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    Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

    Game » consists of 16 releases. Released Nov 16, 2010

    The third installment in the Assassin's Creed franchise, this game's story picks up right after the events of Assassin's Creed II, showing Ezio Auditore traveling to Rome to recruit a new force of assassins. Brotherhood is the first game in the series to offer online multiplayer.

    marlow83's Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (Xbox 360) review

    Avatar image for marlow83

    Believe it or not, the game has issues

            I must be playing a different Assassin’s Creed franchise than everyone else. I mean, this can’t possibly be the game that was a runner-up for game of the year on Giant Bomb and received positive reviews almost universally (even from Destructoid who gained infamy for giving Assassin’s Creed II a 4.5 out of 10). I’m going to be blunt about this: Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood is not a great game. Hell, I can barely consider it a decent game. Some interesting new mechanics, solid characters, and a superb multiplayer mode elevate this game, but severe control issues, mediocre graphics, and a terrible ending to Ezio’s story may leave some with an unpleasant feeling when all is said and done.

          The game starts off immediately after Assassin’s Creed II ended, with Desmond and crew still on the run from the group known as Abstergo, a.k.a. the modern day Templars, after their first base of operations was attacked. They group arrive at the Monteriggioni Villa, Ezio’s base of operations from Assassin’s Creed II (Which looks suspiciously similar after all these years, except for the addition of some cars and street signs.) The group set up shop here and plug Desmond back into the Animus in order to discover where the Apple of Eden is hidden. Evidently the Apple will reveal the location of the temples that were introduced in the end of Assassin’s Creed II, which hold the secret of preventing the unknown event that wiped out life on Earth long ago. Why can only the Apple of Eden do this, and not the many other pieces of spread all over the world? Who knows! But this totally unexplained concept doesn’t get the modern Assassins down, and they proceed to let Desmond step into the shoes of his charming Italian ancestor once again.

                After the transition is made to 15/16 century , we see Ezio Auditore de Firenze, the in-Animus protagonist from the previous title escape from after fighting the pope, and returning to his villa with the Apple of Eden. His villa proceeds to be destroyed by Cesare Borgia, the son of the main villain from Assassin’s Creed II. (Again, why does it look the same in present day? It makes no sense!) Ezio loses the Apple, and has to travel to in order to get it back from Cesare. Here Ezio meets some old friends (and family) and proceeds to fight the Borgia for control of .

           The voice acting in the game remains good, with Roger Craig Smith and Shawn Baichoo turning in the best performances as Ezio and Niccolò Machiavelli, respectively. The voicework for Desmond and co. is a little flatter than the voices for the people in the Animus, but I still like them well enough (I feel like the only gamer that actually does). Some of the conversations you can have outside of the animus with them are particularly good. However, Cesare Borgia’s voice actor is hopelessly cheesy, and easily one of the worst aspects of the games audio. The guards still sound stupid, but there is no line that is as absolutely dreadful as the “Shoot the flying demon” line from Assassin’s Creed II.

           The quality of ther aspects of the sound design are fair to great, with the stabbing sound unchanged from previous titles, decent waling/climbing sounds, and an original score that is quite good.

           The writing is fairly solid as well, and Ezio and Machiavelli once again fare the best. In particular, the last lines the two exchange are simply superb. The writing for the modern crew is actually a little better this time around. In particular, Shaun Hastings, the cynical British one, is actually sort of funny this time around, instead of just horridly obnoxious. Once again, the villains suffer from the worst writing. Nearly all of Cesare’s lines are variations on “I’m invincible” for the last half of the game, and the guards still spout the generic “hey, what are you doing here” and “IMA KILL YOU” lines that haunted the otherwise solid writing of Assassin’s Creed II. It should be noted that Minerva makes another appearance in this game, and that her lines are more excessively cryptic in this game.

           Regardless of the relative quality of the writing, the story is fairly disappointing. Strike that, it’s very disappointing. The first third of the game is based around recruiting factions to help discover Cesare’s location, and then develops into a story of the Assassins attempting to free itself from its Borgia oppressors, and rejuvenate the city to restore it to its former glory. Unfortunately, the latter plot doesn’t really go anywhere, as the game stops making you think about Rome as a whole about halfway through, and there really isn’t much incentive to do so in the main game, other then making the city look marginally prettier.

