You’d think Ezio Auditore would have an easy life. He’s a young, Italian ladies’ man and a whole villa in the Tuscany countryside that he inherited from his uncle. Those bullet points might sound like a bachelor’s résumé, but they hide in the shadow by the fact that he has hidden blades protruding from both of his wrists, extendable whenever he sees something (or someone) who is in need of cutting and/or stabbing. His problems should begin and end with the badass weaponry in his sleeves right? Well in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, that is the goal.
Brotherhood opens, after being Desmond for a short time (trying its best Uncharted 2 impression), straight after the moment Assassin’s Creed II‘s credits started rolling. Ezio is leaving the mysterious vault and goes to retreat in the villa, leaving his inner assassin to atrophy. That was the plan until your sexy time with Caterina Sforza is interrupted via a large cannonball through the roof of your room in the villa. Besides from being a major cock block, this leaves the villa in ruins, the Apple of Eden stolen, your uncle Mario dead, Ezio injured, and it is all thanks to Cesaré Borgia, the main antagonist. Moving to Rome is the next on agenda to get the Apple of Eden back and give the business end of your wrist knives to the corrupt Borgia family. While revenge was the primary motivation in ACII, here it doesn’t seem as well fleshed out. While the story is a good ride (even though the ending needs a sequel to answer the many questions it has left) it just seems a bit weaker in comparison. Several people had to die in the previous installment and they all had good reason and amazing buildup to the climactic murder. Brotherhood’s assassinations are far less important to the story, with only one or two being somewhat comparable to ACII‘s many, exciting set piece killings.
A part of the reason of why the side missions and main assassinations feel less significant is because a lot of them have you kill regular looking NPC guard characters. The fact that most of these are run-of-the-mill looking soldiers makes me think how these specific guys are more important to the pile of corpses of regular street guards I just slaughtered five minutes ago.
Mission fail states also continue to become mildly annoying. The threshold of what makes the mission require a restart can be stingy as being fifty-one yards away somehow makes the mission irrelevant, even though the target is clearly visible. These pop up often in different missions and add this to the slightly boring and drawn out stalking sequences reappearing (and more frequently), the missions in ACB don’t quite match up to what they could have been.
While the story motivation for missions has decreased, the combat and stealth gameplay mix picks up the slack. Swordplay has always been something the series hasn’t completely nailed. All the counter attacks always were gory and fun to watch, but battles could take up to minutes as you impatiently waited for the opening to mash the counter buttons. Taking a cue from Batman: Arkham Asylum, combat has been streamlined and sped up and it ends up being one of the highlights of the whole game. Now instead of waiting coupled with more waiting, just a few successful hits sends you into the blissful murder-joy called an execution streak. This is just a fancy phrase for being able to string multiple one hit kills together, and since countering can be done more quickly with a bigger timing window, it is possible to get through about twenty Roman guards in one continuous, swift, deadly combo.
Adding to your personal blade, additional assassins can be recruited to add to your team. To upgrade them, assignments, similar to those in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, are given to them across Europe to tackle, bringing you the goods and themselves the experience. Using them in the field is more efficient because, not only does it make them better warriors, it makes you the ultimate badass. With the slight tap or hold of the L2 or LB button, Ezio lets off a soft whistle as a signal. Seconds later, a group of robed assassins appear out of whatever hiding spot is near and completely murder everything. Not only is this super satisfying in its own right, it leaves the options to you on when to use it, giving you another strategic option in any mission. Besides, who actually wants to chase targets now that you can instantly have them slain without breaking a sweat?
Although you will break a sweat, albeit a good one, travelling the huge city of Rome. Bigger than any other city in any other AC game, Rome’s map is beautiful and absolutely filled with stuff to do. Want to buy the brothel? Go for it. Burn down one of the new Borgia towers? Yeah that is a good idea. You don’t do this stuff only because you want to, but more because you have to. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood taps that obsessive compulsive part of the brain that makes you want to do everything. Side missions are everywhere and only keep unlocking as you finish the main quest. Accompanying more side missions, the economy has been upgraded to the whole city but it doesn’t have the same impact. Since every weapon that is purchased can easily be turned into a execution machine, they end up feeling exclusively cosmetic and only worth swapping out to see the many, disgustingly awesome kill moves.
Assassin’s Creed has always been a single player series but Brotherhood takes the courageous risk of adding online multiplayer to the fray. This sounds like a recipe for disaster but what Ubisoft has put together is one of the most fun, unique online experiences you can find. While there are plenty of modes, the star here is Wanted. Every player in this mode has a contract to kill another player but the catch is you only can go off the character model they have chosen to play as. The maps are littered with all different character models so it is up to your cunning wits to sift out the real people and go insert your weapon into their abdomen or skull. A dead giveaway is when someone is running or going on the rooftop, so to stay on top of the scoreboard, the best method usually is to blend in so you can silently kill your prey or stun your hunter. This tactical approach to multiplayer is such a stark, invigorating contrast to other games like Call of Duty that reward acting loud and being too aggressive. Since this is a game is in a post-Call of Duty 4 world, you’ll level up and upgrade, getting new gear and perks, both cosmetic and gameplay relevant. The multiplayer hits all the right notes and is a surprisingly amazing addition to an already great franchise.
Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, strangely, had a lot to prove. It was coming out only a year after the stellar Assassin’s Creed II and in the same universe no doubt, meaning it had to try that much harder to contrast itself. While it didn’t seem to make itself all that much different than its prequel, enough was added and streamlined to make this a worthy addition to the franchise. While the missions themselves might have lacked drive from the story, it was still gave me plenty of enjoyable stabbing, parkour, and stealth. Given the addition of multiplayer, you may not stop your slicing for a long time and a blade with this quality and with a longer rust time is a blade worth owning.
+Huge open world with plenty to do
+Combat has been made faster and better
+Added assassins and other weapons to weapon selection
+Excellent, unique multiplayer
+Many aspects like weapon selection have been refined
-Story is not as impactful or meaningful
-Ending is (intentionally?) confusing and just adds more questions
-Some boring mission types are back
-Mission fail states can be inconsistent and frustrating at times
Final score: 8.5/10
Platform Differences: The PS3 version has some extra free DLC on PSN for you to download. They are some pretty good missions, so if you have to chance to play them, you should.