Review by DDJGames
"A lot to love, but betrayed by old issues, glitches, and the plot."
Review in Brief
Game: The direct sequel to Assassin's Creed II, following Ezio around Rome in the same type of gameplay.
Good: Enough new content to justify a standalone game; a great multiplayer mode; more attention to the gameplay-plot symbiosis; a cool "Brotherhood" mechanic; much more atmospheric than the predecessors.
Bad: Same problems that plagued the previous one; far too glitchy and unpolished to be acceptable; silly plot oddities that severely detract from the game; a completely unsatisfying ending.
Verdict: A lot to love, but in the end betrayed by the same old issues, the newly-included glitches, and the lack of a strong interesting driving plot.
Recommendation: Fans of the previous ones will like it. Non-fans won't. Anyone who hasn't tried the previous ones shouldn't bother since this one doesn't make any gameplay or plot sense without at least Assassin's Creed II, so try that one first.
"A lot to love, but betrayed by old issues, glitches, and the plot."
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood isn't quite like any other game I remember being released in several years in that its engine is far more connected to its predecessor than any other pair of games I can recall. That makes sense when you consider that early reports suggested that Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood was essentially going to be a multiplayer expansion on Assassin's Creed 2 with just enough of a single-player story to almost justify the $60 price tag; but in reality, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is a complete and standalone game. Its single-player campaign is as lengthy as either of its predecessors, its sidequest availability is as robust as ever, and it adds just enough to the engine to be considered more than just an expansion pack that would have been better delivered as DLC.
But at the same time, the engine of the game is still 95% identical. There are new features, and I'll certainly talk about those, but the engine is largely the same. If you played and enjoyed the previous game, you'll find yourself reacquainted almost immediately due to how similar Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is to its immediate predecessor. It didn't mess with the basic formula, and it added a lot of good new content. Overall, it's definitely worthy as a standalone entry.
However, the problem is exactly that: the game didn't mess with the basic formula, yet that formula still isn't perfect. There was plenty of room for improvement, yet the majority of the engine is still exactly the same as it used to be. The new features are nice, but the continued presence of old annoyances is troubling. What's more, large portions of the game do feel rather phoned-in, as if all the emphasis was placed on certain pieces of new content withcomparably none to others. Speaking in summary, the new engine content -- new features and the multiplayer system, mostly -- are excellent, but the plot leaves an incredible amount to be desired (despite a promising start). The same problems from Assassin's Creed 2 are still present, while the game is also very glitchy and unpolished, which is unacceptable for a game for which 75% of the code had already been written before development even began.
It might be the recency effect talking, given that the majority of the problems I had with the game came in the final 20% of play time, but overall Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood left a very bad taste in my mouth. It felt like a combination of missed potential and laziness, and the excellent high points of the game only served to exacerbate the epic low points. Overall, it's still a must-play for fans of the series, but it's not living up to the franchise as well as it could.
Usually in my reviews, I include a section called "The Game". Aside from making you lose it, this section is supposed to be an unbiased description of the game for those who are completely unfamiliar with it. However, in this case, if you haven't played the previous Assassin's Creed games (or at the very least, Assassin's Creed 2), don't bother with Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. It will make no sense plot-wise, and the control mechanism basically assumes you already know how to play the game, completely skipping any semblance of a tutorial. For those of us who have played the series before, this is a blessing; but it does completely alienate anyone who hasn't played the game's predecessor. So, instead of describing the game, I'll describe what's new compared to Assassin's Creed 2.
Rome: the most basic new addition in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is the new setting: Rome. There's only one city to play in here, but the game makes up for it by making that city at least two to three times larger than the cities from Assassin's Creed 2. It's more than a sufficient game world, complete with varied settings as well.
New Plot: Possibly goes without saying for a standalone game, but the plot is all-new as well. The structure is the same, told through memories that usually end in killing one major figure. The plot isn't just a throw-away justification for the game, it's actually a major development to the Assassin's Creed canon.
