Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Do You Remember that bit in Assassin's Creed 2 where Desmond and Lucy are scurrying through a Templars' lab, surrounded by Animuses? That's where the multiplayer element in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood kicks off, eight players stuck in their ancestors' lives, attempting to knife each other and run off giggling. This is the big thing Ubisoft are doing with Brotherhood, but you'll have to wait for it, as discussion must fall to the majority interest which is single-player.
The danger with Brotherhoods offline mode (or accurately, constant online mode because Ubisoft's DRM) is that it'll feel like playing the second game again. Ubisoft are adamant this is much more than Assassin's Creed2.5, that it's a proper third game, even though it doesn't have a "3" in the title. But it could be very similar as, despite moving from Venice to Rome, it's about Ezio running around a city in Renaissance Italy.
As this goes against Ubisoft's claim that Brotherhood is a full-on new game they have counterarguments ready. While it might just be another Italian city, Rome is massive in comparison to Venice, with five distinct districts to explore that form the game's entire setting.
When you first set foot in the city, you'll notice how dilapidated it is, and you might note the lack of an upgradeable mansion, like you had in AC2. This is because you can spend money on upgrading the city itself, rather than a personal pad. It's a curious idea, and will be linked with the usual unlocks and so on, and is one idea we'll have to see in practice before we side with the yay or naysayers. There won't be any trips into the leafy countryside either, but you'll be able, for the first time, to travel the city with your horse. And you'll be appalled to know that Ubisoft are proudly hailing the pimping possibilities for your horse. No, Italian women aren't desperately lonely, they mean you can kit your equine pal out in a variety of bridles, saddles and sunglasses.
Story-wise, Ezio's now in his '40s, yet still nimble, sprightly and capable of slashing your whole family to death before you've even blinked. And he's not the only AC2 star coming back, either. Leonardo da Vinci will return, with his fun gadgets o' death, and we're promised more of Machiavelli, who flitted in and out of number two. Curiously, another character who'll make an appearance is one that was dead at the end of the second game, the Pope.
Pope Alexander VI (nee Rodrigo Borgia) might have been brutally killed, but that isn't stopping him living and being a menace to all things Ezio in Brotherhood. He's brought in reinforcements this time, with his son Cesare and Lucrezia, his famously murderous daughter, getting involved. More famous Borgia and characters are sure to be introduced as Ubisoft's hype machine begins to rumble on in the coming months.
As he was hard-pushed to deal with Rodrigo in the second game, this time Ezio's going to need backup: hence the 'Brotherhood' part of the game's title. As a grumpy middle-aged man, Ezio has decided to impart his killing wisdom to the various promising youngsters he finds as the game progresses.
Once you've collected them, they can be assigned different tasks using a curious chessboard-esque interface. Eventually they can even be called upon when you're out roaming. See a rather nasty guard holding a halberd/sword/rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle? Don't dirty your own blade with his vile common blood, just give a signal and suddenly one of the Ezio Juniors will come slinking from the crowd and empty the contents of the guards' stomach onto the ground with their knife.
If you do choose to fight the scoundrel, he might call up some equally nefarious buddies, so you'll be glad to hear there's more than one way to skin a variety of soldier-cats. A number of new melee moves can be chained together to take out multiple enemies, culminating in a 'rage mode' that gives an instant kill for every successful link in the move chain.
Ubisoft says pro-active players will be rewarded for their aggression. Designer Patrick Plourde even goes so far as to say, "strike first, strike fast," which sounds like the motto of an assassin's guild to us. It also applies to your enemies though, who'll be doing a lot more harrying than their docile brethren from games first and second. Now to the multiplayer. The first bit of good news is it's being handled by Ubisoft Annecy. Not the most well-known of studios, but they did help make Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow's excellent multiplayer game.
The only mode we know about so far is Hunter, but it sounds a doozy. You start off walking in a crowd, a clock counting down to when you have control over your character. The reason for this is that if you appeared in the game stationary, everyone could see you were a player-controlled character, and remaining hidden is what Hunted is all about.
A Hunted level starts with eight players walking amongst a crowd of similarly dressed NPCs. Each player is assigned another player to kill, with a compass pointing towards their target. So you're not only hunting another player, but being hunted by one yourself. As there are only eight different character models crowds won't be that diverse, but that's not the point: every player needs to blend in with the crowd to avoid standing out as a target. So you'll have to keep an eye out for any kind of suspicious behaviour, such as someone moving in an unexpected way (like right towards you).
The interesting thing about identifying your mark is that the NPCs will ape human behaviour as much as possible. One might start running for a while, or stop and look around. You go over to them and kill them and it turns out not to be a human, but your action clearly shows you are and, bam, you're the one with a knife in the ribs because you exposed yourself to your own hunter.
Hunted is a deliciously enticing prospect and one that you'd hope works as well in practice as it does in theory.
All this adds up to a familiar yet excitingly different experience for veterans of Assassin's Creed. There's the continuation of the main plotline and all the old favourites in the single-player mode, with the twist of a potentially brilliant multiplayer mode that will keep things interesting once you're tired of collecting feathers.
Brotherhood is looking like a game to keep an eye on, as it could surprise a lot of people.
Download Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP