All Good in tha Hood
The Assassin's Creed franchise has enjoyed a speedy accent into AAA franchise status with Assassin's Creed 2. Now comes Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, a sort of "2.5" released only 1 year later. Touting the addition of multiplayer and the ability to control a guild of assassins, AC Brotherhood was largely viewed by critics and myself as a cash grab with little in the way of true progression.
Boy, was I wrong.
Brotherhood picks up moments after the final scenes of AC2 and jumps right into the story. If someone is getting into the franchise for the first time, I'd recommend playing the prior game first... It does move pretty quickly over past events. Desmond Miles and his gang of present day assassins are on the run from templars and get right back into the animus after some fun twists. The game picks up in Rome with Ezio Auditore, the flamboyant son of a banker-turned-assassin. As the Borgia family takes over Rome and destroys Ezio's home, he must fight to unite the people and take back control of the city.
The first noticeable feature is the city of Rome. The setting has been painstakingly recreated in amazing detail, which really adds to the authenticity and allure of the game. Collectables and interesting characters can be discovered throughout the city, which is absolutely massive. The tower climbing gameplay is back - but carries more gravity as they can be scaled in order to free up areas of the city from the Borgia rule. Shops, banks, tailors, etc can all be restored in an economy that is surprisingly balanced. The game spends most of its time in Rome, but also ventures into other areas for certain scenes. It really doesn't matter, as Rome is more than large enough to house the entire game. Another addition is a Training simulator which challenges players in different skill areas for medals and trophies. While it's a very basic setting, it does provide another form of gameplay not found in previous releases of the franchise.
Much has been made in the past about the combat in Assassin's Creed. I've always thought it was realistic - but more importantly: FUN. The same combat engine is back, which some nice improvements. 10+ enemies will attack at once making bigger fights more commonplace. Kill streaks can be chained together, which turns Ezio into a mass murdering machine. The weapons are varied and fantastically brutal. The crossbow, parachute and other additions are a great compliment to an already awesome arsenal. Enough good things cannot be said of the assassination animations... Even after playing for 30+ hours, new combat animations will awe. The addition of a "brotherhood" of assassins is a cool addition, although not very deep. Once recruited, assassins can be called on to help take out guards or targets. Their training is fairly simplistic for the most part, but it does add a cool layer to the gameplay while in combat.
While the storyline doesn't push the franchise too far ahead, there are some nice twists throughout the game. Since the game is a sort of "bridge" till Assassin's Creed 3, expectations weren't great that the story would carry too much weight. Players spend much more time in the present day than in the first two Assassin's Creeds, but many of the biggest questions lie unanswered. That said, most of the characters in AC: Brotherhood are great. Cesare, the infamous Borgia military ruler, is fantastic on screen. The voice acting is splendid throughout, but where the sound design really shines is in the soundtrack. AC Brotherhood has one of the best soundtracks I've heard in a videogame, period. The chase scenes are accompanied by the type of music usually reserved for a hollywood blockbuster.
As mentioned before, multiplayer is one of the big additions people looked forward to in Brotherhood. While the gameplay does not have the replay value of a COD multiplayer, Assasssin's Creed does a great job of mixing the stealth gameplay found in single player into a cool multi experience. Locating targets and assassinating them while being hunted provides a tense, unique game not found in many online games. Because guns are not part of the gameplay, getting close enough to a target without tipping them off is challenging. I've just dug into the multiplayer and will get some enjoyment out of it - but rest assured, the single player experience is where AC Brotherhood shines.
All in all, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood shines for many reason. The easiest to see is for what it is not: A quick, cheap sequel reusing the former game's assets. Brotherhood builds upon and outshines its predecessors in nearly every facet. If you're a fan of the series, this is a must-own.