Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood Xbox 360 Review


Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series has come a long way from its love-it-or-hate-it beginnings, mostly due to 2009’s lauded Assassin’s Creed 2. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood looks to continue the series success, but with a mere 10 month development and the seemingly odd inclusion of a multiplayer component, are the odds stacked against it too great? Well, yes and no. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood expands on the gameplay components and elements in a way that all good sequels do but never manages to fully realize them, keeping Brotherhood feeling like Assassins Creed 2.5.

AC: Brotherhood continues the parallel story of Desmond Miles and his Assassin brethren fighting against the evil Abstergo Corporation, the modern day Templar Order. As we should all know by now though, Assassin’s Creed is all about reliving the memories of Desmond’s assassin ancestors. In Brotherhood, you continue the adventures of Ezio Auditore, the protagonist of AC 2. Picking up literally right where Ezio was left in AC 2, you will travel to Rome to again battle the Templars after their surprise attack on Monteriggioni completely destroys the small town. Yep, that means all the time you spent building up the villa and maxing out the shops is destroyed in what is a thrilling and exciting sequence. But if you enjoyed the villa upgrades of AC 2, Brotherhood has greatly expanded on this concept by allowing you to rebuild all of Rome. Sadly, Brotherhood lacks the same cohesion of AC 2’s villa upgrades. In AC 2 you had the villa architect who offered players the convenience of being a one-stop-shop for upgrades and allow players to focus on the story missions. Sadly, Ubisoft has opted for an archaic system that requires you to go to each shop you want to upgrade and renovate them one by one. This ultimately comes off as a cheap attempt to artificially lengthen the game. But before you can run around upgrading shops, you have to destroy the Borgia Tower that controls that district.

Borgia Towers and the gameplay experience they provide are a new entry (and hopefully a staple) in Assassin’s Creed. Ranging in difficulty, some towers are as simple as sitting on a nearby rooftop perch and waiting for a clean shot to the Borgia Captain with your crossbow, or some can be as difficult as to require a near perfect mastery of sneak assassinations and other stealth techniques. Other side quests include the same thief races, courtesan missions and assassination contracts of AC 2 with the new inclusion of Leonardo Machines. Captured by, but still an enemy of, the Borgia, Leonardo da Vinci is back in Brotherhood and gives you a series of missions that all revolve around destroying war machines that he has been forced to make for the Borgia.

Though operating a Renaissance era bomber, tank, minigun and other inventions are not as fun as expected, the sequences leading up to them are as are the optional conditions for total success. These optional conditions, better known as full synchronization, are another new addition to the AC series and are essentially a rating system similar to GTA IV: Ballad of Gay Tony’s. Each mission has a single requirement that you must meet to obtain 100 percent sync. These range from the laughably easy (kill an enemy with a certain weapon) to the excruciatingly frustrating (take no damage when fighting 10 or more enemies). Fail these and you will only get 50 percent sync, but there is always the option to replay a mission once completed. Any fan of AC 2 is going to want to get at least 75 percent sync though; play and find out why.

The final upgrade to the gameplay is the combat system’s improved parrying and counter-kill mechanic. Rather than wait around for an enemy to attack and counter like in the first two games, Brotherhood rewards aggressive players and arms them with the ability to break guards and string together counter-kill combos. You now also have the ability to see when an enemy is about to attack which will allow you to counter one attack and string together ridiculous combos. Sadly though, this usually leads to attacking an enemy just to provoke them, countering, and then stringing that counter in a long combo. Rinse and repeat and that will be all you need to get through the fights in Brotherhood. It’s certainly more efficient than digging deep into the combat system.

Like the gameplay upgrades, the presentation is a bit of a mixed bag (I played the Xbox 360 version). Running on an improved version of the AC 2 engine, Brotherhood has much better details in areas such as character models, textures and lighting, but loses engine performance because of it. Excessive screen tear and small bouts of frame rate dips would crop up in scenes with large crowds. That, along with frequent clipping, and my play through of Brotherhood seemed plagued at times. The audio is great, however, with the best scores from AC 2 returning and the same great voice acting for all the characters.

As an aside, I would like to make quick mention of the multiplayer. Though touted by Ubisoft as a great addition to the series, it really is a novelty that you will quickly grow weary of. The main mode is called Wanted, where you and seven other players face off in a free for all where the top scorers are those that take the time to blend in the crowds and assassinate their targets stealthily. The better you do the more pursuers you will have to always keep you on edge. And the first time you play, on edge you will be. But after a few days I found myself getting bored and generally disinterested. There is a progression and leveling system where you can unlock equipment, perks and customizable loadouts as well as team and hardcore variants, but I don’t see this becoming a part of your multiplayer rotation. As much as I hate to sound like a single-player only snob, I would really have preferred that the multiplayer never existed in exchange for a more refined and robust single player. An average single-player play through should only take 10-15 hours.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is a case of improvement held back by a lack of time. Every draw to the game has its own shortcoming. You get to continue Ezio’s story, but it’s really short. The combat system is expanded, but it falls into a new version of the old counter-kill heavy trappings. The graphics are prettier, but the engine performance dips. If you are a fan of the series like I am, then you will not want to miss what’s on offer here. Those new and curious could certainly pick worse games to play. And though Brotherhood ends up feeling like an expansion rather than a proper sequel, it still stands as one of the greats of this year’s action-adventure offerings.

Score: 8 out of 10

Click here to buy Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood for Xbox 360 at Amazon.com

About Abel Girmay

Just living, loving, and learning. What else is there to do?

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