As the name implies, Brotherhood isn't a one-man show. You can save townspeople from attacks by the Borgia and then recruit them to join your cause. These townspeople become assassins you can use to undertake missions in distant cities and, more importantly, as backup during particularly nasty fights in Rome. It makes taking out the heavier defended Borgia towers a bit easier. These recruits also level up and develop in very specific ways, so you really start to get attached to them. It's a nice addition to the game's other management tasks and makes you feel like you're really leading a movement to free Rome. Better still, it's great to sit on top of a tower looking down on your enemies and then see your assassin brothers leap from the shadows and kill everyone in sight.
Of course, the game's not perfect. There are some inconsistencies in the setting - like having your wanted posters taped to the top of a tower where no one but you is ever going to see them - and there are some of the same old control issues the series has always had. Given the range of commands possible here, the designers have done a good job keepings things simple, but Brotherhood suffers from the "one button for several different things" problem. The "sprint" button, for instance, is also the "hide in a haystack" button and the "jump up on a building" button. That makes chasing targets through narrow streets particularly irritating.
The combat, has improved in lots of areas, particularly in terms of animations and fluid executions, but the counters still make things a bit too easy and automatic. Even if you're surrounded by enemies, you can just mash the counter button over and over and take out the enemies one by one. A few of the better armed, armored enemies (and those captains who run away while you're fighting their guards) will definitely make things much more challenging. Fortunately, a couple of kicks to the groin are usually enough to take down most enemies. The real awesomeness comes when you get into mounted combat. Assassinating a dude from horseback is about as good as it gets.
Assassin's Creed Brotherhood also includes multiplayer for the first time in the series' history. The public servers aren't up in time to properly evaluate them for this review, but the sessions we played before the game's release were quite fun. Most of the modes have players all tracking each other through levels filled with NPCs. And since each player looks like a common NPC, it can be tricky to tell who is and who isn't an assassin. Having multiple assassins in a level all trying to kill each other without looking like assassins really tests your hunting and hiding skills to the limit. The single player portion of the game is still the main attraction, but multiplayer is a nice bonus.
If you were as big a fan of Assassin's Creed 2 as I was, Assassin's Creed Brotherhood is a sure bet. It does all the things the previous game did, and throws in a few surprises as well. It would have been nice if the story had been more welcoming to newcomers, but the ending of the previous game was so up in the air, it's understandable that Brotherhood hits the ground running.
Bottom Line: This is a fantastic game, but only if you desperately crave the second half of the Assassin's Creed 2 experience. If you hated the original game, there's nothing here to sway you and the story certainly doesn't welcome newcomers. The multiplayer adds a nice diversion.
Recommendation: If you liked the last one, you'll like this one. If you didn't like the last one, why have you even read this far?
Steve Butts wonders where he can get some of that miraculously cushiony hay.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
Game: Assassin's Creed Brotherhood
Genre: Action Adventure
Release Date: November 16th, 2010
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Available from: Amazon