Review by AK_the_Twilight

"Bringing a Hidden Blade to a Knife Fight"

From its surreal sci-fi/historical blend to its breathtaking visuals, the Assassin's Creed series has burst from a simple concept into a universe beyond anything seen in gaming. The flawed gem of the original Assassin's Creed did feel disappointing upon release, but by making small, but meaningful progressions to the already stunning framework, Ubisoft Montreal delivered a thorough refinement in the sequel, Assassin's Creed II. But it seems Ezio's journey isn't over, and once again, it's back to the Animus for another trip to the past. Ubisoft Montreal triumphs with Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, a game filled with diverse mission design, a purposeful narrative, and a multiplayer component that successfully takes the gameplay of the single-player and makes it work for an online crowd.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood takes place immediately after the events of Assassin's Creed II, with Desmond Miles still exploring the world of his ancestor Ezio Auditore da Firenze while using the Animus machine, a device that lets its user experience their ancestry through buried memories. The journey begins with a rise in the action, with Ezio staring down a colossal palace. Unfortunately, the Animus is unable to connect the palace with the events after Assassin's Creed II, leaving Desmond and his support crew drawing a blank. Desmond begins to piece together Ezio's life in the city of Rome, where the enemies of the Assassin Order, the Borgia, have seized control. It's up to Ezio to assemble the forces of Rome and overthrow the Borgia rule, while Desmond himself searches for clues to Ezio's past. The stories between Ezio and Desmond intertwine occasionally, but very much like Assassin's Creed II, Ezio is the star. The features in his personality evolve considerably in Brotherhood, but he still is the same Ezio we've grown to love since his introduction. It's best to brush up on your Assassin's Creed mythology before diving into Brotherhood, since it has little recap of previous events in the series. Once you're up to speed, however, you'll find a fine continuation of this beloved modern series.

The same leaps and bounds that Assassin's Creed has prided itself on are present in Brotherhood. Ezio is still a nimble hero, allowing smooth traversal throughout Rome on a near constant basis. Climbing up the sides of houses, walking across beams, and shimmying along ledges are as easy to accomplish as ever. Still, there are occasions where the controls can feel a bit too sensitive. With Brotherhood being the third console title in the series, it's a shame to see these wrinkles still appearing. Brotherhood definitely has the most refined controls in the series, even with these issues. The exploration is exciting and harrowing; many of the series' trademark features like the famous Leap of Faith and stealth kills all return, as fluid as they've ever been. Though it is frustrating to accidentally fall off a ledge due to a clumsy camera situation, traveling through Rome is still a treat.

Ezio may have the moves, but he also has the brains for many of the game's other features. Very much like Monteriggioni in Assassin's Creed II, Rome allows Ezio to take back the city of Rome by recapturing map regions and renovating them with money. Renovation lets Ezio earn income to spend on skills, items, or more renovations. It's simple, but the payoff is definitely worth it, especially if you're after the more premium items. New to Ezio's journey is the ability to recruit rebellious citizens and enlist them in the Assassin Order. By saving people from Borgia tyranny, Ezio can gather followers, who can then be sent on missions across Europe for experience and cash, or simply as a way to take out soldiers in Rome. The micro-management may seem intimidating at first, but it all comes together in one diverse package that continues to grow as you progress.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is massive, the biggest and most cohesive game in the series yet. Aside from renovations, recapturing territory, and training the assassin elite, Ezio can search for treasure, find viewpoints, or even visit longtime friend Leonardo Da Vinci for missions. The fact that the whole game is centered on Rome makes it feel tight and unified. Though the city is enormous, you can always find a trusty steed to ride or tunnels to unlock. It's extremely easy to get distracted in the city of Rome; you'll no doubt spend hours just looking for other missions to complete and skills to try out. The main quest will last you about 10 hours, but prepare for some huge extensions once you get hooked on side missions. Brotherhood is by far the biggest game in the series and getting lost in Ezio's world is always an engaging and exciting time.

One of the game's most prominent additions is the multiplayer, which should've never been this good. Assassin's Creed wasn't built for multiplayer, but Ubisoft Montreal once again breaks new ground by making a unique and inventive multiplayer component for the treasured series. The typical match involves players seeking out their target while also avoiding a pursuer. Making a kill awards players points, with bonuses being awarded for the style of kill and how stealthy the kill was. Many of the game's staples make a strong transition into multiplayer, like hiding in hay piles for a surprise attack and joining groups to avoid detection. Like many online games in this generation, Brotherhood disperses XP at the ends of games for players to unlock skills and perks. This lets players find a unique style of play, whether it's increased speed or skills like disguises or long-range attacks. The control issues that arise in the single-player portion do appear in the multiplayer, though they can be a bit more frustrating when going up against live human opponents. Overall, though, the multiplayer's cat-and-mouse approach is unlike anything on Xbox Live these days. It's exciting, versatile, and some of the most fun you'll have online.

As far as presentation goes, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood sticks to its strengths. Rome's enormous size keeps load times at bay, allowing free and cohesive movement from mission to mission. Assassin's Creed has prided itself on amazing vistas and adrenaline-pumped chases, and though there are plenty of those in Brotherhood, don't expect any serious progression. Technically, aside from the lack of load times when freely exploring Rome, the graphics are pretty much the same as the last game. The viewpoints still are breathtaking, the battles remain well choreographed, and the overall sense of realism and natural motion are all accounted for. Still, the cinematic facial expressions seem mechanical at times, and you'll likely notice some pop-in graphics while running through fields. The voice acting, however, is fantastic. Roger Craig Smith's role as Ezio shows maturity since Assassin's Creed II, but there are plenty of occasions where you'll get to see Ezio's more laid-back side. Desmond Miles is played by Nolan North, who captures the curious, but serious nature of the modern-day assassin-in-training. All in all, the presentation is just the same as the previous game, for better or for worse.

+ A realized and inviting representation of Rome is a thrill to explore
+ Huge amount of challenges and objectives to complete
+ Extensive and startlingly good multiplayer

- Objectives appear a bit too frequently and can feel overwhelming
- Suffers from a few control issues, especially in multiplayer

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood is a fantastic adventure, one that takes enough risks to feel new, while still refining the core values of the series. Ezio and Desmond's interweaving narratives can feel a bit dependent on the player's knowledge of the series, but thanks to great presentation and a captivating plot, discovering new storyline segments is plenty rewarding. Even more rewarding are the many, many challenges scattered across Rome. Whether you're enlisting new recruits for the Brotherhood or simply scouring the city for buried treasure, you'll find something to like among the diverse collection of objectives. The multiplayer is the biggest surprise; its tense game mechanics and remarkable sense of depth make up for the minor control issues that sneak into the online antics. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is an overwhelmingly big experience, one that will take some time to truly sink in, but once you enter Rome, turning back just won't feel right. The Assassin's Creed series has consistently improved since its debut with each installment making subtle, but valued changes. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood throws subtlety out the window, instead focusing on scope, depth, and risk-taking that eclipse the content of the past two console titles without holding anything back. Without a doubt, this is the best game in the series thus far.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 10/11/11

Game Release: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (US, 11/16/10)

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