The "Brotherhood: The feature that gives the game its title is the "Brotherhood", allowing you to recruit assassins to your cause, train them through the use of dispatch missions, and call upon them to aid you in battle.
New Weapons: Not just new individual weapons in the same categories, but new categories of weapons. Most notable is the crossbow, a combination of the pistol's range and speed and the throwing knives' stealth and larger magazine.
Borgia Towers: The main bad guys in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood are the Borgia, and part of your job is to liberate Rome from Borgia control by destroying towers around the world map. These double as the game's viewpoints in many cases.
Renovate Rome: Assassin's Creed 2's renovation sidequest has become renovating all of Rome, allowing you to buy everything from stables and blacksmith's shops to famous monuments like the Coliseum.
Shop Quests: Find items during your travels and trade them for access to new weapons and items.
"Full Sync": Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood's way of encouraging you to conduct missions certain ways (using stealth rather than force, for example) is to give a challenge at the beginning of each mission, things like "complete this mission in under 5 minutes" or "kill only the main target" or "do not be detected". Extra credit is given if you complete the missions while fulfilling these challenges.
Vehicle Sections: The flying machine from Assassin's Creed 2 is back in the form of a half-dozen or so different vehicle sections, putting you at the helm of warboats, primitive tanks, flying bombers, and cannons.
Multiplayer: Some saw Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood to be basically an overpriced multiplayer add-on pack; that isn't true, but the multiplayer is definitely one of the game's substantial contributions.
There's a lot to like in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. Through the first two-thirds of the game or so, it was my favorite in the series and would've scored a solid 8 had the game not managed to blow it toward the end. The new features especially were very refreshing, and even things I didn't expect to like ended up making significant positive contributions to the game as a whole.
I could probably write an entire review about the good and the bad of the multiplayer itself, and while it has its faults, the net contribution is definitely positive. Multiplayer basically works like this: you're entered into an area with around six or seven other players. At any given time, you're given one other player to target, while other players might be given you to target. Your goal is to kill your target. You're guided to your target by a compass, but NPCs throughout the area look like your target, making it harder to pick them out. Bonus points are given for killing them stealthily rather than running them down and stabbing them in the face, as well as bonuses for various other things as well. As you play and level up, you gain more power-ups, such as new weapons (the pistol, for example) and abilities. Abilities include things like smoke bombs and the ability to transform nearby NPCs into your character's appearance. Experience is accumulated according to points earned, not placement, so even if you're not placing very highly you can still level up. Points are also given for evading your own pursuers once they make themselves known.
Overall, there are some downsides, but the multiplayer is quite fun. I was struck from the beginning by its simplicity. Unlike other games where veterans will dominate newbies every single time, in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood the margin is much smaller. There are things new players can do to compete with older ones, but older ones also do have advantages against newer ones -- but not advantages that are so extreme that it's demoralizing and discouraging for new players. The simplicity makes it very easy to just pick up the game as long as you've played some of the real game as well.
What most impressed me is that the point system is well-balanced to encourage the "right" kind of gameplay. The notion of multiplayer in the Assassin's Creed universe should be to, you know, assassinate. Players running up to each other and stabbing them in the face doesn't exactly scream "Assassin's Creed" to me. The game can't do anything to prevent you from doing that, obviously, but its point system is weighted in such a way that "good" kills are properly incentivized. I've played several games with newbies who just run to their victim and kill them, and inevitably they get the most kills, but the fewest points. The game does a good job of incentivizing gameplay that's fun, not like every other multiplayer game out there.
I do have to complain about the level-up system a bit, since it's a classic instance of more experienced players getting better abilities, meaning that they do better not only because they're better at the game but also because they have additional advantages. Still, though, that's a minor critique, and it's balanced out by the experience system rewarding kills and actions rather than just finishing order; even if you're finishing last every round, you're still gaining experience points and, thus, new abilities.
