Published on January 11th, 2011 | by Hubert McReed0
Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood – Review
Summary: It's all about patience – not something that you’d normally associate with online gaming
Assassin’s Creed has always struggled in one key area: identity. As beautiful as its engine is, and as iconic as its characters, it always gave off the impression that it never quite knew what it wanted to be.
With Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, such an identity crisis has been discarded, giving life to a sweeping and distinct openworlder that’s as much about constant story progression as it is about city-wide renovation. Assassin’s Creed has finally accepted that it’s pretty ‘out there’ in its design choices, and is revelling in it. A good thing, too.
The main thread of the plot picks up just where Assassin’s Creed 2 finished, with Ezio confronting the Pope and seeing an apparition of the goddess Minerva appear in front of him. From there, it’s a jaunt to Rome to take down the Borgia family, with the occasional jump forward in time to visit Desmond and company.
It’s a much simpler tale than previous Assassin’s Creeds, and better for it. Ezio has become an older, wiser and more stoic character, and the supporting cast (a mix of old and new) are stronger than before. Basically, it’s a lot less pretentious. There’s a lot less legwork if you just want to hammer through the plot, and the variety in assassination types and mission objectives is welcome.
You may be scaling a huge building to sneak up on a filthy lawyer, tracking an informant through the ruins of ancient Rome or sneaking up on someone during a play in the Colosseum. Apart from a few glitchy objectives here and there, it’s all strong stuff.
There’s plenty to do outside of the missions too, and to really enjoy Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, you’re best examining all the glowing blips on your minimap before you progress the story. There’s tons to do.
You can excavate tombs for treasure in classic Prince of Persia platforming style, carry out side-missions for the various factions around town, take down Borgia-controlled areas of the city, and even renovate buildings. There’s a serious amount of content here, even before you dive into the brand-new multiplayer modes.
Yes, for the first time, Assassin’s Creed has a true online component, and it’s surprisingly engaging. Those expecting the kind of pace that Halo and Call of Duty offer might be put off, but if you’re prepared to put in the time to slowly pace the city, tracking down a target and staying clear of your opponents, all of whom are trying to do the same thing. Acting suspiciously will raise your profile and your opponents will realise you’re an assassin. It’s all about patience – not something that you’d normally associate with online gaming.
At the moment, the community seems enamoured with this slower pace. After all, any attempt at griefing or idiocy will just see you sliced down in cold blood, so it pays to play the game properly. It’ll be interesting to see how the game evolves over time. So far so good, though, there are no obvious exploits of bugs weighing it all down.
When it comes down to it, though, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood captures the things that has made the previous two games so successful and improved upon them. By the time you reach the second half of the story, you’ll have your own team of assassins which can be called upon at any time for a slick murder job, making you feel more like a leader than most games ever manage. You can even send them off on contracts around Europe to level them up in a pseudo strategy game. It’s odd, but compelling. Building your own little assassin army is empowering.
It’s the free-running freedom that really comes to the fore. With fewer dull mission objectives and fetch quests than the previous games, you’re free to enjoy the playground that is Italy’s grand capital to its full extent. And what a place to run around – huge towers to climb, stunning architecture to explore and a glorious view at every turn. Once you’ve mastered the subtleties of the climbing mechanics – and you should have by now – Rome is your toy to do with what you will.
Having said all that though, this feels like the last time Assassin’s Creed can rely on this type of gameplay alone to sustain it, and the inevitable ‘proper’ sequel will need to add some genuine variety. For a year’s work, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood is impressive stuff. This is no lazy cash-in, it’s the hard work of talented people honing their craft, and another sure-fire hit. Forza Ezio Auditore.