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December 23, 2010
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
18/11/2010UbisoftUbisoftUbisoft Montreal12-8
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Grabbing an enemy off the rooftop.
It's hard to know exactly what defines a 'blockbuster' title these days. Is it the game's budget? Its sales? Its critical reception? A combination of all three? If any or all of these factors do indeed represent a 'blockbuster' game, then Assassin's Creed 2, and to a lesser degree the original Assassin's Creed, both qualify. One look at the visuals in both games tells you all you need to know about their budget, and both of them have amassed sales of over 8 million units worldwide. According to metacritic, Assassin's Creed 2 received an average score of over 90% on both console platforms. All of which is to say that expectations were very high for Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. Can Ubisoft Montreal once again deliver the goods?

Brotherhood picks up the story directly following the events of Assassin's Creed 2. Ezio has attained the Apple of Eden and makes his way back to his hometown where he assumes he will be safe from further Templar intrusions. He is rudely disabused of this notion soon afterwards, when Cesare Borgia brings an army to his doorstep and reclaims the Apple, not to mention killing many innocents, and forcing Ezio and his family to escape to Rome. There's another aspect to the story because whilst we control Ezio, in reality Ezio is long dead, and a distant descendent, Desmond, is reliving his memories through an Animus machine. The Animus allows Desmond to relive Ezio's life through genetic memories i.e. Ezio's life is mapped out in Desmond's DNA, and the Animus enables Desmond to explore it. Ezio was an assassin, and Desmond is the possibly the last of their descendents. The assassin's have long been at war with the Templars, whose descendents run Abstergo Industries and who created the Animus for their own ends – namely the destruction of the assassins and to find the location of more Eden items. This is all summed up in the games' opening intro, though if you're new to the series like I am, much of the details will be forgotten as you venture further in the game.

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Assassin's Creed Brotherhood on PS3...
Like the previous two games, the gameplay takes place in third-person viewpoint as you run Ezio around (and up) Rome and its surrounding areas. While the original Assassin's Creed was criticised for a lack of variety in mission types, Brotherhood has no such problem. Many of the same mission types from the previous games can be found here – you have to assassinate certain people, escort friends to safety through crowds of soldiers, and find secret glyphs left for you by the mysterious Subject 16 as well as rescue the occasional prisoner. On top of that you'll also re-build Rome, find and train new assassins who actually help you out during the game, make your way through the Lairs of Romulus, set up new factions and perform tasks for them, reduce Borgia influence by burning their towers and harassing their messengers as well as track down and kill Templar agents. During one of the memory sequences (a fancy name for 'chapters') you'll have the opportunity to fly a glider, drive a tank and bring down much bigger ships from the deck of a small boat. Certainly Brotherhood doesn't lack anything in the variety stakes.

From what I can tell, Ezio's skill-set in Brotherhood is nearly identical to that of Assassin's Creed 2. For those who haven't played an Assassins Creed game before, let me briefly summarize. Ezio is a combination of the prince in Prince of Persia and Nathan Drake, though he makes them both look lame in comparison. Ezio has a variety of different actions he can perform depending on whether he is acting in high-profile or low-profile. In low-profile Ezio will try to fit in with the crowd; he walks, gently nudges people out of his way and otherwise avoids unnecessary exposure. Things liven up in high-profile though (done by holding R1) as he sprints, bowls people over, and most importantly, he can free-run. If you've seen Casino Royale (the recent one) you'll know what free-running is. It's basically the ability to scale walls, jump from ledge to ledge, roof to roof, and do all manner of acrobatic manoeuvres. Ezio is a handy swimmer too, which helps him evade soldiers easily as none of them can swim yet.

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Riding a horse into the city.
Brotherhood, like its predecessors, is based in a pseudo real-life setting, so people such as Leonardo da Vinci, Niccolò Machiavelli and Copernicus make appearances in the game, though how close they are to their real selves is obviously up for debate. Note that to find Copernicus you'll have to download freely available content through the Playstation Store. Once that is done he will appear in the game and have some missions for you, which basically involve saving him and his scientific friends from the Borgia who are attempting to kill all enlightened scientist types.

As mentioned earlier there is no shortage of optional missions to undertake outside of the main quest. In fact I'd say that there is more to do in the game outside of the main quest than the main quest itself, and that is quite lengthy. If you try to accomplish everything in this game you're probably looking at 30+ hours to get it all done. There are 100 Borgia flags, ten feathers and 24 viewpoints to find, along with more treasure than even Captain Jack Sparrow would know what to do with. Renovating Rome will increase your income (delivered to banks every twenty minutes) as well as open up shops where you can buy much-needed equipment, as well as undertake shop quests to unlock rare items. There is an all new training mode which teaches you some of the basic and not so basic moves you'll need in order to successfully traverse the game.

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Time for some evasion on the rooftops.
New to Brotherhood is the option to find citizens to train up as assassins who then help you in your quest. Locating these citizens is no trouble as they show up on your map, and once found they head back to Ezio's hideout. You can train them in two ways, firstly by having them attack soldiers in the main game for small experience gains (but plenty of help to you if used well), and secondly by sending them on missions throughout Europe which nets them lots of experience, and you some money. If you send them on missions they are unable to be called on during gameplay for the duration of their mission. As they earn experience they will level up, which nets them a skill point to allocate to either armor or weapon upgrades. Once they hit level ten they are true assassins, or will be once Ezio returns to the hideout and takes them through the initiation ceremony complete with Leap of Faith. Far from being a novelty, these assassins can and will make the game much easier once they reach the upper levels. Not only do they take down enemy soldiers with ease, but they do so whilst you remain anonymous. This will be a big boon (almost as big as David himself!) to you later in the game, and is definitely a fun and worthwhile addition.