Huge New Content
As mentioned above, one of the fears before Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood was released was that it would basically be a multiplayer expansion pack that still comes with a full $60 price tag. Those fears are inaccurate. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is a huge new expansion on the original game's content.
First of all, the modern-day plotline is much more thoroughly fleshed out after being essentially an afterthought in Assassin's Creed II. In fact, almost all the plot development occurs in the modern day, and you're given a bit of a modern-day world to explore as well. The background plot moves much more from historical to recent times (which I'll criticize later, actually), and it feels like most of the tension is with Desmond and Lucy, not Ezio. Of course, this happens at the expense of the Ezio plot, which I'll criticize later as well.
There's even some gameplay to be had in the modern day. There's two somewhat lengthy sequences that see Desmond applying his assassin's skills in modern day locales in sequences that could have been ripped straight out of Prince of Persia (especially when Lucy is around). It was so reminiscent of the older series that I actually went and checked to see if Ubisoft was behind Prince of Persia as well, and sure enough, they were.
As described earlier, there's an enormous new world to explore as well. Rome is the only city in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, but it's about three times larger by my estimation than any of the cities from Assassin's Creed II. It houses a plotline that rivals the predecessor for length, although it does feel like a lot of filler much of the time. Unlike the previous game, new plot developments rarely unlock additional content (in the form of new cities), but the plot is still rather lengthy and varied.
More Attention to Gameplay-Plot Symbiosis
One of the major criticisms I lobbed at Assassin's Creed II was that it largely abandoned the original's heavy focus on the merger of gameplay and plot. "Sync" was replaced by hit points, shops were introduced, money was introduced, notoriety was a dumb way of replacing suspicion, etc. And don't get me wrong, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood keeps many of these annoying features and makes many of them worse. But at least there's some signs that the creators realized that the second game screwed up a lot of what was good about the first game.
For example, take the optional missions from the previous game. There, those often came across as silly diversions that no real fictional-historical figure like Ezio would ever actually pursue. In Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, they're significantly more justified by the plotline that actually connections those sidequests with the main quest at hand. The game also does a good job of emphasizing the need for assassinations over just kills; whereas the previous games gave rewards for doing the assassination the "right" way, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood actually gives plot-based reasons why you need to do it a certain way, increasing the immersion of the game.
The game also introduces something called "Full Sync", which initially I hated, but it grew on me as the game went on. Plot-wise, "full sync" is basically telling you how the historical Ezio did the next plot point, and therefore to be fully synced to his memory, you have to do it the same way. It's a good plot justification for doing things in the game that are more "assassinly". Whereas you oftentimes can charge in sword waving and kill everything in sight, this feature gives you incentive to do it the right way, further increasing immersion. There's a lot of problems with the system, of course. Sometimes it spoils upcoming plot points. Sometimes the tasks at hand are just silly (perform a certain maximum combo, for example). Failing the "full sync" requirement is distracting. But overall, I think it's a step in the right direction and makes the game suitably more immersive.
Beyond those major things, there's just various small little details that effectively enhance the gameplay-plot symbiosis as well. For example, the pause screen is different when inside and outside the Animus, emphasizing that the in-Animus pause screen is actually a plot-justified device. At one point they give a plot justification for why you can hear everything in English even though technically people are speaking Italian, and why sometimes it slips into Italian anyway. Those are the kinds of things that are just the little attention to detail that sets a game apart. Unfortunately, there's plenty betraying this later as well.
A little background: as the game goes along, you gain the ability to recruit new assassins to your cause. Then you train them by either calling on them in battle or sending them off on missions. Recruiting them can be a little bit silly, given that seemingly every Joe Blow off the streets can be trained to be an assassin, but whatever.
Initially, I was a bit skeptical about this system. It sounded like it would be one of three things: (a) a stupid system for summoning allies in battle, even though we all know that your allies in battle almost never do anything useful; (b) a stupid system for letting the game play itself for you once you're good enough to play it yourself; or (c) a big overarching system that solely exists to explain one or two major plot points.
