Developer(s) Ubisoft Montreal
Platform(s) Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (reviewed), PC
Release date(s) November 16, 2010
Genre(s) Action Adventure
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer online 1-8
Rating(s) PEGI: 16+
Difficulty: Easy, like playing God Mode
Assassin’s Creed brotherhood has been turned around with a development cycle of just over a year, which seems a little short for my liking. You could be forgiven for believing that this release is just AC2.5, the cash in game that isn’t worth your attention. Initially, I was worried about this release for various reasons, but somehow to Ubisoft’s credit, it has become much more. Packed with loads of content, multi-player and the famous charm of open world killing spree’s (GTA Style), this is the best release for Ezio yet.
Assassin’s Creed brotherhood continues shortly after where the last game ended, however it doesn’t matter if you haven’t played through previous entries. ACB starts out with a rushed intro re-capping the story for the ill-informed. After that it continues where we left off, without spoiling too much I’ll briefly explain.
Ezio has returned to his villa (now with cannons!), and bounces out of bed to the Templars turning his town into a mess. This is ofcourse after Ezio gets it on with Caterina, afterwards he ensures the villagers get out safely, and then a new foe is introduced. Our hero becomes wounded and a murder occurs. Then the story continues with the theme of revenge, but instead of attacking immediately, Ezio bides his time and moves to Rome (without much concern from he’s mother) to recruit new assassins. Once he is healed, Ezio is ready to start seeking revenge once again. Speaking of Rome, Ubisoft has managed to re-create the city beautifully and it’s three times bigger than any city seen in previous games, which is pretty impressive considering their scope.
The stories focus is still on Ezio, the flip-side of it is the character Desmond, a modern-day assassin who is reliving his ancestor Ezio’s memories through a machine called the Animus. It is easy to forget about Desmond, as he has yet to play a significant role in the series. In ACB there is more to the story of Desmond, including some playable sections and a few interesting story moments, but for the most part, it seems Desmond is being saved for something in the franchises future. You do have the option to leave the Animus throughout the game and interact with the team at any time, but you can also skip over that entire part of the game and not miss anything.
While the first Assassin’s Creed had a good story marred by its repetitive nature, ACII’s story was one of the better thought-out and executed plots in video games. However I still find the voice-acting average to say the least. The story of Ezio growing into the role of master assassin while attempting to uncover who was responsible for the death of his family stands among the best examples as video games as a storytelling medium. The ACB story? Not so much. It doesn’t feel as carefully crafted as the last entry, which is understandable with the time the writers had. It is however, enjoyable for the most part.
I started playing, my first battle was with about 7 or so enemies, I wanted to test if the games combat was different. Remember how easy it was to counter in combat and basically one shot everybody around in previous games? Yeah well, this hasn’t changed. I just started playing the game and dominated all enemies around me without taking any damage. Initially this was disappointing and quite funny, but to ACB’s credits the variety in gameplay makes up for its forgiving nature.
As mentioned before, Ezio is out to recruit new assassins to plot his revenge. This is where the idea of “brotherhood” comes into play, a new mechanic called “BAM” has introduced into the game to manage recruits. Now this may not seem very “stealth” like, but it makes for an interesting concept to have aids in assassinating people. The strategic side this adds to the game increases the scope of the gameplay, including the improved scale of the cities.
This is one of the new mechanics thrown into the game, and while it is enjoyable, it does essentially throw stealth to the wind. After playing for a while I realised ACB isn’t about stealth at all, it’s essentially a war and you’re the general. This brings me to combat, an area of the game that’s copped some criticism for its awkward targeting and button-mashing nature. This may be true, but I personally don’t use the targeting system that often, the whole charm of these games is the reckless nature of attacking mercilessly.
Besdies Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood is easy enough that you don’t need to use the targeting system, unless it’s for assassination purposes. Speaking of Assassinations, a few animations you haven’t seen before have been thrown into the mix. This is what AC is all about, crazy violence and cool kill animation’s and ACB doesn’t disappoint in this regard. Ezio is now capable of kicking in combat and using combinations for multiple assassinations at once. It’s satisfying when you pull off complex moves with ease.
Considering Ezio is getting a little older now, which is even portrayed in the game, you might assume that he’s ridiculous mobility might of dropped off a little. But no, you can still run around town without fear of danger and leap like a cat. This is one of the most enjoyable things about AC, and Ubisoft have increased mobility by allowing horses in cities, they’ve also injected more variety in the gameplay. Including a chain gun mounted to a horse and cart, piloting a boat with a naval cannon, gliding about in the paraglide – modified to fire bombs, and manning a renaissance-era tank. They’re not actually that impressive, but at least they serve their purpose to offer something different.
The idea of “brotherhood” is Ezio recruiting minions to topple Borgia towers/influence in the city, this is perhaps the only fundamental change to the gameplay in ACB. You can level these characters up and depending on how skilled they are will determine the way they assassinate people, which is cool to watch. The new element doesn’t add all that much to ACB, considering you could pay people to follow you around in AC2, it’s more like an evolution of the old concept. It also makes the game easier, which isn’t great considering how easy it already was. However it is enjoyable acting as the king of assassins, and it seems this was the intention of brotherhood all along.