In our review of Assassin's Creed 2 we here at Futuregamez lamented the lack of multiplayer action, but lament no more because new to the franchise in Brotherhood is online play and it is every bit as fun as you might have hoped, at least in the short term. There is a small story to go along with online play, basically stating that everyone in the game is an Abstergo agent going through training. This explains why there are so few different-looking people walking around the online world, which is fine seeing as the lack of variety is necessary for online play.

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Jumping from horse to horse in Brotherhood.
There are five online modes (the fifth available for free via the PSN) though for the most part they are the same game, just broken into different groupings. The point of each mode is to locate and assassinate a target via an imprecise radar, relying just as much on the targets' erratic movements to give them away. At the same time as you hunt down targets, some people will be hunting you, so you'll have to avoid them as well. Performing kills quietly and stealthily will earn you more points than simply sprinting up and stabbing or recklessly shooting your target will. There is a leveling up system in place, and it looks like you'll earn various new skills as you progress through the levels. I must say that due to time constraints (and an addictive single-player campaign) I haven't made it too far through the levels just yet. What I have played has been a lot of fun though – locating and assassinating a real-life target is far more satisfying than taking down AI opponents. Technically the game was perfect in the times I spent online, with no lag or other issues affecting it. This is another worthy addition to the game, and will hopefully be further expanded in the next Assassin's Creed title.

I had a few issues with Brotherhood, but let me be clear from the outset, these are small quibbles that stop the game from being perfect, but none of them are even close to game-breaking. There are times when Ezio is free-running, or jumping from ledge to ledge, that his radar is simply off. Instead of jumping into the haystack he'll land right next to it and lose some health, or instead of jumping to a particular target he can grab, he'll miss it by inches and plummet to the ground. This is only a particular issue when it is the tenth jump in a sequence and you're forced to double-back, but it did happen more often than I'd have liked.

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A female assassin gets the kill, but look out behind!
There are also times in combat where Ezio is a daft individual, refusing to put his weapon up in a defensive position until he has been hit one or more times. Other issues include a storyline that newcomers will understand less well than returning players, and a training mode that does little to actually train, and more in the way of providing challenges for people already familiar with the game. Finally, the last (minor) issue is that there are times when it is not clear where you have to jump to next. Perhaps I am too used to Uncharted 2, where jumps occasionally sparkled to make it clear where to go, but with some backgrounds here being gray and in the shadows, it can be hard to know exactly where you're going.

Visually Brotherhood is just a hair short of breath-taking. Some screen-tearing (and to a far lesser degree, slowdown) is still visible, but in the vast majority of occasions it will not interfere with the game. The few times I found it off-putting were when I synchronized a new viewpoint and the camera panned around to show the lay of the land. Some of the views are truly sensational, with impressive detail and draw-distance, but the screen-tearing can often obstruct them.

Outside of that, the artistic design is nearly flawless, and certainly creates a believable, and beautiful, world to explore. From the hustle and bustle of central Rome, to the open fields of the country and hard-packed roads linking them all, 15th and 16th century Italy never looked so good. The locals all have a distinct look about them, from the soldiers to the prosperous merchant types all the way down to the lowly drunkards, everyone here looks the part. The day-night cycle returns, and during certain cut-scenes it is sped up to good effect. As in the previous games though, it is Ezio's fluidity and style that wins the day. He moves with a grace and range of moves that other game characters can only envy. For the most part then, Brotherhood is a very impressive-looking game.

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Someone is about to get the chop!
Sound is another area where Brotherhood excels. The voice-acting is of particularly high standard, with each character well-played by their actor. There is a huge amount of spoken text in the game, some of which flits between English and Italian (the subtitles translate the Italian words for you, which is pretty cool), which adds authenticity and feeling. The sound effects are all well done too, from the clash of swords, to the startling blast of your pistol, all of the weapons sound as they should. Unlike many other games, music doesn't play constantly as you play, rather it pipes up at key moments (and at some seemingly random ones) in very evocative fashion. The music definitely adds to the tension you'll feel at key moments, and the game is better for it.

Having never played the previous two Assassin's Creed titles I can't compare Brotherhood to them directly. However looking back at reviews of those games, I can see that Brotherhood has addressed nearly all complaints of them in a satisfying way. Not content to simply polish off perceived flaws, Ubisoft Montreal have added in a bunch of new content like the ability to train assassins, perform kill-streaks, a training mode and online play that will keep everyone glued to the game for that much longer. There are some minor flaws no doubt about it, but Brotherhood is a fantastic open world game that just about everyone will be able to enjoy. If you're a returning fan, or someone who has never played the previous games but thought it looked alright, Brotherhood is a fantastic game that you should hope Santa delivers to you this year. And if Santa doesn't deliver, then your hard-earned could hardly be better spent on Boxing Day. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is a great game and a late competitor for game of the year honours.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSA mammoth and beautiful world to explore, with high-quality detail throughout. There is some screen-tearing, but not enough to interfere much at all.
SOUNDFantastic and believable voice-acting, solid sound effects and expressive music.
GAMEPLAYIt's well-paced, has excellent variety in missions and there is honestly no shortage of stuff to do. Minor control quibbles will be quickly forgiven.
VALUEThe single-player campaign is compelling, and there is so much to do that I haven't mentioned nearly everything in this review. There is online, and it's fun. Enough said.
OVERALLThe Assassin's Creed franchise has been improving with each title, and Brotherhood is no exception. It's a polished and fun title that comes highly recommended

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