I was wrong on all three counts. (c) certainly isn't true because the Brotherhood actually is largely rendered inaccessible during major plot points. (a) isn't true because the other assassins actually are wildly useful. (b) is the closest, but it's not quite true given that the game gives you good limits on how you can use their power. If you have a full "stable" of assassins, it's essentially one "get out of battle free card" that can only be used once every several minutes; otherwise, you also have up to three pairs of assassins to summon for individual assassinations or to help you in battle.
The main reason why this doesn't really equate to letting the game play itself, though, is that so few battles or important sequences can be boiled down to killing one or two guys at one place. Usually you have to traverse a long distance, take down a specific character, etc., and the Brotherhood members aren't able to do this for you, they can just make it easier. They're more like the one big uber attack that you have at your disposal than a consistent helper.
But the most important thing that makes the Brotherhood idea work is, simply, that they're just plain fun to use. It's really entertaining to target a couple unsuspecting soldiers, tell your assassins to go after them, and watch as they pop up out of nowhere and kill them. It's quite fun to be running through an area, see a soldier up ahead, target him and summon an assassin, and then listen behind you as you hear him get killed while you keep running along. They're just very fun to use.
There are also a few very fun levels that rely on them. For example, there are a few levels where the "full sync" requirement is to stay anonymous, which is hard to do when you're killing people all over the place. However, you can send your own assassins ahead to do the killing, hanging back and safeguarding your anonymity while they do all your dirty work. There's an escort mission built on that idea that's very fun, and when is the last time you heard an escort mission described as anything but infuriating?
Music and Atmosphere
This'll be short because there's not much to say about it, but I think it's important. I don't remember the music from the previous Assassin's Creed games, but Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood has a great soundtrack, and the music really adds to the atmosphere in a way that I don't remember the previous games doing. It's out of place sometimes, making completely innocuous moments suddenly seem significant, but other than that it's quite well done.
The game also does a great job of emphasizing the plot developments with the atmosphere. Know how in many games, you could be the savior of the world or the best soldier in the military or something, but no one in the game even acknowledges your existence or the plot developments? In Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, you actually get to watch Rome change its tune. What starts off as an oppressed city gains freedom thanks to your actions, and because of those actions you see commerce return to the city and citizens start championing your cause. It really does a great job of emphasizing your accomplishments.
As mentioned in the introduction, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is still largely the same engine as the previous game, which means that most of the problems linger. What's more, the game is plagued by a lot of missed opportunities, as well as some truly egregious oversights and monumentally bizarre events. Through the first half of the game, everything was going well and it was my favorite so far in the series, but around the halfway point, everything started racing downhill fast.
Same Old Problems
It starts with the same old problems. I won't go into excruciating detail on these considering I spent six pages (no, seriously, six pages) in my previous Assassin's Creed II review enumerating all of them in painstaking detail. My original review hasn't gone anywhere, so check it out if you want these things described in more detail. But let's recap those problems, shall we?
Replacing 'sync' with 'health' was still a dumb move that broke a key gameplay-plot interaction piece. Battle are still extremely formulaic and predictable, and it's always far too obvious how to beat each particular enemy. The map's icons can get so cluttered that you have to spend 2 minutes poking around whenever you want to find something that's supposedly clearly marked. The benefits to new weapons are completely non-obvious, especially given that they don't seem to become available in order of strength -- I spent the entire game using a weapon I bought in the first fourth of it. The death scenes from the original game are still around, and they've somehow gotten even more pointless; they were meant for plot development, not just to randomly look interesting. The money system is still stupid and self-serving, and the game has a system of in-game achievements that are just dumb and distracting.
