Review: Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood

Ezio Auditore da Firenze is summoned into battle once again as he aims to liberate Rome from the influence of the Borgia family. Small improvements to the campaign and a fresh multiplayer mode ensure that fans of the Assassin’s Creed franchise have plenty of content to get excited about.

Developing Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood couldn’t have been easy. The last iteration (AC:II) shipped only twelve months previous and was applauded for fixing many of the jarring flaws in the original Assassin’s Creed. Many writers such as myself were worried that the short development cycle of Brotherhood would force Ubisoft to shrug off the single player experience as an after thought. We needn’t had worried. If you liked Assassin’s Creed II, you’ll almost certainly like what’s on offer here.

Nurturing a brotherhood of assassins is no doubt one of the largest additions to the game. Ezio can approach unruly citizens and enlist them to his cause, sending them out on missions and levelling them up with experience points. These can then be summoned into battle with a tap of the shoulder button, attacking large numbers of enemies or serving as a distraction as you drive toward your objective. The system isn’t forced upon you, as utilising them is only crucial to a handful of missions later in the game. I never felt an emotional tie or sense of personality from any of my members, so as a result I used them sparingly throughout the campaign.

Once Monteriggioni is all but destroyed, Ezio and his assassin chums head to Rome for the remainder of the game. The city is astoundingly huge and offers a wealth of districts, back alleys and landmarks to explore. The parkour controls make it incredibly easy to traverse the open world, again making brilliant use of rooftops, window sills and suspended signs. The setting does reuse many of the objects and textures found in Assassin’s Creed II though, surmounting in a location that lacks quite the same visual impact as Venice.

Players continue to explore Ezio’s memories so that Desmond Miles (a chap from present day) can learn of a political conspiracy. This section has a much larger prominence than previous games in the franchise, giving Desmond the chance to leave the animus and do a little free running of his own. There’s not an awful lot to discover here, but it’s a crucial reminder that what is happening to Ezio in the Renaissance period has implications for the future. A startling end sequence creates further questions for Desmond’s role and the motives of the Templars. Oh, and Shaun Hastings is just as annoying and idiotic as before.

The core missions have a nice amount of variety, including tailing enemies, infiltrating hideouts and performing covert assassinations. These can often require a great deal of stealth to complete, forcing players to pick specific routes or combinations of kills. Unfortunately this can sometimes lead to ‘trial and error’ scenarios, which is frustrating if you want to be creative and use a route that the developers didn’t intend. Nevertheless the campaign is paced well and consistently offers unique and enjoyable missions.

Just like in Assassin’s Creed II, there is a heap of side missions for Ezio to delve into. Players can help renovate Rome by purchasing buildings, receive upgrades by destroying war machines for Leonardo De Vinci and traverse tombs for a special armour set. The single player is already reasonably lengthy, but these additions mean that enthusiasts will be going after achievements and trophies for many weeks.

The multiplayer is a vital component of Brotherhood, but one that I can admit to not testing for this review. I’ve never been much of the online type and as a result, the new mode simply doesn’t interest me. From what I hear the experience is a unique take on cat and mouse, forcing players to hunt a target whilst they in turn are hunted by someone else. They are keeping the multiplayer for the upcoming Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, so presumably it has been a success and maintained an active community.

The engine has started to date a little bit in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, with occasional texture drop in and objects sporadically appearing in the distance. This is also apparent in some of the facial animations, which have since been eclipsed by titles such as L.A Noire or Heavy Rain. Despite these flaws the game has a massive attention to detail, realistically representing Rome in a stunningly historical fashion. Character animations continue to be a highlight, with Ezio leaping between rooftops and rolling across the floor with surprising fluidity and velocity.

The Assassin’s Creed franchise continues to refine its unique blend of stealth combat and period setting. Brotherhood does enough to justify itself and differentiate from the previous game, teasing players with further questions for Ezio’s final chapter, Revelations. If you’re interested in multiplayer this is a fantastic adventure game with great value both online and off.


Thumbsticks Podcast Episode 29

Earlier this week  I was summoned to Skype in order to take part in a quick podcast with Adrockski, staff writer for During the show I discuss the downloadable content for Assassin’s Creed 2 and the current climate of distributing DLC. Adrockski reviews Saboteur for me and we round everything up with my initial impressions of Bioshock 2. It clocks in at around 45 minutes, so it’s hopefully a suitable length for you to burn through on the way to work or listen whilst procrastinating on the internet. Please give us comments and let us know how we’re doing!

Click here to listen to the podcast

For anyone that’s keeping tabs on which video games I’m playing, this afternoon I reached Dionysus Park on Bioshock 2. Though still a bit linear, I’m loving the level design and fantastic audio files. I’ll have a review up soon, I promise!

Assassin’s Creed 2: Battle of Forli

I’ve become quite attached to Ezio Auditore and the renaissance period that he inhabits. So much in fact, that I snapped up the DLC without even reading the number of Microsoft Points that it would cost me. I’ve mentioned my review of Assassin’s Creed 2 earlier in my blog, but below is a quick update on the new additional content. For the full written article, just click on the ‘more’ button.

There was an entire chapter missing from Assassin’s Creed II that I never noticed or cared to enquire about. Sequence 12 is known as the Battle of Forli and was originally scrapped by Ubisoft due to time constraints. It’s now been brought back as DLC, but adds very little to the overarching experience or grandeur of Ezio’s quest.

You may have noticed that in the retail version, not a lot really happens in Forli. It features only as a small sightseeing tour, with our resident assassin learning the very mundane technique of operating a gondola. The brief meeting with the leader of Forli, Caterina Sforza, suggests a possible love interest and a grander role later in the game – but this amounts to nothing. (More)

The second installment of DLC known as “Bonfire of the Vanities” will be released later in February. It’ll cost about 520 Microsoft Points and include three additional Templar hideouts (one of which, the Arsenal Shipyard, was released with the UK limited edition version). As usual, I’ll have my opinions on it written as soon as i’ve played it. Until then!

Assassin’s Creed 2

Please take me back to Florence in the late 15th Century. If I have any chance of performing the gravity defying acrobatics of Ezio, I would like to be the first to sign my name up to the Animus. Assassin’s Creed 2 has managed to surpass my every average expectation, emerging as a well crafted piece of historical storytelling. Whether it’s piercing guards with dual hidden blades or performing ‘leaps of faith’ from atop chapel steeples – this game never bores.

It’s rare for a sequel to improve upon every single flaw of its predecessor. The first iteration is often notoriously brilliant in concept and design, but falters in execution and game play. Ubisoft’s original Assassin’s Creed is a perfect example, attracting some of the most diverse criticism from video game journalists.

Tremendous media hype lead to gamers proclaiming either euphoria or harsh disappointment, often dependent on personal immersion and patience. The setting was gorgeous to explore, but lacked any kind of heart. Thankfully, Assassin’s Creed 2 leaps forward from this groundwork in every possible way. (More)

If like me, you’re not an avid online multiplayer fan – this is a lengthy title that will last you through the dreary winter months. It’s certainly worth a rental, regardless of your experience with the original.