The life of an assassin is surely not an easy one. Brotherhood sees the return of Ezio Auditore da Firenze as he goes around leaping from building to building and taking out bad guys in another story of revenge. But as we all know, the life of Ezio is only part of the story, and it all begins once again in the near future with poor old Desmond.
Having gotten mixed up in an ongoing war between the Assassins and the powerful Templars, Desmond once again plugs himself in to the Animus, a machine that enables him to play out memories of ancestral lives that are stored in his DNA. Brotherhood has Desmond doing a lot more than in the previous games, including some running around and climbing. But the real hero of the game is Ezio and the sections with Desmond only act as filler until the player gets back into the action.
So, after an attack on his villa and the murder of a relative, Ezio travels to the massive city of Rome in order to exact revenge on the Borgia family. This is no quick mission of revenge, as the Borgia family are the most powerful in Rome. Thus begins the slow and gradual journey to that goal.
The city of Rome looks absolutely stunning. It is divided into distinctly different districts, perhaps to make up for the fact that there is only one city in this game. The architecture and general atmosphere of the city is incredibly well done and a quick leap up to the rooftops will show how much detail has gone into the recreation of the city. From high up, the player is able to see easily recognisable landmarks and the city stretching off into the distance. It is easily one of the best video game playgrounds that I have had the pleasure of exploring. Around every corner there is something else to do or see.
As I already mentioned, the journey to revenge will be a slow one. The Borgia are so powerful within the city or Rome, that finding the opportunity to exact revenge will take a lot of planning. From the main map, the player is able to see the story missions and continue down that route, but there are many other things to do in the city, all of which go some way towards reducing the power of the Borgia. Within a given district, the player can take out the Borgia captain and burn down the guard tower, thus reducing their influence. This opens the possibility of investment in local businesses, not just to increase Ezio’s cash flow, but to gain access to equipment and get the people of that district behind him. It is this slow grinding down of the Borgia influence that is so satisfying, giving everything that the player does a purpose.
As the player progresses and takes control of more and more of the city, they will soon be able to start building their own Brotherhood of Assassins to both aid their mission and provide yet more extra cash. These assassins can be sent away to train and take on other contracts, or help Ezio as the risks get greater.
Those wanting to get their tomb raider on will be pleased to know that the barbarian-styled Followers of Romulus have a series of underground catacombs that are ripe for exploring. They offer a decent challenge and will have the player making daring leaps and solving puzzles in order to progress.
This latest chapter in the Assassin’s Creed story is not without it’s problems though. During combat Ezio is still very slow to react, which is a disadvantage when facing off against numerous foes. This is made more evident by the fact that the foes are actually cleverer than in the previous games. Another problem that rears it’s head is one that has been present in all of the Assassin’s Creed games, a lack of precise control. Ezio does have a tendency to decide for himself what he wants to do, such as jumping to his doom instead of leaping to the next building, or kicking away from a wall instead of climbing it. One particular instance that this was incredibly frustrating was in the underground tombs. I had found myself at a point that I knew exactly where I needed to go, through a series of elimination, but for some reason Ezio would not make the jump, instead constantly jumping to the ground. After numerous attempts at this move, which was required to progress, he finally did it, but I could not tell you what I did differently to make this happen. But this was the worst instance I found and, although slightly annoying, it was in no way game breaking. Fortunately there is just so much to do in the game that small irritations such as these are quickly forgotten.
One of the most interesting additions to Brotherhood is a new multiplayer game. Offering up a number of different modes, playing mutiplayer mostly revolves around being given a contract on one of the other players and trying to hunt them down, whilst avoiding the assassin who has your contract. This game of cat and mouse is incredibly intense and will feed the paranoid delusions of all but the most stable player. Progression allows the player to level up and earn special skills or better equipment.
Much as the multiplayer game is a lot of fun, the true star of the show is the single player campaign. There really is so much to do and it is so well polished that anyone who played either of the last two games and enjoyed them should rush out to get this now. All of the Assassin’s Creed games are good and hold pride of place on my gaming shelf. But Brotherhood is by far the best and has me shaking with anticipation for next year’s installment. Easily one of my games of the year.