The controls still suck at times. Context-sensitive controls rely on the game's ability to predict what the player wants to do at any given time, and the game doesn't do a great job of it. Races are still one of the most aggravating things ever since even once you figure out the right pathway, it's basically a matter of waiting for the controls to cooperate enough to let you execute your plan. The targeting system has a habit of switching on, especially on missions where you're only supposed to kill one enemy. The O button grabs a ledge when you're falling, but it also makes you let go of an edge, but when you're falling you press it repeatedly to catch a ledge -- you can probably figure out why that sucks.
Phew. That's a lot of criticisms packed into two short paragraphs. Oh, also, the game's created shop quests -- you know, gather a certain number of certain items and unlock a new shop item. Because, you know, the #1 thing the game needed was yet another thing that every other game ever has done. And even if they were cool, there's only like five of them. What's the point?
Glitchy and Unpolished
But all of that I'm somehow somewhat okay with. It's much less offensive when a sequel carries over its predecessors weaknesses than when it introduces new ones. If those above were my only criticisms, I'd give the game a solid 8. But when you have a game that's built on the same engine as its predecessor, the main things I think there are no excuses for are glitches. Unfortunately, starting at about halfway through the game, I was seemingly inundated with glitches or unpolished events. "Unpolished" is basically the lesser form of glitches: things that aren't necessarily bad, but are certainly not the way intended.
The glitches are easy to point out, and range from minor annoyances to major game-breakers. One two occasions, the game completely froze on me, scaring the bajeebus out of me since both were when the saving icon was visible. One viewpoint randomly reappeared on my minimap indicating I hadn't visited it, but I had. Every time you exit a tunnel or open the game, the game reacts as if the amount of profit you make per 20 minutes has changed, when in reality it hasn't. On one mission that awarded full sync for using the Brotherhood to kill all targets, I was declared to have failed by killing a target myself, even though I had watched the Brotherhood kill the target while perched on top of the Coliseum. In one particular poignant scene, Desmond got stuck in the Animus, making an otherwise dramatic scene silly as he blinked back and forth while Lucy stared forlornly into the eyes of someone that wasn't there. On a couple occasions, Ezio randomly started walking backwards, and there was no way to stop him.
There were other things that weren't necessarily glitches, but certainly indicated a lack of polish. On a couple occasions, the game randomly started blinking back and forth between whether anyone in the area was alerted to my presence. On multiple occasions I've been running through a seemingly empty area only to run into invisible things, then afterward a crowd appeared around me. On two different occasions, my target was killed, but I have no idea whatsoever how; on one, the death scene was played but the kill apparently didn't count as I had to restart and do it again, but on the other I have no idea what happened. On multiple occasions, the ally I was ordered to protect died long before their health meter ran out (at least one square left). Often times, I was randomly desynchronized with no real indication why; there's no real consistency as to when you'll be desynchronized. The map doesn't respond consistently to visible markers, sometimes leaving hidden ones visible and sometimes forgetting to show visible ones. The tunnel screen (basically the quick transport system around Rome) has no organization to it at all. Certain sound effects will randomly play much louder than others; the "mission complete" sound effect was always loud enough to blow my ears off even when the volume was otherwise fine. The same old problem regarding somehow getting detected and desynchronized by the person you just killed is still present. Group battle don't do a good job of showing who's an ally and who's an enemy, or worse, letting you choose a target even when you know. And, lastly, this might just be a PlayStation 3 thing, but there's a notable drop in frame rate when you start outputting in HDMI. I almost switched HDMI off it was so notable.
The most annoying glitch I encountered, however, came on a mission where you have to tail a target around three different places, killing enemies at each location without losing track of the target. It's not an easy mission, but the first time I finally pulled it off, the game apparently completely forgot who I was targeting. He still appeared with the icon, there were no other enemies left to kill, but the game just wouldn't continue; I had to restart and start the entire 20-minute mission over again just because the game didn't recognize when I had beaten it.
And you can't hold down the 'down' button to scroll down through a menu. What the hell? In my opinion, there is no excuse for these glitches, bugs, or moments of lack of polish. It's incredibly stupid.
