Hands On: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood has over 400 people working on it, spread across a number of different studios in Ubisoft's global network - and it took one simple push of the 'back' button to see where the work had gone. The incredible amount of icons on the game map, and the variety of the tasks, is testament to the work Ubisoft has put into this sequel.

If you thought Assassin's Creed 2 was loaded with distractions, a seemingly infinite amount of sub-missions, then wait till you get a load of Brotherhood.

"I took the game home with me over the weekend," claims Philippe Bergeron, Level Design Content Director on Brotherhood. "And I didn't touch the main story once."

We believe him. Brotherhood is a fully fledged title. It's not a cash-in, it's not a glorified expansion pack - it's an evolution of the Assassin's Creed franchise and, post an extensive hands on demo, it has rocketed directly to the top of our most anticipated list.

Playing through Brotherhood is a familiar experience. In a good way. Shimmying up buildings with ease, finding finger holds, speed running across the rooftops - in a strange way it felt good to be playing Assassin's Creed again. With a tactile control system and animations that enhance that experience, the Assassin's Creed franchise is probably the best example of game that places you firmly within a universe you can interact with completely and believably - that's what makes it such a rewarding game to interact with.

So far so similar. It's only a slight slipup that initially introduces us to one of the newest mechanics - the assisted assassinations.

While fumbling our way back towards familiarity, we pushed the right bumper button. Before we knew it two junior assassins had leapt from a hidden position, lodging their hidden blades into the throats of two guards in the vicinity. It's an interesting mechanic - Ezio has access to these assassins, and can call on them at any time. They proved particularly useful during intense battles, or situations that demanded a stealthy approach. They can be called upon to do your bidding whenever, wherever.

And, typically, this mechanic is tied directly to a new meta-game, expanding from the village management system in Assassin's Creed 2. As Ezio, you can train and build up the strengths of these assassins by sending them on mini-missions, which increase in difficulty throughout the game. It's similar to the team management system in MGS: Peace Walker. Building the strength and skills of your team will increase their ability to help you in battle, allowing them to tackle more difficult foes within the game world.

'Meta' is probably the word that best describes most of the improvements in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. Players can manage their assassins but also take control of sections of the city, and subsequently build them up in the same manner you could your home base in Assassin's Creed 2. This allows you greater access to stores, fast travel options, and unlocks certain sub-missions. There's a real sense of progress in Brotherhood. The world responds to your presence - your actions have real consequences.

And tied into this meta-game is the concept of the Borgia towers, which play like a game of Risk smelted down and reformed to suit the unique mechanics of Assassin's Creed. In order to gain control of an area, and gain access to new stores, among other things, you must take control of Borgia towers within the area. Taking control of these towers involves climbing to the top, taking care of the leaders (via a swift and very painful death) and burning said towers to the ground.

It's almost like a twist on the original concept of the viewpoints, where climbing to the top unlocks new areas and missions. Only this time round the Borgia towers combine stealth, combat and climbing into one free form mission that can be approached in a non-linear manner. It really captures the free-form flow of Assassin's Creed as a video game and, so far at least, stands out as our favourite addition to this sequel.

It's difficult to explain but, despite the numerous disparate mechanics and meta-dynamics that make up the game's structure, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood hangs together brilliantly, creating a universe that genuinely feels like a living, breathing world. Assassin's Creed has always excelled in making the player feel like he had a place within the game universe - every building can be scaled, every area explored - but Brotherhood gives players the means with which to transform it. And that evolves the Assassin's Creed franchise in ways we didn't expect.

We can't wait to see more. In a sense our demo was a little overwhelming, with Philippe Bergeron shouting out an endless list of new mechanics and improvements as we played - the scope has expanded massively. But one thing is for sure: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is a genuine sequel, and a game that demands to be played.


Comments

    And that is basically all i have been wanting to hear and so much more.. this is a genuinely exciting prospect - i'll indeed be looking forward to having some time with this game myself and seeing how the final product turns out.

    I was really worried that this would pale in comparison to the other games, but looks like my worries can just about be put to rest :)

    Thank you Mark.
    I saw this as just a quick spin off, ODST kind of thing and was going to happily ignore it. But you have clarified and justified its existence and now it is something I am going to have to spend money on.
    Thanks for that.
    :)

    Great preview and yeah, that sounds frickin' awesome! A transformative metagame over the top of a game where merely moving around was fun makes this very exciting.

    My bf preordered the limited codex edition, can't wait!
    But before this I'm going to play Fable 3 first, which will come out in less than a week! WOOOOOT I'm gamer-happy

    I just want ot know whats going on with Desmond?
    Is his role going to be a similar size as the last two or is it being paired back to focus on Ezio?

      I was told there will be sections outside of the animus - but I suspect they will be pared back a bit (which suits me fine).

      Actually i think there is going to be more Desmond related stuff to do in Brotherhood then there was in AC2, and the ending of Brotherhood might influence the Desmond storyline quite a bit.

      There is going to be a lot more scenes involving Desmond, the creators have said just that. Like right at the start after you leave Rome and head home to the Villa you will go right to Desmond and will have to go with Lucy and do something. I wont explain anymore but just so you know, there is more Desmond scenes than in ACII and will have you to do a lot more action sequences, its going to be a lot more funner playing as Desmond than in the past couple of games.

        If you're telling the truth Creed Master I love you.

    I was holding off getting this, thought I'd wait 'til it was on special or something, but now I'm regretting not preordering before I spent on other stuff.

    :(

    The more I read and see of this it looks more like an Assassins Creed 3 rather than an expansion or add-on for AC2. is that a fair assessment?

    Can't wait to see how the story fits in with the wider conflict. Time outside the animus with Desmond was always interesting in both games I thought.

      Well they've built a completely new environment, with new mechanics, and a new story.

      I think it's the result of a top team devoting all their time to creating a top notch product by wisely using the resources they have at their disposal.

    The multiplayer is also pretty awesome. I would buy the game based on that alone but so glad to hear single player is also great.

    A sidenote: I'm currently playing through AC2. It's great...really great. However, I must say that after the phenomenal effort R* put into their horse riding mechanic, Ezio on a horse seems extremely clunky and crude.

      well to be fair the amount of time spend on a horse in Red Dead is like 100 times the amount of time you spend on a horse in AC2

    I love that trailer cause it sounds like hes trying to rap in a few parts.

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