           The plot stagnates for the majority of the game, as you go around killing Cesare’s lesser men and performing other not-so-important tasks, which really feel as though they have no bearing on the game’s ending. Because Ezio completed his character arc in Assassin’s Creed II, there is an insufficient amount of development to be found in the game. There are a few good moments that revolve around Machiavelli and Ezio’s sister, Claudia. Unfortunately, Leonardo de Vinci is not nearly as important in this game as he was in the previous title. There are a few flashback missions that revolve around Ezio’s relationship with a woman named Cristina that are solid as well, but none of these scenes carry the same resonance as anything from the previous title. But really, the story’s weakness lies, for the most part, in its ending. I won't spoil it, but let it be said that the end of Ezio's story is not good

           But the game does not simply fall short in terms of the plot. The game design is simply flawed in more ways than the previous installment was. The combat and the platforming are still very stilted and awkward. There is a delay between controller input and character animation, and that leads to a lot of frustration. Questionable mission structure, pacing, and other mechanics sour the single player experience as well.

           As is par for the course in this series, the combat is… not good. The same system is in place, where Ezio can attack, block, kick, grab, and counter. The kick is only good for stronger enemies who can inexplicably block every normal attack and break your blocks, and the grab is useless. The most efficient way to bring down a group of enemies is to hammer the ‘counter’ button while waiting for a foe to attack. Unfortunately, this still does not vanquish foes as quickly as it should, because enemies still take forever to actually execute an attack, leading to rather tedious stalemates. Now, when you are finally able to counter an attack, you now have the ability to string together one hit kills. This is done by pointing in a direction and hitting the attack button while Ezio is performing a kill animation on a target. This system is handy because it lets the fights end sooner, but it feels just as awkward as any of the game’s other combat mechanics. Because it I never specified when during the animation the game has registered the next one hit kill, attempting to string these attacks together results in a lot of button-hammering as you wait for Ezio to finish the previous kill animation. These animations are all lengthy, and they do not flow well together at all. There was no work done here to assure that Ezio’s movement would look fluid and natural as he transitioned between enemies. Instead we see him finish one kill, reach the end of that animation, stop for a split second, then begin the next animation. It looks bad, plain and simple. This system also brings to light issue with the targeting, as Mr. Auditore will often attack an enemy you weren’t aiming at, which is frustrating because that can lead him into a large group that will disrupt your string of one hit kills.  

              The often celebrated “semi-automatic” platforming of the previous titles returns, and is just as unwieldy here as ever, if not more so. Ezio’s gravitation towards these climbable objects still feels strange, and this attraction makes his movement feel and look very clunky, which is in direct contrast to the idea that Ezio is an agile assassin. The problems of the combat’s targeting system appear to manifest themselves in the platfoming as well, since very often Ezio will completely misinterpret where you wanted to go, often leading to a deadly jump to the ground. The latency between button presses and onscreen action also takes its toll in the climbing. During a few chase sequences, I often found that Ezio would sooner run up a wall and get attacked rather then turn 90 degrees (the way I was pointing with the analog stick) and actually run down a road. That’s a problem with the control scheme as well, since the game follows the mentality of having one or two buttons do everything. It leads to misinterpretations of actions, and makes the player feel less involved. Honestly, Ezio feels like he’s on autopilot most of the time, with the player only controlling his direction, and because he goes a different direction about 25% of the time, this leads to frustration. Climbing up towers is more annoying now too, mainly because of the abundance of false paths on the sides of these tall buildings. While it should make it more of a challenge, it really just makes the climbing more annoying. Also, there is still the issue of platforms that are above Ezio at 45 degree angles. Because the controls only interpret up, down, left, or right, figuring out which of these directions to hit to reach a handhold at a weird angle is also a source of annoyance (it’s usually left or right). Now, the platforming isn’t inherently broken, it’s just extremely flawed. Swinging on hanging pots still looks cool, and there are some satisfying sections here and there, but for the most part it just isn’t that great.

           Any inclusion of stealth in the single player is also implemented fairly terribly. The concept of “hiding in plain sight” doesn’t really work, because the game is extremely finicky regarding which groups of people you can blend into. You still have to awkwardly position yourself behind something to avoid the gaze of guards, which just feels weird. Would a corner-cover mechanic (à la Batman: Arkham Asylum) be too much to ask? Also, guards do not respond to your actions in any kind of realistic way. Often your killing will go unnoticed by guards whose line of sight you should be in. But I’m not really complaining, because the lack of any real stealth mechanics would make trying to hide your actions from smart opponents completely unbearable. Wow, that was a backhanded compliment.

