Thursday, November 18, 2010

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood Review: Power in Numbers

Score: 9.25/10

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: November 16th, 2010

  • Fast-travel points help ease the distance of most objectives
  • New finishers are quite satisfying
  • Calling in Assassins to do your work for you never gets old
  • Large amount of content to explore
  • More polished look makes Rome really stand out
  • Multiplayer is an enjoyable addition
  • New Sync system varies up gameplay in missions

  • Combat still proves too easy, only made difficult by the camera
  • Multiplayer is not for the "hardcore gotta win" crowd
  • Occasional frame rate drop and screen tearing

Assassin's Creed has accrued quite the following in its time. The first installment amazed everyone with its unique style of gameplay, but stuck close to repetitive missions. The second improved upon much of the first, deepening the complexity of the game with an economic system, varying weapons, and larger variety of missions. With so much in place, it is hard to imagine much else holding our attention. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood takes that challenge up, and delivers a perfected system fans and noobs alike can enjoy.

Double Vision

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood picks up right where the last game stopped. As Ezio, you will take control immediately following the abrupt ending of AC2, soon seeing your villa under attack by the Borgia. You must reunite the assassins and liberate Rome. Along the way familiar faces come into play along with a few new ones. Though most of the names get lost in translation and leave you scratching your head as to who they could be referring to, the story is enough to push you forward.

At the same time, you will be thrown out of the Animus to follow Desmond. Though a little less interesting and a little more "Saturday Morning Cartoonish" feeling, it is nice to get out of the animus and reproduce the techniques you learned as Ezio and Altair through Desmond. You set up camp at the old villa, now complete with lights, cars, and other modern decorations. It is interesting to see it in a modern setting compared to the 16th century version.

Intro to History 101

Following past installments, the one thing AC is consistent in providing is a perfect artistic representation of the city. Rome is incredible. There are large plains, cramped city streets, and breathtaking landmarks that all combine to provide a perfected simulation of actually being in Rome. One of the highlights of the game was climbing to the viewpoint for the Colosseum and looking out over the horizon.

Not only have the vistas been upgraded, but character models seem much smoother. Kristin Bell no longer looks like a weird fish lady, she looks like Kristin Bell. The streets are littered with dozens of repeating NPCs, each more unique than the last. Though the occasional screen tear and frame rate drop can occur, the visuals are truly a high point.

You do it...I'm your Boss Now

Once you unlock the ability to summon an assassin, you will use it time and time again. With a simple tap of the Left Bar, you summon an assassin to take an enemy out for you. This is balanced accordingly, with the bar being taken out on some missions and requiring a recharge before they can be called again. Additionally, summoning a Level 1 Assassin to take on foes with you, usually ends up with them dead; but summoning them to take out an archer or two works well.

To keep your assassins at their best, you must send them on contracts to other countries. Doing so disables the summon bar until they return, but successful missions yield items and cash. They also give your assassins experience, upgrading their armor and weapons, eventually giving them access to guns and smoke bombs to use in fights. This micromanaging works well, and almost becomes as addictive as the gameplay itself.

Alright, Next Storyline Que...Ooooo, What's That?

There are a ton of things you can do in the game. The economic system, assassination contracts, and even faction missions add in to events that make you trail off the beaten bath. One of the highlights of new content is the Leonardo missions, where you must destroy Da Vinci's latest creation for the Borgia....but not before you get to use them. Though the typical moving turret game is what you would expect, there are some exceptionally enjoyable moments in these missions.

In addition to the typical routine is exploration of the new content. Borgia Towers are a much more enjoyable way to get a Viewpoint, having you kill the captain and burn the tower as you dive away from an explosion. Horseback combat has been completely redone, feeling much easier and including assassinations by horseback. The Crossbow is a welcome addition, with the same feeling as the hidden gun but much quieter.

There are even new "VR" Rooms to hone your skills at free-running or combat, awarding medals for fast, efficient runs. Collectors still have plenty of flags to collect in addition to feathers, keeping you always on the lookout. It would take a few more pages to list all the new content out, but there is plenty of incentive to trail away from the main storyline and just explore Rome.

Headshots and Hidden Blades

Initially, I was concerned the multiplayer would be tacked on; but the result is truly one of the more enjoyable multiplayer experiences you can have. The game works like this: You are given a photo of a target and must follow a compass that gets bigger as they get closer. You must take that target out with an assassination. Doing it quietly gets you more points, running in flailing your arms does not; encouraging you to take it slow and treat it like single player.

At the same time, someone is given a contract against you and are hunting you. If they are quiet, they can pop in and take you down quickly. However if they run at you, an icon will appear and show the person chasing you. You can escape them by using "chase gates" that close behind you or simply "out-parkour" your opponent. Either way, the game continues and whoever has the most points at the end wins.

The game adds a Mario Kart approach in that even if you are in dead last, perks are given to you to give you an edge. In the same manner, the player in first place can have up to 3 contracts on him at a time, making it much more difficult to find your target and eliminate them without constantly looking over your shoulder.

The result is a fast-paced, insanely fun multiplayer, where you strive for the perfect kill and laugh when you die. The game does have an essence of "luck" in being in the right place at the right time, or spawning close to your target. The typical "Call of Duty every weekend, I play for keeps!" player may not find much here, but it's incredibly addictive. Tack on a typical perks and loadout leveling system, and you have incentive to keep coming back for more.


Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood improves much of the typical formula, even if they left a few flawed items out. With a strong single player and multiplayer component, it's a welcome addition to the series and one of the best titles of the year.

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