Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood Xbox 360 Review
Publisher – Ubisoft – Developer – Ubisoft Montreal – Genre – Stealth/Action – Players – 1-8 – Age Rating – 15+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3
The original Assassin’s Creed felt more like a barebones tech demo that was waiting for a better game to support its otherwise impressive engine and mechanics. With Assassin’s Creed II that better game came along, vastly improving just about every facet, eliminating much of the previous flaws, though it still felt as if it could have been something more than the end result.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood on the other hand isn’t Assassin’s Creed III, so it doesn’t come close to bringing the level of freshness that the previous game did, but rest assured that its short development cycle hasn’t resulted in a lazy game either.
Just one important step up for the series in Assassin’s Creed II was the introduction of Ezio, a much more likeable and well drawn character than the rather bland Altair. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood sees not only the return of Ezio, but also the lovely Italian renaissance backdrop, though this time the action has moved to Rome.
As with all other games in the series, there are also sections that you take charge of Desmond Miles, the present day descendent of Ezio. Being set in the modern day, they obviously feel a bit detached from the rest of the game, though have always remained as an intriguing plot point. If you really don’t like the modern day encroaching on your virtual visit of Rome, you’ll be glad to know that this time around they’re largely left as optional, simply there as a means to delve further into the Assassin’s Creed universe should you wish to.
As has always been the case, one of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood’s joys is just simply navigating around the city. With Ezio’s largely well animated athleticism, you’re able to effortlessly balance on beams, leap across rooftops and climb up buildings. But this isn’t the only reason why wandering and leaping around the city is so enjoyable. Rome is atmospheric and bustling with people, and it’s imagined so well here that your console almost feels as if it has temporarily transformed into some sort of time machine.
Mechanically it’s much the same as the previous game. So it’s still an open world game where you head around Rome taking on missions and doing typical sandbox things like checkpoint races and item collecting, but with that distinct Assassin’s Creed flavour. So there’s still an emphasis on stealth and you’re able to blend into crowds to hide from your enemy.
The combat has been given some attention, so whilst it remains basic and the enemy AI still appear to believe that they’re in a turn based RPG, insisting in taking it in turns attacking you, you’re now able to string execution kills together, making it marginally better, if only for the fact that it gives you a sense of empowerment if you manage a long string. But as with every other Ubisoft Montreal production up to this point, combat is adequate at best.
Rome is split into districts, each of which are initially controlled by the Borgia. By assassinating a general and then burning down a Borgia tower, you’ll free that respective district from the clutches of the Borgia and as a bonus, you get the chance to purchase some buildings, of which will get you lovely income every 20 minutes. You can spend your cash on more buildings, as well as weapons, armour, items and such.
The largest new addition, however, is the titular Brotherhood. Once you gain access to this helpful bunch, you can command them to kill targets and there’s something satisfying about pressing a single button to summon your posse of assassins and witnessing them leaping from rooftops or horseback to take down your requested targets, all the while you just casually stroll by. At the cost of losing their more direct services for a limited period of time, you’re also able to send the Brotherhood out on missions and, in the process, if they’re successful, they’ll often bring back some money and useful items, as well as some valuable experience.
Missions have plenty in the way of variety, so, amongst other things, on one you might find yourself taking charge of one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s fearsome war machines to lay waste to your enemies and another you might have to simply follow someone without rousing suspicion, whilst another has you blending into crowds to remain undetected.
Most objectives also have secondary tasks, some of which are tricky, though as the game otherwise isn’t very hard, they’re necessary if you desire additional challenge. It’s the sort of nice little bit of design that will appease a wide variety of people, allowing those that enjoyed the gentle difficulty of previous games to just completely ignore them and breeze through the game, whilst feeling like a master assassin in the process.
The single player portion could easily take you more than 20 hours to get through, but this time around further longevity comes with the addition of multiplayer, and instead of just tacking deathmatch’s or rooftop races on, effort has been made and it actually incorporates Assassin’s Creed’s mechanics into the modes, as well as common contemporary multiplayer aspects such as perks, challenges and XP.
All the modes share the same goal of each player having to assassinate assigned targets, and the more discreetly they carry out the deed, the more XP they’re awarded, though at the same time there’s often someone else pursuing them, making each player the hunter and the hunted. Every player has NPC’s around the maps that look identical to them, and it’s up to the hunted to try and act casually to blend in with them, so rushing around and parkour across rooftops should only be used as a last resort, or you might as well be shouting “I’m an assassino” at the top of your lungs.
For this reason, the multiplayer facet is hardly going to go down well with the Halo and Call of Duty crowd that just want to shoot stuff, which is perhaps why people rushing around the maps is a pretty common sight and one that can take away from the enjoyment. Play with people with the right mindset and whom know what they’re doing, though, and there’s scope for some hugely tense matches.
The multiplayer is Assassin Creed: Brotherhood’s most inventive aspect, whilst the single player is merely a refinement over the previous game and still possesses almost as many flaws as it does excellence. It’s still a wonderful and uniquely flavoured open world game, but one that, in regards to its single player, still hasn’t quite managed to reach its full potential at this point.