Finally the major innovation to the new Assassin’s Creed is the multi-player aspect, which if you played the BETA you’ll find is pretty darn fun. It could be described as “death from above”, the most fun of all Assassination’s. Ubisoft has learned from multi-player with Splinter Cell and we’re better off for it. If you’re a fan of the kill animations in Assassins Creed, then the multi-player is your forte, because that’s where the satisfaction comes into play. It’s one button assassinations, no real melee combat, and the variety in death styles is vast and fulfilling. The only modes available are wanted and alliance and other tweaked versions, but this proved enough fun. The rank system and game mechanics are addictive and compelling enough to keep you busy.
Wanted is basically hunting targets and being pursued by someone else at the same time. You spawn and the player you’re targeting pops up in the right hand corner of the screen. A blue indicator points towards the target helping you find the player, but running directly for the indicator sometimes ends in death as you’re giving yourself away. Stealth becomes key in some situations; however it all depends on the quality of the people you’re playing with. Many times I’ve just run around like a clown popping people off, it only gets hard once you’re in the lead and the game automatically sets more people after the leader. That’s when paranoia sets in and being careful comes into play. It’s a nicely balanced system and makes for some close call matches.
It’s also possible to counter someone who is pursuing you with the circle button, however you can’t kill them. This makes escaping your pursuer all the more satisfying, timing the counter move will result in the assassin being stunned, giving you ample opportunity to bolt. This excitement escalates when you’re close to your own target but are running from someone else. The game basically becomes like a frantic train of people chasing each other to the death, you can escape by either losing your pursuer or hiding in some leafs etc. Stealing other people’s targets is possible as well. While countering can be fun if timed right, this is one mechanic where your latency can become an issue, resulting in lag rage.
Alliance is basically coop by setting three teams of two assassins against each other. This mode requires coordination between team-mates in order to win, watching your mates back and working together to kill targets is always fun.
As you level through the ranking system you’re rewarded with more abilities (level cap will be 50), such a smoke bombs, disguises and turbo sprints. This levelling system is similar to something like Modern Warfare, but this game is vastly different to other online games on the market, which makes for a very unique experience. The best thing about multi-player is that is actually rewards you for acting like an assassin, unlike the single player campaign, this is where ACB makes up for it’s design flaws.
It’s worth noting in ACB Ezio has side challenges to complete, these are time-based such as complete this mission in under 8 minutes, to combat-related challenges: don’t take damage, only kill your target, and beyond. It’s nice to see these challenges implemented and may fulfil your needs if you find ACB too easy, which is more than likely with the campaign lasting around 10 hours. But that’s only if you follow the story without doing any of the rest, there’s loads of content packed into ACB. It may not be Assassins Creed 3, however assumingly Ubisoft didn’t want that, it’s called Brotherhood for a reason. What you’ll find is an enjoyable game with more variety than previous entries, especially in multi-player and overall, a solid service to its fans.
Assassins Creed is one of the best looking games on the market, the first game cemented this attribute into our minds and ACB continues to do so. The size of the cities has improved, which makes for some impressive draw-distances, and notably on the PS3 texture detail has slightly improved. And you’ll immediately recognise the UI from previous games because it hasn’t changed much, which can be a little disappointing.
Animations are a highlight, especially anything that involves violence and climbing. Walk animations are a little fail, but it can be forgiven as you don’t spend much time walking. There are also some dramatic set pieces through the game that play out like a scene from Heavy Rain, and this is a beautiful inclusion.
On the down side of an otherwise great looking game with solid art direction are frame-rate issues, pop-in during cut scenes and some strange mouth animation in voice-acting, such as teeth turning black etc. It’s a little distracting when glitchy elements like these deter from an otherwise beautiful looking game. But nothing is perfect, and ACB still manages to impress.
The sound design has more or less remained the same, new music can be heard throughout, however it isn’t overly worth praising as it only serves to add atmosphere and successfully does so. The voice acting is average, with the Desmond side of the story being more believable, the contrasting narratives between Ezio and Desmond are an interesting concept. But for me, listening to Desmond and the characters in that story and then going back to Ezio makes me think the voice-actors aren’t as good as their Italian counter-parts.
Everyone’s accent when they speak English in Ezio’s world sounds stereotypical/fake and it only sounds more authentic when they’re speaking Italian. I’d even prefer if they only spoke Italian, it might improve the realism, cause I doubt that many people in Rome were speaking English around that time. It just makes me cringe and think of the godfather when Ezio’s talking with he’s family.
Overall, other than my gripe with the English take on Italian’s, the Graphics and sound of ACB are up there with the best. The contrasting worlds of Desmond and Ezio are both solid in their approach, and while Desmond may sound better in some ways, Ezio’s time looks alot better.
I did say you could assume that Assassins Creed Brotherhood is just AC2.5, and is some ways it is. The gameplay hasn’t changed too much, a few things have been brought to the table, but never realise their true potential. The best thing about ACB is the continuation of the story, the awesome addition of multi-player and the amount of content to plough through. This game has everything a fan of the franchise could want, but it isn’t a true sequel like its previous entry, hopefully the next game (which has already been confirmed) brings the evolution that Ezio needs to reach the top.