A figure in a white cape crouches atop the Pantheon. The 15th Century Italian sun rises across one of the Seven Hills of Rome.
In the blink of an eye, a city guard tumbles to his death from his roof post, a crossbow bolt leaving the only clue to his demise.
The Great Assassin of Rome had already moved on to his next target. There is a war brewing beneath the glorious walls of the city, a brotherhood is rising.
Tracing both the memory and footsteps of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, you will find an adventure tale unfolding that sparks both conspiracy theories and moments of murderous abandonment.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is the third installment of the ever-improving series by Ubisoft, and it is by far the best.
No time is wasted as you’re dragged from the mysterious ‘on-the-run’ world of Desmond, back in to the cutthroat world of ‘the ancestor’.
The story follows directly on from the end of the second game, as Ezio, foolishly thinking his work was done after defeating the Templar Pope - Rodrigo Borgia, tries to get back to his life, back to normality, in picturesque Tuscany.
He should know better by now. Before long you’re thrust into the action and the story quickly moves on to the city of Rome. This, dear reader, is where the game earns its money.
The detail and expansiveness both in and outside the walls of Rome are extraordinary and hours can be spent exploring the different sights and attractions, before it hits you that there’s a war to be won.
That war, is brought about by Ezio’s determination to rid Rome of corruption and free its oppressed peoples. Nice, huh? The only way to do this, it seems, is to start a revolution, to give the people the tools to rebel, to start a brotherhood.
This becomes a growing ‘to-do’ in the game, and it’s quite addictive. Recruiting and training members of the population to do your killing while you watch on, incognito, is rewarding, if you can’t stay out of the action you can always get involved, sword a-swinging.
The developers have taken care to keep the story-line concise, while expanding the extras, which balances the game gracefully.
If you were to rampage through the story, a play-through could be done in around nine hours, but beyond that, the endless side quests add extreme longevity to a title that at times looks stunning.
As the assassin clambers up the inside of the famous Colosseum, a real sense of exploration enters the body. The atmosphere, often ambient light and elegant solitude of the game creates a feeling of freedom which eclipses all other aspects.
The aim of the Brotherhood is to overthrow the reign of the Borgia; a renaissance style Mafia that has infiltrated many areas of Rome and now has allied itself with the maverick military commander, Cesare.
Cesare. Must. Die. But there’s something more to this scoundrel than meets the eye, what is it? He knows something, but what? Ezio is driven throughout in an attempt to confront this greater evil in what culminates in a dramatic sequence of final events.
Ezio is not alone in his journey and, for those who enjoyed the invention of the second game, Leonardo Da Vinci is back, slightly aged, just like the master assassin, but still eager to supply you with some interesting gadgets à la Q. BASE jumping, anyone?
This game has a simple function which is fun and easy to use. It does have its fiddly bits which leave you staring blankly at the screen, like a dog that’s just been shown a card trick. Whenever you miss a simple jump or infuriatingly jump away from the wall those precious minutes when the clock is ticking seem like hours
Battle events are fun, but extremely easy. Even as a novice gamer, once you master the block counter-manoeuvre you can take on an unlimited amount of men and come out on top.
There is little to do outside of the Animus, except to snoop around on the team's emails, although those who do so should keep an eye out for any enemy footprints... I say no more.
Desmond gets to stretch his legs at the beginning and end of the game, but most of the fun lies with Ezio who is by far the better character (besides, you don’t have to deal with that annoying tech geek, voiced by Danny Wallace).
Brotherhood is, mostly, free of bugs. There were some problems which cropped up that required a ‘memory’ restart, but the autosave makes lost time a small issue. These issues mostly related to locked doors which should be open thanks to some occassional functionality problems, but anyway....
Online, there are plenty of internet points to be plundered by causing havoc. A sweet online kill can bring even the most serious gamer to crack a smile, but the intriguing wider story behind the Creed series is a slow burner, so don’t expect anything to be wrapped up quickly.
If you found the second game fun, then the third will leave you delighted and eager to explore more. Ubisoft have delivered a neat, high budget, quality title that delivers almost exactly what you would want with plenty of extras and surprises.
Free-running around the streets of Rome is something that should be sampled, and although galloping down narrow alley’s on horseback does present much hilarity, you’re in danger of missing out one of the best aspects of the game: the cityscape.
Few cities have been reconstructed as beautifully as this has, and the historical accuracy is impressive, even for this writer's geeky architectural needs.
The major pulling power for this title, however, is the freedom it offers. You can go anywhere, do anything, and do it your way. Working your way along the rooftops, looking for prey is invigorating and enjoyable.
If you don’t have the heart to be overly ruthless, you can busy yourself rebuilding the city’s economy which offered to me at least, a sort of sad stamp-collecting type hobby.
I wasn’t satisfied until I’d restored glory to Rome, and I wasn’t satisfied until this game was completed, that, ladies and gentlemen, is the mark of a good game.