Let’s face it; Ubisoft didn’t exactly do a great job of promoting their latest offering. After the huge success of Assassin’s Creed 2, they were quick to announce that they would be putting out a new instalment in the franchise, just a mere 12 months after its release. Giving very little in the way of details, a lot of people assumed that this was just a half-arsed cash in. People were also unsure about the biggest addition to the franchise, multiplayer.
However, after just a couple of hours with the game it is abundantly clear that this isn’t just a shameless excuse to make us pony up another Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£40. Not only have they given us another single player campaign the size of a small country, but they have work extremely hard to create a fresh, exciting and interesting multiplayer component.
Now, I will try my hardest not to spoil the plot from Assassin’s Creed 2 for those of you who have yet to experience its delights, but please note that there are some very minor spoilers from here on in. The game starts where the last one ended. Ezio has found what he has been looking for and has rejoined his guild in the hope of making sense of the message he discovered. However, the enemies he made during the course of AC2 come back to haunt him. Destroying his villa and stealing the object Ezio spent all that time looking for. Ezio takes refuge in Rome, which is under the control of the evil and incestuous Borgia family. He must now face old enemies and reclaim what was taken from him. However he won’t be alone in taking on this task, he will have the help of some old friends and some new ones. That’s all I can really say about the plot. Anything else may spoil things for you, but rest assured it does get rather interesting as the story twists and turns.
Ubisoft have left the gameplay pretty much intact. But they have tweaked it a little to make it more satisfying. One of the biggest additions to the combat is the ability to link one hit kills. If you are surrounded by a group of enemies (which happens frequently) and pull of a one hit kill on one of them, by moving the left stick in the direction of another enemy and pressing the attack button Ezio will automatically perform another one hit kill. This can be chained together to take out all your opponents. But you must still keep an eye on the situation, as if you get hit by another enemy whilst performing this trick, it will break the combo. This change in the combat really adds to the experience, making it flow quickly and feel like less of a chore.
As you would expect, all of the weapons from AC2 become available throughout the duration of the game. But there are a few new entries to Ezio’s arsenal. The best of which is the crossbow. It can be brought from a weapons vendor pretty much from the get go. But it is a bit pricey, so it may be a few hours before you can purchase it.
Money is a very important part of the game (especially if you want to S-Rank the game). You can get money in the usual way; complete missions, pickpocket unsuspecting saps or by looting dead folk. But that is all small change, as in real life the big bucks are in property. Expanding on the system used in AC2 you can buy and upgrade property in order to make a tidy profit. This time however it isn’t just your villa you are upgrading, it’s Rome itself. Thanks to the Borgia’s influence Rome has become a downtrodden place. Dotted all over the landscape are the Borgia Towers and their job is to keep the citizens living in fear, your job is to liberate them. The Borgia Towers are similar to Viewpoints except that it isn’t just a case of climbing to the top. You must first kill the Captain of the tower. He will be guarded and it will take some skill to get past his henchmen so that you can stick a blade in him.
With the Captain out of the way you are then free to climb to the top of the tower and set fire to it. As you progress through the game the towers become more difficult, and in some cases you will need back up. Once the tower has been set ablaze, the shops in the surrounding area become available for you to buy and in some cases renovate. As you open more shops your income increases. All the money will be deposited in to your bank automatically. But be warned, banks can only hold a maximum of 30,000f. So you will need to make sure you pay regular visits to the bank to withdraw money.
A lot of the other changes to the game are mostly small, and are just there to enhance the game. Such as you can now ride horses through the streets to make getting around quicker (and you will need the horses because the map is massive). But the most interesting new game mechanic is the Brotherhood of the title. As you progress through the story you will be given the power to recruit your own little assassin army. By helping certain people in need they will offer up there life to you and ask that you train them in the way of the assassin. These assassins will be available for you to call in to help you if you are stuck in a sticky situation. One tap of the bumper and your brothers will appear out of nowhere to take out your targets. It is so much fun to watch, and means that you can take out a target without getting your own hands dirty.
You can have up to 12 members in your Brotherhood and they can all be levelled up by sending them on missions. It’s a really addictive concept. There will be a list of assassination jobs spread out around various cities in Europe. The jobs will range in difficulty and it’s up to you which assassins get the job and how many you want to send. It is important that you pick the right man (or woman) for the job because if you send someone who isn’t experienced enough they will fail the mission and get killed. Sending an assassin on a mission means that you will not have that assassin available to come and back you up in a fight. The mission length varies, so plan accordingly. As they complete the tasks, they are earn XP and as they level up you can increase their armour and arsenal. You can even change the colour of their assassin’s robes. It’s like its own little mini game, and you will spend hours levelling up your army and it will pay dividends when you need there help out in the field.
The single player campaign is as big as, if not bigger than AC2. Considering that Ubisoft haven’t really made a big deal about the SP campaign it would be easy to overlook it. But do so at your peril. The game will easily eat up 30+ hours of your life. The side missions are varied and well executed (excuse the pun) and unlike a lot of open world games, they are fun to go through. The game looks just as nice as the last one, but does still suffer from background pop-in but this doesn’t distract you from your enjoyment. Free-running through the city is as much fun as it always has been. There is something to be said for just climbing up a building and then running from rooftop to rooftop. And of course you can expect the odd dodgy Italian accent or cliché.
So, what about the multiplayer; the thing that was shouted about from day one? With such an immersive SP campaign could Ubisoft pull off a multiplayer game that can stand up with the best of them? Well, yes they can. The most interesting thing about the multiplayer is that you cannot just jump in and play the game like you would any other. All of those people who scream and shout over the mic and run around the map like a kid having a sugar rush will last all of about two minutes in Brotherhood. Instead of going in all guns blazing you need to use your loaf in order to stay alive. There are various modes but they are all a variation on one thing; hunt down your target before you get taken down. At the beginning of the match you will choose your character and then get thrust into the world. You will then get given a target to assassinate and a compass you help you find them.
The compass will only help you get to your target and as you get within a certain distance becomes useless. You then have to find your prey in a sea of lookalikes. It’s all about studying the situation and trying to determine if anyone stands out and isn’t acting like an NPC. If you assassinate the wrong target, you are then assigned a new one, but more importantly you give away your position and the person hunting you will be able to pick you out from the crowd. It’s all about patience, skill and observation; something that no other game has.
As you level up you unlock perks such as smoke bombs and eagle vision that will help you gain the advantage. It seems a great deal of care was taken with the multiplayer, and that they want you to have an experience online like never before. Because of this and the fact that it appeals to a different type of MP gamer means that this game will more than likely still have lots of people playing online until the next instalment comes out.
The game may have the odd technical flaw, but it still stands out as the best in the franchise so far. Oodles of fun with an epic campaign and slick multiplayer, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is a serious contender for Game of the Year.
Review copy provided by publisher.