Checking under the Hood you'll see some problems...
I've been a fan of the AC series since the first game. So it was only natural for me to grab a copy of Brotherhood. Though what I got was kind of a mixed bag...
The game picked up literally seconds after the events of AC2. Desmond and company has hit the road after the Templars, while in the Animus, Ezio has confronted his nemesis and discovered the secret hidden beneath the Vatican and must escape. Returning players from AC2 will pick up immediately on where the plot picks up. However, newcomers will feel largely in the dark as Brotherhood draws heavily on elements established in the previous title. Personally though, as a fan who has played the previous games, it's nice not to have a ham handed rehash of what I already knew.
In the same regard the game mechanics previously established are back, with some minor new flourishes and features. You'll still be climbing through the game, the general area being Rome, stalking and taking out your foes. New additions to the combat is an Execution maneuver that allows for continuous killing blows afters successfully countering an attack. The killing blows have also been flared up to incorporate Ezio's hidden pistol, but this is largely for show.
One of the big new features is the ability to recruit and train assassins to join your ranks. The number of recruits is based on the number of Borgia towers you destroy, thus freeing up areas of Rome from their control. Once recruited you can use your assassins to aid you in combat or send them on missions in the greater European area to earn money and experience to rank up your recruits until they officially pledge themselves to the Creed.
Sadly though, this feature largely fades into the background, despite Brotherhood being in the title. After the initial introductory mission they play no part in the overall plot and due to the odd circumstances in which it requires to even check the status of your recruits; the whole feature feels disconnected from the game.
Perhaps my most major gripe is the odd tweaks done to the controls since AC2. For some reason the controls in Brotherhood feel overly sensitive to the point that free-climbing can be twitchy and more often then not you'll be jumping in a direction you never meant to travel. At first I thought it was just me but my room mate, who also played AC2, found similar frustration right from the start. But this is hardly my only complaint.
Overall the game feels average, like an expansion that's getting way too much hype. The story, both Desmond's and Ezio's, feels like it could have been summed up in the first 20 or 30 minutes of AC3, rather then needing a whole separate game. Sadly Ezio's character is showing some holes. We've seen his rise from careless young noble to grizzled assassin. What's left is largely flat and at times inconsistent for plot sake. Equally Desmond is still pretty much silently following Lucy and her team and other then making snarky comments here and there, doesn't make any growth in Brotherhood. The supporting cast of characters are also not as fleshed out as they could have been. Targets Ezio hunts largely just appear just so he has someone to kill, rather then giving us a good background and understanding why we need to kill them. The only exception perhaps being Caesar Borgia, who steals the show whenever he's present.
The new additions quickly get uninteresting after receiving them. Coupled with some choices that may seem pointless, you might feel ripped off. Like, remember the poison in AC2? Yea, I used it maybe once and the results were nothing grand. Well guess what? Now you can shoot the poison needle at targets... Yay?
I should also mention the new multiplayer game, seeing as that's the only thing Ubisoft seemed to market Brotherhood for. I played it on the release day so things may have changed, just bare that in mind.
The setup for the multiplayer is the Templars are using the Animus to train their operatives in the skills of the assassins. That's just the explanation behind it and we have no idea if that hints to elements for AC3. Anyway, trying to join a match proved to be a lengthy endeavor as the online community was sparse. Though I did get into a few games. The basic mechanics are just the like single player game. Only rather then hunt npcs, you hunt other players. Points are awarded for kills, the more stealthy and skilled the kill, the more points are earned. The game does a good job at encouraging a cat and mouse style of play. The points earned go towards leveling you up, unlocking new abilities and gear to aid in your online matches.
Unfortunately, while the game encourages using the stealth mechanics, it doesn't prevent players from throwing all that away. My experience was largely hunting other players who spent the majority of each round running on the roof tops. Sure it made them easy to spot but given we're all at the same speed and climbing abilities it made getting close enough to kill them downright impossible. This was compounded by the players hunting me actually using subtly and scoring major points each time they got me.
I also encountered a bug that was nearly game breaking. In Free For All mode after you kill your assigned target, or you lose your current target for whatever reason, the game was unable to acquire me another one. I let it sit for nearly an entire match, which lasts around 10 minutes, and it never gave me one. All the while other players could hunt me. SO I basically became score padding for others and unable to land kills myself. Though I haven't played the multiplayer since then so it may have been fixed. There are other team based modes to play but from what I've seen they largely boil down to FFA matches with restrictions. Especially since there are no new controls to aid your teammates.
Finishing this review up, finally, I have to give Brotherhood a lower rating then I would have liked. I mean I still love the series and the standards established are still present. The artwork and level designs are great and the voice work with a killer music score is still a joy. Unfortunately the odd, and buggy, tweaks to the controls and lack luster additions can't be shadowed by what the game does well.
I can only suggest renting it if you're on the fence. I'm simply hoping AC3 reignites my love for the franchise to full blast again.