Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Systems it’s available on: Xbox 360, PS3
ESRB rating: M for Mature
System reviewed on: Xbox 360
Usually, big game franchises enjoy a lengthy refresh period between installments. There was a three-year gap between Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, for example. The prevailing logic is that it takes time to brew a true upgrade to a good game. So, Ubisoft having Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood come out a year after the stellar Assassin’s Creed II may seem like a recipe for disaster.
Brotherhood’s a true sequel, one that brings back Ezio Auditore–the last game’s assassin hero–to face a new enemy on a bigger scale. ACB picks up right after ACII, and just when he thinks he’s ended the threat of the secret Templar order, the evil Borgia family attack Ezio in his home villa of Monteriggioni, destroying the town players worked so hard to rebuild in ACII and killing his uncle/mentor Mario. After the violation of his stronghold , Ezio takes the fight to the Borgia and travels to ancient Rome to end the family tyranny that that’s ruined the city. (More on Techland: Tip Sheet: “Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood”)
The game takes several key elements that made ACII great–the improved combat, the property management mini-game and the objective-based exploration–and expands them even more. The repetitive slash-block-counter combat of the first AC title is officially a distant memory as Brotherhood introduces a new quick-kill system that allows you to wade through crowds of enemies in fast and stylish fashion. Rome’s a shambles when you get there but you’ll have missions that revitalize the economy and cripple the Borgia’s oppressive rule. They’ve stationed lieutenants to guard towers all around the city where their influence is strongest. These spots hold a twofold challenge: to take out the lieutenants in a specific way (like with a counter-kill) and to then scale and burn down the Borgia towers.
Other location-based missions will wind up letting you get around the city quickly and surreptitiously. The framing story of the franchise has always been synchronization of the Desmond Miles character’s memories with those of his ancestors and that mechanic gets a slight twist. You’ll get a challenge to fulfill missions in specific ways and if you do, you’ll achieve 100% synchronization and bigger rewards. It’s a nice wrinkle that adds some replay value to the game. (More on Techland: Assassin’s Creed Floods the Zone on Release Day)
Of course, the most significant shift to the Assassin’s Creed single-player model comes from the fact that you’ll no longer work alone. Brotherhood introduces apprentice Assassins, whom Ezio recruits as they defy the corrupt city guards on the streets of Rome. You can traine these citizens or use them to aid you in battles right in the capital city. Ezio can also send them on missions throughout Europe, where they’ll earn points for their upgradeable skills.
Still, the game’s biggest shift comes from the addition of competitive multiplayer. The framing story for the mode involves trainees from the Abstergo corporation accessing Animus tech like the kind Desmond uses to inhabit his ancestors’ lives. Playing one-on-one or as a team, you and others essentially play a lethal game of hide-and-seek throughout Rome. You’re always being hunted and always on the hunt, too, and the tension this state creates is exquisite. The challenge here is to know when to hide, blend or attack, all without tipping your hand to either your target or your prey. Do well enough and you’ll earn abilities like a smoke bomb, disguises or a sprint boost. There’s a learning curve to all of this, but the basics are so fun that you won’t mind figuring it out as you go. (More on Techland: Top 10 Failed Video Game Consoles)
Overall, ACB‘s single-player campaign is shorter than ACII‘s but you’re a wider palette of play options. And the multiplayer boasts one of the most innovative mechanics in recent memory. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood is more than a great sequel; it’s a refinement of what’s come before and an infusion of strong new ideas for the franchise’s future.
Official Techland Score: 9.5 out of 10
More on Techland: