Hands up who likes killing stuff.
Anyone who isn’t waving like a drowning raver should click ‘back’ right now, because Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood has you spilling great rivers of blood until you’re hip-deep in gore. In just a few hours of gameplay, I must have slaughtered more people than Pol Pot and Adolf Hitler combined. Of course, it’s not just about the body count; it’s the way you off ‘em that matters.
Fans of the previous two instalments will be right at home. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood’s story is a direct continuation from Part Two, with Ezio and his uncle the target of antagonist/evil bastard Cesare Borgia, who’s after the mysterious glowing apple thing that Ezio nicked at the end of the last game.
This was all news to me as I never completed Assassin’s Creed 2, and I have to admit I was confused as hell for the first few hours as I struggled to catch up. Newcomers beware, you’re best off playing these games in order.
I started up Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood the moment it arrived, eager to leap majestically across the skyline of Rome. What I got was an hour of lugging boxes, taming horses and testing cannons in Ezio’s home village. It’s a less than impressive start, but just as boredom sets in, the village is attacked in an impressive set-piece that has you charging through crumbling streets on horseback before fighting off hordes of soldiers using your sword and the aforementioned cannons.
But just as the blood starts pumping (through your veins, and out of enemies’ severed arteries), you’re thrust back to the future to play as Ezio’s descendent Desmond. As usual, Desmond is running from the Templars, along with his motley crew (sadly still including the sarcastic and bloody annoying Shaun, voiced by Danny Wallace).
Brief side note: why are British people in games and films either A) annoying posh pricks, B) inherently evil, or C) inherently evil annoying posh pricks?
Again the pace grinds down, with some Uncharted-inspired linear jumping segments and a bit of boring object hunting. However, persevere and you’re finally rewarded with Ezio’s arrival in the glorious virtual representation of 16th Century Rome.
This is what Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood is all about. The first time I climbed a tower and swept the camera across the shining Roman rooftops, my jaw smacked off my keyboard. It’s an experience I’d rank with the beginning of Unreal, where you step out of the downed spacecraft onto the alien planet. Truly memorable.
You spend a lot of time in Rome so you have plenty of time to explore, and can thankfully use a bit of horse power to get around the beautifully rendered streets. And of course, there’s plenty of convenient posts and ledges to clamber on.
Developers Ubisoft Montreal have spent a lot of time making Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood’s world incredibly detailed. This detail extends into gameplay, with tons of side missions and challenges to bolster the single player mode and add some much-needed relief. It’s also loads of fun simply running across Rome’s rooftops, seeing what you can find. However, some areas are annoyingly off-limits until you’ve reached certain points in the story.
The assassinations are fun as usual, involving sneaking up on a target before dispatching a generous helping of death. You can make it swift with the wrist blade, or go a-hackin’ with your sword, the choice is yours. Regardless, you’ll inevitably end up surrounded by pissed off guards who aren’t too impressed by your blood-letting tendencies.
Here you can either fight or run. Combat remains a basic combination of block and parry, although you can string one-hit kills into a satisfying combo once you’re skilled enough. Fighting does get dull rather fast, however, so running is usually advised. Find cover and stay out of sight long enough, and the guards will give up the chase and wander off to find a new pursuit. Cribbage, perhaps.
While Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood doesn’t take many risks and is similar to the previous game, there are a couple of cool additions. Sandbox fans will likely enjoy the ability to buy and renovate properties, although it’s far less fun than removing limbs from bad people. We preferred to build up an army of minions, who can then be trained up and called on to help during missions. If only we had these dudes in real life, the world would be so much better.
There’s always been great potential for multiplayer modes in Assassin’s Creed, and Brotherhood delivers a truly interesting take on the usual deathmatch. You’re paired up with strangers if you don’t have friends to play with, at which point everyone is assigned another player to assassinate. You know your target’s vague whereabouts thanks to your mini-map, but will need to visually pick them out amongst the crowd before striking.
The real tension comes from knowing that someone else is always hunting you. Do you track down your target quickly, leaping over rooftops and pushing through the crowds, which gives away your position to both prey and predator? Or do you blend in, to avoid the knife at your throat? Be warned that most online players are already expert assassins, so beginners should find friends to battle against.
Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood is more of the same for fans, with a couple of interesting additions such as the ability to raise a group of faithful followers. However, the highlight has to be the sprawling recreation of Rome, while the usual parkour antics are as fun as ever. Multiplayer is well worth a look, and it’s just a shame that chunks of the single player experience are uninspired and lacking in thrills.
Bear in mind that for a smooth frame rate, you’ll need at least a Core 2 Duo machine with 2GB of RAM and a reasonably powerful graphics card. We tried it on a Core 2 Duo with 4GB of RAM and a mid-range nVidia GPU, and it ran on full detail with no slowdown.