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Impressions: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood single-player

3:55 PM on 10.27.2010 // Ben Perlee

Ubisoft has Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood coming out in just a couple of weeks, and for fans of the franchise, that means a lot. Known for the impossible feats, assassinations of real world people, and the based-in-reality design, there's a lot to like about the Assassin's Creed franchise.

I've spent some time with the single-player portion of the game, and there's a whole lot more in store for returning gamers. For those who loved the original two titles, like myself, there is plenty to make Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood worthy of attention.

Ubisoft has Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood coming out in just a couple of weeks, and for fans of the franchise, that means a lot. Known for the impossible feats, assassinations of real world people, and the based-in-reality design, there's a lot to like about the Assassin's Creed franchise.

I've spent some time with the single-player portion of the game, and there's a whole lot more in store for returning gamers. For those who loved the original two titles, like myself, there is plenty to make Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood worthy of attention.

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Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
To be released: November 16, 2010

When Ubisoft announced the game earlier this year, multiplayer was the hot new jam. While there is plenty of focus placed upon multiplayer shenanigans, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is a one and true sequel in the franchise. Plot and all, this will be a necessary playthrough if you really want to unravel the plans of the Knights of the Templar and Abstergo.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood starts up immediately after the events of the second game, with Ezio questioning the meaning of his odd conversation with Minerva. After a quick escape from the Vatican, it's determined that something must be done with the powerful Borgia. Unfortunately, a post-coital (really) attack upon Ezio's hometown leaves him weaponless and decentralized. From there, he can only go up. And that brings him to Rome, the primary destination of the Brotherhood.

For those who felt that Rome was not covered enough in Assassin's Creed 2, rest assured that there is plenty of the city to see. While Ezio will be making a stop in his home of Monteriggioni, the main portion of the game is the one and only Rome. Like Florence, Venice and the other previous cities, this is a fairly realistic representation of Rome, however, don't expect the Spanish Steps and other major monuments to look quite the same; this is hundreds of years ago. A visit to the Parthenon is thankfully quite impressive, and climbing in and around that should be as much fun as previous Assassin's Creed titles.

One of my favorite things to do in Assassin's Creed 2 was purchasing artwork and unlocking things to decorate the family mansion at Monteriggioni, as well as upgrading the town. While it wasn't really that important to the game, and the benefits it offered were not that substantial, making additions to the environment was very fulfilling. Due to the attack upon Monteriggioni, Ezio sets up shop in Rome in a secret underground lair (like the Batman) where he and his assassins can chill. There Ezio will place all of his art and collectibles, as well as his upgrades to armor.

A new and major development in the franchise is the addition of fellow assassins. Depending on certain missions Ezio completes, he can recruit new members to his order. These white-robed assassins can be from any layer of the social hierarchy of Rome, and they can have different approaches to killing. They need to be trained, as at higher levels they can perform newer abilities, such as leaping in and defending Ezio when he's in a tight spot.

They need to be sent off on missions outside of Rome, and while you don't see what happens in these missions, you do get to view the outcome. You can also apparently send them off to a Facebook game as well, training your assassin's in a casual social game.

Rome is a city divided into many districts, each one ruled by a faction leader. This is problematic, as not only will these districts of Rome have crappy shopping opportunities (a real tragedy, I know), things are generally miserable, so it is much more difficult to traverse these boroughs. Thankfully, by assassinating the offending district rulers and blowing up the regional tower, you can liberate the neighborhood.

Once these areas are freed, then you can invest in them, take on new side missions, and more. In addition to investing in shops and stuff, Ezio can also take control of major Roman icons, such as the Colosseum and aqueducts. So while it's a bummer that Ezio cannot upgrade his own town, the whole city of Rome is open for control and liberation, which is all that much more satisfying.

Mission types for Ezio have evolved. Between main story plot missions, he can take the typical assassination requests, explore tombs crawling with wolf-skin clad cultists of the legendary founder of Rome, Romulus, or perform random missions that pop-up with persecuted citizens. A surprising new mission type is signified by a broken heart icon, and when these missions start up, all of a sudden you play as a younger Ezio performing events that deal with his doomed teen relationship with Christina, the girl from the beginning of Assassin's Creed 2.

All in all, there's some new variety in the missions that Ubisoft has brought to the game -- a benefit, considering the franchise has always been criticized for not offering things to do. Hell, just walking around the city is going to bring loads of different activities, as people are always being persecuted and in need of rescue, or shops are requesting Ezio to perform some extra activity. Finally, there are those damn feathers to collect. Have fun with that.

Ubisoft gave some new abilities for Ezio's return to Italy. While he can keep using his sword, dagger, hidden blades, gun, and all that jazz, he is also able to pick up new items like javelins and two-handed weapons. He is now capable of fighting with his fists and feet, as there will be more opportunities to take down enemy soldiers by smashing them in the knee, for example. Cannons are an added element of the game. Ezio will use them in defense of Monteriggioni against the Borgia, and in addition to his gun, he can also earn a crossbow. Later on, Ezio can even unlock a parachute, which may remind players of GTA: San Andreas insanity. In addition, all of these new abilities and skills can be used in the new VR training rooms, which are just challenges unencumbered by all that plot business.

If you were a fan of Desmond, Ezio's modern descendant, you're in luck. The plucky bartender, last seen running off with Kirsten Bell after the final of Assassin's Creed 2, is now in Monteriggioni, or at least the modern villa that it has become. It's incredibly charming to return to the town, now strewn with cars and electrical lights, modern elements the franchise has mostly ignored. Thankfully, since Desmond has picked up some skills during his time in the Animus, he's able to perform all of Ezio's acrobatic parkour abilities. Throughout the game, players will be tasked with traversing somewhat substantial tombs and ruins in an attempt to find contemporary hints at Abstergo's desire to take over the world. It's a thankful departure from the “All Ezio, All the Time.”

Visually, I need to point out one major upgrade: facial animations. While Assassin's Creed 2 is generally considered a much better game than the original, the facial animations were derided as looking awful. Ubisoft has stepped up to the plate, and the animations, the fluidity, the eye movement, everything related to expression, has been improved tenfold.

For fans of Assassin's Creed, Brotherhood should be a perfect continuation of the franchise. It builds on what the series is already known for, with a weird fusion of modern and Renaissance history, and the pseudo-historical reinterpretation of events. While I doubt the detractors will find it something to suddenly jump up and down about, there looks to be enough improved here to please any fan of the series.

With new skills, a new city, and a new progression of the still complex plot, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood has a plenty to offer this November.



Ben Perlee,
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