No, I don't mean weapons that literally break from overuse. I mean weapons that are broken in the gameplay sense. There's two main weapons that this applies to: the new crossbow and the Brotherhood.
The crossbow is the game's main new weapon, basically a combination of the pistol's range and speed and the throwing knives' stealth. Oddly, though, it comes with a much bigger mass quantity than either of those, which makes it questionable as to whether you ever need the pistol. The main problem with the crossbow, though, is it's so overpowered it makes the game almost silly. There is no enemy that the crossbow doesn't kill in one hit, it can be pulled out and used decently quickly even at short range, and its quiver is large enough that you can use it over and over again. As with the previous game, there are certain enemies that are big and armored and can usually only be defeated with a certain strategy, but the crossbow takes care of them in a jiffy. At least it's fun to use, but it seems to break the game a good bit.
The Brotherhood is the same way. They're very fun to use and in most cases their usefulness is limited by the mission or by how often you can call them, but there are definitely some missions that would be very challenging without them, but are a breeze with them. In one mission, for example you're not allowed to be detected as you infiltrate a fortress, and detection includes troops finding the bodies of the enemies you've killed. But your Brotherhood can kill as many as they want and somehow the guards won't detect them, magically sensing that it wasn't you that killed those guards I suppose. That doesn't just apply in that battle, there's numerous missions that would be much more difficult without the Brotherhood, and while every added ability is supposed to make the game easier, they make it too easy in many places.
I don't feel like these next three criticisms deserve their own sections, and they're all vaguely related to the plot, so I'm tossing them all in here. The plot, in short, has several issues with it that are significant enough to note, where "plot" includes everything from the actual story to the relationships among the characters to the presentation of the back story.
The first major problem is that the Brotherhood system represents a significant missed opportunity. The way the system works, there is no personal connection to the assassins you recruit. Once they're a member of your guild, they're nothing more than a tool in your arsenal; their names don't matter. As a result, the game misses the opportunity to have a team/guild feeling like you would have in a Final Fantasy Tactics game, for example. It doesn't matter who your assassins are, just that you have the maximum number. There's nothing unique about them individually, and leveling them up doesn't present any real notable differences. A better system would've involved being able to train them in more skills, or being alerted who exactly had just helped you in battle, or being able to interact with them more in the game, or having their skills better affect their likelihood of beating a contract mission. As it is, they're nothing more than tools like your weapons.
The second major problem is that the Italy plot is extremely hard to follow -- assuming, that is, that there was an Italy plot that I just didn't pick up on. The gist of the plot is that the Borgia, the family of the Pope you tried to kill in the previous game, run Rome and you're trying to liberate it. That's pretty much all. As the game goes along, you're given arbitrary tasks that someone claims is going to help the cause, but it's never really clear why you're doing any given thing at a given time. It comes across largely as padding, or an excuse to limit your access to the otherwise-open world. There's no real major plot developments, although the characters are still interesting. More importantly, it's not really clear how the Italy plot relates to the Templars; the extent of the relation seems to be that all your enemies also happen to be Templars, nothing more.
The third main problem has to do with the glyph-related plot. As we saw in the previous games, finding glyphs is a way of finding the alternate history the game weaves regarding how actual world events set into motion the Templar-Assassin struggle in the modern day. It was one of the coolest parts of the previous game, showing how World War II and major industry leaders in the early 1900s supposedly played a role. The problem here is that they bring most of those things much closer to the present day, covering mostly the past 20 years. That enters the realm of extremely loaded history since you're no longer dealing with history, but rather current events. In this context, the game gets far, far too political. I don't mean to propose the game has an agenda, but the implication of the game is basically that capitalism and conservatism are evil. They're the modern day Templars, and the game makes no effort to hide the fact that it's labeling all the conservative political leaders as evil, and all the capitalist and free enterprise chiefs as secretly rulers of the world. Among the specific people it insults are Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, George W. Bush, and all the current Republican Supreme Court Justices. The transparency of it is very distracting and loses some of the intrigue of the previous game; when one was surprised at the fictional implications the game was making, it was very interesting, but when one can easily predict what the game is going to say about certain things, it becomes much more petty.
