Assassins Creed: Brotherhood
- Street Date:
- November 16th, 2010
- Reviewed by:
- Nick Hartel
- Review Date:1
- October 1st, 2011
- Game Release Year:
- Ubisoft Montreal
- ESRB Rating:
- M (Mature)
“Assassins Creed: Brotherhood” might be, hands-down the best game in the series, it is by no means an entry point, despite sporting the most refined game play and offering the most replay value. Picking up at the exact moment “Assassins Creed II” leaves off, “Brotherhood” follows Ezio, now a seasoned, jaded assassins on his quest to liberate Rome from the oppressive rule of the Borgias. Drawing from history yet again, the series offers players a heavy dose of historical fiction (emphasis on that last word) and a game that refuses to pander to newcomers. Rather than follow the all too familiar trap of adding a tacky plot contrivance as to why all your cool moves and gadgets aren’t accessible, “Brotherhood” merely takes a select few away (under the guise of breaking down from routine wear and tear) and forces you to help their now enslaved by the state creator Leonardo Da Vinci in order to reacquire them. Newcomers who make the mistake of skipping the previous installment will not only find themselves lost in a sea of intricate plotting and characterization, but hopelessly floundering at the difficulty of the game which assumes you mastered Ezio’s basic and not-so basic skills a year prior.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
For those who loved “Assassins Creed II’s” game play, “Brotherhood” will not let you down. Ezio is just as easy to control as before and as the game progresses, he acquires new tricks up sleeves (in many instances literally) to tackle the legions of Borgia thugs. Combat kicks things up a notch with more enemies and deadlier enemies. I won’t hopelessly attempt to explain the rich story of “Brotherhood,” but only set up the journey by noting you are now working with the head of the Assassins, none other than Nico Machiavelli. As your quest to recover the stolen Piece of Eden and once and for all eliminate the Borgia menace, you’ll find help in the form of side quests from the thieves guild, mercenaries guild, courtesan’s guild, and new to the series, assassin’s guild. The former two are led by familiar faces from “Assassins Creed II’ while your sister takes over the courtesan’s guild and Ezio himself builds the assassins guild in the game’s most notable double-edged addition.
In an attempt to add more life to play time, Ezio can now recruit citizens he saves from NPC attacks and form teams of assassins, leveling them up with increasingly difficult quests to send them on. As they grow in strength, Ezio earns the spoils of their efforts and can also call on them to aid him at a moment’s notice. While there is a mandatory cool-down period between usages, a player finding him or herself frustrated with the difficulty of a particular quest could easily abuse the overly able NPC allies and thusly, robbing themselves of challenging game play. Ultimately, the assassins guild as well as the other guilds and commerce system merely exist to provide Ezio the in-game cash to upgrade weapons. Any desire to fully upgrade everything the game has to offer, is solely a personal choice.
The main storyline of “Brotherhood” will keep the average gamer occupied for somewhere just south of 20 hours. The little side quests, including flashbacks, journeys outside the Animus with Desmond (ultimately pointless apart from driving the narrative forward), and a new treasure hunt end up making your first run through seem much longer than it actually requires. Only the liberation of Borgia towers becomes a necessity to make travel through the various districts easier and frankly, they result in some stellar combat sequences. It’s quite impossible to list every single new enhancement “Brotherhood” brings to the table. Like “Assassins Creed II” before it, “Brotherhood” does the impossible and takes a great game and makes it better. The developers chose to not tamper with a good thing and built upon what made the previous installment so fun. While the initially steep learning curve makes the game very inaccessible to a newcomer, to reiterate a logical sentiment, no one should be coming into the series at this point anyway.
On its own, “Brotherhood” would go down as a very, very good game, with post storyline replay value a little higher than before, but geared mostly towards the collectibles seeker. What makes “Brotherhood” a great game is the out-of-nowhere appearance of a multiplayer system that is neither tacked on nor a work-in-progress. Taking the nuts and bolts of core single player game play and adapting them for multiplayer(6-12 players) experience, “Brotherhood” offers simple choices of solo work, two-player co-op, or more organized larger team based game play. Most game modes are built around the concept of assassinating a specific character (each player is allowed to select a unique in-game skin) with NPCs populating the world with duplicates. Players earn XP based on how professionally they complete the hit. It might be easy to alert your prey and track them down in a foot chase, but that only results in a fraction of the XP a pro can get from passing by them in a crowd and silently poisoning them as they haplessly walk away. Chest Capture is the one big departure, offering exactly what it sounds like, a variation on area control. It’s honestly boring when put up against the unique deathmatch experience.
The average gamer will likely hate “Brotherhood’s” multiplayer mode, which requires patience in both in-game action and character class design, with the latter opening up slowly as the player increases in rank. However, for the fan of the franchise, multiplayer is the next logical conclusion and many series veterans may find themselves for the first time having fun playing online, as the whole experience is not even comparable with an FPS or sports game. The multiplayer system will reward players who put in work to learn the system’s unique qualities and the new approach to game play. While a lot of the time one will be working his or her way through crowds stalking, the literal execution of your plan is as thrilling and intense as running headfirst into a crowd of opponents in “Black Ops” and coming out still standing.
