Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood is not Assassin’s Creed III. It’s a rather hefty stand-alone expansion pack that expands upon what we loved about Assassin’s Creed II (AC II). As much as it does falter in a few aspects, the end result is something fans of the series will love.Brotherhood plays just like AC II. In fact if you just head over to our AC II review, you’ll pretty much understand what the game has to offer. Of course, it does bring quite a bit of new stuff to the table that we’ll be discussing in this review.
Brotherhood takes place right after the events of AC II. Ezio Auditore da Firenze returns to his crib in Monterigonni after an altercation with the antagonist from the second game. All’s well for a while and just as Ezio is getting his groove on with the ladies, his kingdom gets attacked by the evil Borgia. In this attack, certain people close to him are killed and this obviously pisses the assassin off to no extent. He vows revenge and tons of bad dudes die in the process.
Never sneak up on an assassin
To seek retribution, Ezio must now travel to Rome, which is where most of the game takes place. Like the previous game you’ll oscillate between Ezio and Miles, his modern day progeny who’s living out his memories. For me the Assassin’s Creed franchise was never about the story. It was far too convoluted for its own good and it really doesn’t help matters that nearly everyone in this game has the personality of a stick. Ezio however manages to retain his ‘cool as ice’ demeanor and thankfully isn’t as much of a damp squib as Altair. The chemistry between Miles and his co-worker, Lucy has been ramped up as well and the playful banter between the two during one of the earlier missions is reminiscent of last year’s Uncharted 2.
Gameplay in Brotherhood is nearly identical to ACII, which isn’t a bad thing. Sure, I would have preferred a drastically new location or a shift to the modern ages but since I loved AC II to death, I embraced Brotherhood with both arms. However, Brotherhood falters in certain departments which were surprisingly never an issue in the second game. For one it now literally shoves stealth down your throat, penalizing you with a ‘Mission Failed’ screen if you get detected. This quickly becomes frustrating, as stealth in this game is a bit broken and for some reason controlling Ezio this time round feels a lot less responsive than the second game. I lost count of the amount of times I couldn’t climb a ledge even though it was within a few feet of my grasp and jumped where I really didn’t want to. Besides this, the camera did act up on multiple occasions during combat - spazzing out behind a wall or a tree. Luckily, combat’s easy enough, so you rarely die in this game. And now the game has introduced something called chaining kills, that allows you to take enemies out with one hit as long as your chain of attacks goes uninterrupted. It’s a bit like the Free Flow combat from Arkham Asylum, only not as awesome.
Besides Ezio’s usual repertoire of moves and weapons, he can now hire assassins to help him in his noble cause. You manage your assassins from a static page that can be accessed through all the pigeon coups and Assassin Towers spread out through the land. From there you can assign them to various missions and upgrade their abilities. While this aspect of the game felt more like an Assassin Manager 2010, it’s when you can call upon them in combat do you appreciate their presence in the game. All you have to do is select your target and simply call upon your assassins with the press of a button and these dudes will crawl out of the woodwork, or leap from the skies and take out the enemy with much flair. In fact during certain missions where you’re forced to stay undetected, your assassins are a godsend. And let’s say they do end up dying, it really won’t affect your life as there are potential recruits all over the place.
Multiplayer is surprisingly fun
Another aspect expanded upon in this game are factions introduced in AC II. Each of the available factions – courtesans, mercenaries and thieves will aid you in different ways be it killing every guard in sight, or distracting them so you can sneak by undetected. Upon meeting every faction you’ll be able to upgrade their safe house which then allows you to undertake side quests for that particular faction. In addition to this, every faction will have a certain amount of requisites like ‘killing an x amount of enemies using a particular weapon’ or ‘hiding an x amount of enemies is a stack of hay’. Complete all these requisites and you’ll be able to upgrade the strength and usefulness of each faction.
Fly away little birdie
Ubisoft introduced an in-game economy in AC II and that’s back as well. It does feel a bit more refined but at the end of the game you’ll amass a fortune with nothing to spend it on. In Brotherhood you won’t be able to just walk up to a store and buy what you want. Pretty much every area on your map falls under Borgia influence, which means you’ll have to find a way to blow up the nearby Borgia tower, liberating the area in the process. Once that’s done, you can renovate a store and start shopping. Opening stores all over Rome will not only reduce the Borgia influence, but will obviously count toward your income which then can be used to purchase even more property, weapons and armor.
Remember the awesome platforming sections introduced in AC II? Well they’re back with a vengeance, packing in even more platforming elements to provide a certain amount of respite from the constant action. And like the second game, successfully completing all these hidden lairs grants players access to some sweet armor. Expanding on these side quests are missions undertaken from Leonardo da Vinci, the game’s equivalent of a ‘Q’ or a Lucius Fox. It seems the bad dudes have stolen some of his plans to create highly dangerous Warmachines, which of course you have to destroy. These aren’t tied to the story but are a welcome distraction from story based missions.
Once you get done with the plot, you can try out the game’s multiplayer which honestly did end up surprising me. The basic premise over here is to pit several assassins against each other. At the start of a round one character is chosen as a target while the others have to hunt him/her as well as the competition down. You obviously can’t run around like a mad man or you’ll scare the target off, painting an invisible bulls eye on your back in the process. At the same time, you can’t take your time or some other player may steal your kill. It may be a bit slow paced but multiplayer in Brotherhood is a pretty intense experience. It may not drag you away from Call of Duty or Halo but it’s a pleasant change of pace.
Visually, the game’s top notch although it does suffer from a noticeable amount of slowdown, especially while Ezio’s navigating some of the game’s more crowded areas. And this is after I installed the game to my Xbox360 hard drive. Facial animations still look a bit retarded but other than that I had no issues whatsoever.
Follow the leader
Brotherhood is a game that packs in a ton of stuff but most of it, you’ve seen and experienced from Assassin’s Creed II. The new stuff is not ground breaking but it’s an interesting addition to the series. If you’re one of the few who never liked Assassin’s Creed II to begin with, Brotherhood will not change your mind. On the other hand if you loved AC II as much as we did, Brotherhood brings all that back and more making it a must buy this holiday season.