           Now, the missions feel largely the same as ones from previous Assassin’s Creed titles, with a few exceptions. In particular, the missions where you get to pilot Leonardo de Vinci’s war machines are pretty cool. However, the new “100 percent Synchronization” mechanic, which provides an extra set of objectives for a mission, like “don’t get detected”, hurts the quality of all of these missions. It’s obvious that the intent of this mechanic was to provide a bit of extra challenge and to force the player to think about the missions in a different way. But, penalizing people for getting detected with a “50 percent Synchronization” when the necessary abilities do not get detected aren’t provided in the game simply isn’t fair. It just feels like padding, designed to make people replay memories over and over again. Oh, there is a restart memory function now, so now you can restart immediately after failing a 100 percent Synch! Fan-tucking-fastic.

           The absolute best addition to the game is the assassin recruits. You can find people struggling with guards all around , and if you help these people, they will agree to work for you. You can then send them on missions in other countries (which play out simply as results of chance) and you can use them to kill people during the in-game action. Watching guards get iced while you walk by unnoticed never loses its charm. You can level up these recruits to, so they get better armor and weapons as well, so they will be more likely to survive.

           Side activities can be found n the game as well. There is still a lot of city renovation, but now you have to actively go out into the city, find shops and buildings, and pay to renovate them. I never actively went out to go renovate shops, simply because I couldn’t be bothered. I did most of the renovation in Assassin’s Creed II because I could access all of it from one location. Again, making you actively hunt for buildings in the city to purchase feels like padding. There is a fast travel system and you can ride a horse in , but you have to renovate the former, and I never bothered, and the horses have lost their gallop function, making jumping around on rooftops faster than adhering to the streets on a horse. The previously mentioned Christina missions are light on gameplay but provide some of the best story content, and Romulus Shines have replaced the previous game’s Assassin Tombs as the game’s linear platforming areas. The shrines do still provide great chase sequences though. There are less assassination missions that you actually get to take part in this time around, but taking their place are Templar agents that can be found in the world that you get to kill. You also have to kill Borgia captains to release from Borgia rule. Most of these side missions are… okay, but I never felt any real incentive to do them. In particular, the game never really follows through on the idea that you are actively working for the betterment of , so I never felt the need to hunt the Borgia Captains. I think the main reason I avoided most of the side missions was because there were constantly story missions available. In Assassin’s Creed II, when the story forced me to progress to another city, I would try to avoid leaving until I had completed some of the side missions. Because the entirety of Brotherhood takes place in , I always had a story mission available, and never felt the desire to slow down and see what else was available. The structure of the game is not conducive to making the player want to see the optional missions.

           On the graphical side of things, the game looks mediocre. In terms of art design, it looks pretty good. itself is pretty convincing, and the details in the city are cool. The character models o look better this time around, with Lucy in particular actually looking like a human, instead of some horrible fish thing. However, from a technical standpoint, the game’s engine is showing a fair bit of age. The framerate stutters often, and the drawing in of textures is still unbelievably terrible. In particular, shadows and entire trees will not be visible until your character is about away from them. The absolute worst issue is the way the characters interact with one another and with their environments. It never looks proper. Characters are either clipping through one another or hovering around one another. Their contact never looks real, and same goes for their contact with environmental objects. Characters look like they’re hovering above the ground, and not lie they’re actually making contact with it. It’s not nearly as bad as games like Splatterhouse, but it is still unacceptable for a supposedly AAA title. The animation has its fair share of issues. The climbing animation looks fairly poor across the board, which is strange considering how often you’ll spend looking at it. (Comparatively, the combat animations are all pretty solid). Also, there is not animation for when Ezio or a horse walks on a rock or something that is slightly elevated from the rest of the ground, so instead we bear witness to Ezio or his valiant steed suddenly jerking upward and then back down. It looks dreadful.

           Now, this is the first Assassin’s Creed game to include multiplayer, and let me tell you, it is fantastic. The object of the game is to stealthily kill your assigned target. You gain more points for fancier/stealthier kills, and the person (or team) with the most points at the end wins. Now, I know I complained about the lack of working stealth mechanics a few paragraphs back, but that was because the idea of walking through a crowd unnoticed doesn’t really work in the single player. However, in the multiplayer you take o the character model of the NPC, and it is quite possible to imitate an NPC and sneak up on your opponent. The multiplayer forces you to think like an Assassin, and choose when to be stealthy and when to rush your opponent. It’s so satisfying and unique, and almost worth picking up the game for alone. 

              The previous Assassin’s Creed title was a decent game elevated by great characters and art design. This game lacks the great plotline of the last game and the art design is no longer fresh, and as a result the gameplay flaws present in the series are more naked than ever. However, the multiplayer is so excellent that it almost transcends the shortcomings of the singleplayer game. Almost.


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