“Assassins Creed: Brotherhood” like “Assassins Creed II” gets lost by the mass media in a sea of annual FPS offerings, but when the smoke clears emerges as the most true example of innovation. Fans of the series will find the cliffhanger from Ezio’s debut answered and then some, only to be taken on an exciting epic tale , ending on another satisfying and logical cliffhanger. Ezio’s tale is set to be finished once and for all in “Assassins Creed: Revelations” and it will be a bittersweet ending as “Brotherhood” showed us just how much Ezio and his world have to offer in terms of smart storytelling. The developers have chosen to not just reward players with a phenomenal single player sequel, but a somewhat revolutionary multiplayer experience that will help pass the time until the book on Ezio is finally closed. “Brotherhood” is a must purchase, near masterpiece.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Bad news first…”Assassins Creed: Brotherhood” comes so close to perfection, but a combination of two flaws impossible to overlook hold it back. With such high-resolution graphics that are practically all ready for interaction with Ezio, “Brotherhood” occasionally finds itself taking a moment to catch up with the action. While slowdown is a rare occurrence, reserved exclusively for the occasion when Ezio might drop a smoke bomb in crowd of a dozen or more NPCs, it is noticeable, albeit briefly. Instead, screen tearing rears its all too common, ugly head. While screen tearing is much preferable to me than constant dip in frame rate, it is a mar on a beautiful canvas.
The other mar on “Brotherhood’s” exterior is the better, but not perfect camera. As with other games in the franchise, there are instances where camera control is crucial to success, but becomes an adversary at inopportune times. A lot of these camera frustrations stem from venturing near areas where an invisible barrier occurs, but the most memorable arise during heated pursuits where timing is key and finding Ezio the best path to hide or escape is one’s only goal. One particular mission set in a flashback on the docks had me steaming, but eventually I overcame the less than precise game play eye and soldiered through.
Everything else in “Brotherhood” is bliss. The environments are wide an expansive, with a good variety of architectural choices to make Rome’s various districts stand out. A bit of pop-in happens, generally the higher you climb and the more of the city you see, but that’s expected and unavoidable for such an expansive open world experience. Character models are highly detailed and well-animated, with Ezio standing well-above the NPCs. Every so often, some collision detection glitch will break an animation, but mostly Ezio comes off as a piece of the environment himself, snaking his ways through alleys, nimbly scaling walls, and effortlessly crossing rooftops. As an added bonus the Da Vinci side-quests give designers the chance to create unique, one-time environments including watery tunnels, open sea combat, and small villas taken in high above on the wings of invention.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
“Assassins Creed: Brotherhood” is a perfect aural experience. The high emphasis on free-form game play makes the ability for the sound to follow suit an essential quality that the game handles without hesitation. Surrounds track your current path of motion as well as the hustle and bustle of Roman life around you. While it’s far easier to check your in-game HUD for pursuit status, the sound design is so strong, that one could momentarily pause and turn the camera enough for Ezio’s ear to face the direction of pursuit and hear the clattering of weapons, should the be present.
Also perfect and a no-brainer in hindsight, the voice work of “Brotherhood” once again allows for an immersive, cinematic experience. Roger Craig Smith returns as Ezio and while his vocal talents don’t get to show off the amazing progression from idealistic young Ezio the seasoned assassin, he’s confident and consistent in his reprisal. Fan favorite Nolan North actually looks like an amateur this time out, as Desmond still lacks a compelling personality, although Kristen Bell as Lucy picks up the slack in the present-day sequences. As a whole the voice cast make “Brotherhood” the type of game where a few hours in, one could close their eyes and tell which character is speaking.
On a general sound design front, effects carry weight and the subtleties of combat don’t make themselves known until players are able to pull off blocks and reversals with ease, leaving the ear free to catch the differences in tone. The show stealer is Jesper Kyd’s beautiful atmospheric score. Fans of previous entries as well as the “Hitman” series know Kyd is THE name when it comes to game scores and he doesn’t disappoint. A home run for all parties involved.
As with all “Assassins Creed” games, seeking out the collectible items will be the reason to keep going in the end-game free roam mode. Fortunately, the little side contracts provide enough excitement to break up the monotony of climbing for flags or waiting for money to accumulate in order to unlock the remaining shortcuts. “Brotherhood” kicks the replay bar up more than a few notches with the inclusion of the multiplayer mode that will reward patient players with a unique, although often trying experience; however, I would be astonished to find anyone who made it through this game not have an absolute blast with multiplayer.
A few nitpicks aside, “Assassins Creed: Brotherhood” is hands-down, the best game in the series and one of the finest games of this generation. Managing to accomplish the impossible by providing viewers with a compelling fluid, narrative only a year after its phenomenal predecessor along with a refined, innovative multiplayer experience makes it a must own title. Ezio Auditore da Firenze cements his status as one of the best modern video game characters, although to fully appreciate the game play and story, players should definitely not pick this up before running through “Assassins Creed II” as the learning curve would be too high and the plot incomprehensible.
- Dolby Digital 5.1
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