ubisoft Montreal stressed that Brotherhood would contain a number of massive gameplay changes to help it stand apart from the previous title, and they ultimately followed through on this.

After exiting the vaults from the end of AC2, Cesare Borgia attacks the Villa Monteriggioni, destroying it and everything Ezio holds dear to himself. This sets the scene for the rest of the story, in which Ezio travels to Rome, intent on taking down Cesare and getting chicks, well, getting chicks was probably not a goal, but he’s a bad ass assassin, so let’s just assume he gets plenty. Rome itself is divided into 12 districts, and you experience Rome throughout different times, although that doesn’t really affect gameplay that much. Each district has an overseeing “Borgia Tower” that affects the district and prevents you from purchasing structures and upgrading buildings in that area. By killing the tower’s captain and then blowing the tower up, you can free the immediate area of Borgia control which ultimately allows you to expand your organization and recruit new Assassin’s to your cause – something I will elaborate on now.

Raise Your Hand If I haven't Killed You Yet

Where Do You Think You're Going?

A new feature to Brotherhood is the ability to recruit AI Assassins, and in turn use them to attack highlighted targets and complete missions that will net you extra florins. The more Borgia towers you remove, the more Assassins you can control. Sending Assassins off on missions is as simple as using one of many pigeon coops placed around the map, selecting the mission then sending them off. For each completed mission the Assassins can collect experience points, and when they gain enough they level up which allows them access to new armour, weapons and higher chances at completing harder contracts. It makes for a fun side game and it literally only takes a few seconds to send all of your assassins off for a sometimes huge financial gain. It’s worth noting that you don’t actually have to destroy the Borgia towers to move forward in the game, however destroying them opens new stores and vendors that will ultimately help you on your quest.

Some might call the Assassin recruiting pointless, however I think it serves a deep point. It’s no longer Ezio against the world.  The scale of the fight has changed, with Ezio now trying to recruit a city against one single tyrant, and Ubisoft has done a brilliant job of conveying both – through the almost perfect voice acting and cut scenes, right through to Ezio’s interaction with other characters.

With Brotherhood containing such a large and open world, it’s important that the environment is believable and lifelike. Ubisoft has nailed the delivery on this, filling the world with great side quests and activities to complete. It’s easy to get sidetracked for hours (It has happened to me countless time) searching for chests or even taking on assassination contracts.  The “temples” from AC2 also make a return.  However, these are now called Sons of Romulus tombs, and there’s a noticeable switch to Prince of Persia style movement puzzles over combat.  Making a return in Brotherhood is someone who we saw Ezio develop a deep relationship with; Leonardo da Vinci, and like last time he’s still providing weapons and tools of death for Ezio. Leonardo plays a more prominent role in Brotherhood however; as it turns out, our Cesare has forced him to create tools of mass destruction… Namely tanks, naval cannons and a paraglider that fires bombs, you know, the good stuff.  Players then go out to find these items, which will ultimately culminate in you using them to destroy large garrisons of soldiers.  They aren’t that exciting after you realize the repetitiveness of the tools, but it does add some variety to a tried and true formula.

Giddy Up, Buttercup

Don't Look At Me, I'm Being Stealthy

Another new addition to Brotherhood is the introduction of the Crossbow, however it ultimately feels cheap and unnecessary. I remember in both the original AC and AC2, sneaking around on rooftops and stealthily taking out guards was both a way to survive, and an awesome feeling. Now it’s merely a matter of sitting on the opposing roof to a guard and shooting them with a bolt.  Ezio also now has access to one button executions whilst in combat, which can then be strung along into even longer combos, allowing you to dispatch groups of ten soldiers within a few seconds. Once again this feels cheap, and like a get out of jail free card, as opposed to a cool new feature. I would’ve preferred these executions be metered or accessed like the Assassin’s themselves. I also honestly wish Ubisoft had of added the ability to crouch, as opposed to one of these cheap mechanics.

Another addition (Yepp, there’s more!) is the ability to ride your horse anywhere you want, but you can now leap off your horse at full speed and use that to string together free running momentum. It all works together seamlessly, however you can’t move at gallop speed around the city which is disappointing and ultimately slows the gameplay down.

For the first time in the series’ history, there is now multiplayer and it’s definitely fun… if you can ever find a game. The basic premise goes like this: You’re given a target to locate and kill, however you’re also being hunted by another player at the same time. There is radar to help track your target, but because the game takes place in bustling markets and crowded streets, it’s easy to lose sight of your objective. It’s fun to play in short bursts, but a number of users have reported frequent issues with finding games and latency. There’s also Wanted, Advance Wanted and Manhunt modes to add to the multiplayer party with each having a special unique flavour and style.  As I said, it’s quite fun and requires actual skill … if you can find a game.

I Don't Want Any Part Of That

Brotherhood is a visual treat, and offers the best graphics in the series. Beautiful draw distances, gorgeous cut scenes and great execution animations are all at your fingertips. The game also has an impressive sound mix and soundtrack; however after playing all the Creed games I’ve game to expect that from Ubisoft anyway.

In summary, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is a great game, but it could gave been better.  I love that the game is clearly designed for long time fans of the series, but on the same hand there’s nothing I haven’t already seen before. The narrative is great, and tells an amazing story, but the other new gameplay mechanics don’t carry that momentum and make it as unique and innovative as I would’ve liked. With all that being said, for the most part, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood looks, sounds and plays beautifully, and I can’t wait to see what Ubisoft Montreal does with Assassins Creed III.

Here’s The Rundown:

+ Another amazing and believable story
+ Multiplayer is well thought out and requires skill

+ Awesome ending

- Cheap insta-kill mechanics

- No crouch, still!

- Could do with some more Sons of Romulus environments

Assassins Creed: Brotherhood was released on November 16th 2010 on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, with PC to follow in Q1 2011. Our copy was purchased by the reviewer and reviewed on a Samsung P2350 23″ HD Monitor (1920×1080) with sound coming from a pair of Tritton AX720′s. Single player was played til completion with hours put into Multiplayer.