I basically added one point to the ending of my Assassin's Creed II review because of how great the ending was. I'm taking a point off my Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood review because of how terrible the ending was. And seriously, I mean terrible. Likely the worst video game ending I've ever seen. It somehow found a way to be confusing, anticlimactic, and completely bizarre all at the same time.
My first gripe about the ending is that you don't see it coming at all. Usually with games like this, you kind of know when you're on your way to the final battle, and you know you have to take care of any sidequests now or else you'll beat the game without finishing them. Not in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. I even played the last portion of the game with a walkthrough specifically so that I wouldn't miss my chance to do the sidequests, yet I still missed it. Why? There's one point at which you've unlocked unrestricted access to everywhere in the game world, and literally the very next plot point starts the dominoes that lead to the end of the game. The problem? Between those two plot points, the game tells you, "Hurry to this place to meet this character!" You don't actually have to hurry there right then. You can leave and come back a week later. But it feels like you have to hurry, and once you do, it's too late.
The ending itself at that level is incredibly disappointing, too. It's basically a series of completely disconnected battles and random small platformer sections, and then eventually a random battle with the enemy you've been chasing all game. There's no real explanation for why these random battles are happening around you or where you even are. I think the game implies these battles happen several months later. There's two sides throughout this sequence that fight each other, but inexplicably both fight you, too, and you never really know who they are or why they're fighting. There's just no continuity to it whatsoever, it feels incredibly disjointed and confusing. Plus, you can't even use the game's entire gimmick, the Brotherhood, in these closing sections. I always thought that scene from the promotional cutscene would actually happen in the gameplay somehow, but no, it never does. The ending just fizzles completely.
But that's just the ending at the Italy level of the plot. And frankly, fizzling is better than what the game does in the modern-day plot. I take notes when I play games so I remember what I was thinking and what to write about, and my note (censorship added) regarding the real ending is: "What the literal f*** just happened?" Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against big climactic surprising endings. But you know the phrase "jumping the shark?" When a series does something so out-of-this-world bizarre that it's impossible to take it seriously anymore? Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood jumps the shark so bad that it enters orbit afterward. The ending has the biggest moment of unexplained WTFitude I've ever seen in a game plot.
Now, admittedly, the next game could always find a way to explain it in a way that makes it the most brilliant video game plot twist since Kalas in Baten Kaitos, in which case I'd have to come back and remove this criticism. Wouldn't really elevate the game's score at all since the first two criticisms on their own drop it to a 6 in my mind, but still.
There's a lot to love in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. The new features really do add something to the game, and although I criticize the crossbow and the Brotherhood as being overpowered, they're very fun to use. Rome is a great new city to explore, and the abundance of real historical landmarks makes it even more enjoyable. The new plot is long enough to justify a full game, which is good since $60 would be a lot to pay for effectively a multiplayer expansion pack, even when the multiplayer is very, very good.
But the game is plagued by many of the same issues that affected its predecessor, and more importantly, it's far more glitchy and unpolished than is possibly justified for a game that carried 80% of its content (the engine) over from the previous game. The plot makes little sense, flipping back and forth between being boring and plodding and being ridiculous and unbelievable. There's still a lot of the dumb features like money and fetch quests that the second game introduced even though the first game demonstrated a game could do just fine without them. And did I mention glitchy? Yeah, still very glitchy.
If you've enjoyed the other Assassin's Creed games, play Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. It still has the same appeal, there's enough new content, and surely you'll want to see the next plot developments. If you didn't enjoy the others, you certainly won't enjoy this one. And if you haven't played the others, then it doesn't matter: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood won't make any sense to you if you haven't played at least Assassin's Creed II, both in gameplay and plot, so try that one out first.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 10/17/11, Updated 06/18/12
Game Release: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (US, 11/16/10)
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