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Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood review

AT A GLANCE
  • Enormous, landmark-filled world to explore
  • Leonardo's machines are a fun change of pace
  • Uniquely fun multiplayer action
  • Story's kind of flat compared to ACII
  • Visual glitches, occasionally infuriating controls
  • Waiting for the next game after the WTF ending

It’s easy to think of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood as Assassin’s Creed 2.5, but that’s not quite right. The follow-up to 2009’s Assassin’s Creed II adds more than it changes, true, and it looks and feels virtually identical to its badass, Renaissance-set predecessor. But more than an update, expansion or sequel, Brotherhood feels like the missing second half of ACII.

Big and lengthy enough to stand on its own, Brotherhood is more varied than ACII was, crammed full of cool ideas, gadgets and missions that simply wouldn’t have fit in the last game. It introduces factions, recruitable followers, Leonardo da Vinci-designed war machines, conquerable territory and a ton of optional quests that provide some of the game’s most interesting content. And for an adventure set mainly in a single city (as opposed to ACII’s numerous, sprawling towns), it’s surprisingly huge. Just don’t expect a whole lot of character development or earth-shattering revelations this time around.

To put it another way, if ACII could be summed up like this:

Then Brotherhood is a bit more like this:


Above: That dapper fellow in the painting is Cesare Borgia, Brotherhood’s central villain. And the tent-looking thing is a tank


Now, where were we?

If you haven’t yet finished Assassin’s Creed II, and have somehow managed to avoid spoilers up to this point, stop reading this now and skip ahead to the next section. In fact, you may want to finish ACII before you even consider starting Brotherhood, because the story picks up exactly where ACII’s left off – which is to say inside a secret, prehistoric vault deep beneath the Vatican.


Above: ZOMG SPOILERS!

From there, it follows the continuing story of Ezio Auditore, the Italian nobleman-turned-killer who we previously took from wet-behind-the-ears kid to grizzled master Assassin. After beating up the incredibly corrupt Pope and receiving an apocalyptic warning from a long-dead precursor civilization (directed, weirdly enough, at his modern-day descendant Desmond Miles), Ezio figures his war is over. With the mind-controlling Apple of Eden in hand, he makes a triumphant return to Monteriggioni, the little fortress town players built up from a relative ruin in ACII.

Of course, it’s not going to last. After a brief interlude that re-introduces most of Ezio’s allies, Monteriggioni falls under a massive siege led by the Pope’s son, Cesare Borgia. With his town shattered by cannon fire and the Apple stolen again, a wounded Ezio sets off for the Borgia seat of power – Rome – to exact revenge.


Above: This stuff with the cannons only really happens once in the entire game, in case you were wondering


When in Rome…

If you’ve played ACII, Brotherhood will feel instantly familiar. As before, you’ll spend most of the game climbing huge, medieval buildings, free-running across rooftops and slaughtering roving packs of guards as you chase down the game’s story missions. You’ll also spend a lot of time riding horses, which is especially fun now that they can be ridden within city limits and summoned with a whistle (just like in Red Dead Redemption, yes).

You still fight by being surrounded by enemies, who then attack one at a time, although there are a few significant additions to the ebb and flow of combat this time around (more on those in a bit). And you’ll still need to reveal the map piece by piece, by climbing up to high “viewpoints” and then synching with the eagles, or whatever it is Ezio does while he’s up there.


Above: You also stab dudes in the face a lot

So what’s new? For starters, there’s the game’s vision of Renaissance Rome, a sprawling metropolis that’s equal parts dense city streets and rural, ruin-filled countryside. Each of its three primary districts feels about as big as one of ACII’s cities, and they’re all filled with accurate-looking recreations of famous Roman ruins and historical sites, like the glittering Pantheon and the massive, crumbling Colosseum. Climbing around on these and discovering their secrets is fun, but what’s perhaps more interesting is that you can actually buy them.

See, Ezio’s out to do more than just assassinate his way to the Borgia clan’s leaders; to truly crush them, he needs to erode their power over Rome’s citizens. This is accomplished by locating one of the 12 Borgia towers, and then killing its attendant captain before climbing the thing and setting it ablaze. Once the tower’s burned, the area around it opens for business, enabling you to buy up the shuttered shops, stables, banks, fast-travel portals and ruins, and reopen them to the public (with a cut of the profits, of course). It’s a bit like rebuilding Monteriggioni in ACII, except on a citywide scale, and it can get surprisingly addictive.


Above: It's enormous, and it can be yours. On paper, anyway... 

If commerce isn’t your thing, take heart: like so much else in Brotherhood, it’s largely optional. While Brotherhood’s central story missions are engaging enough (if a little heavy on stealth, escort and oh-so-tedious tailing jobs), its structure is a little unusual, in that its relatively short central story is propped up by a slew of optional tasks, some of which come with their own storylines, and a few of which actually contain some of the game’s best moments.

More Info

Release date: Mar 22 2011 - PC
Nov 16 2010 - Xbox 360, PS3 (US)
Nov 19 2010 - Xbox 360, PS3 (UK)
Available Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Action
Published by: Ubisoft
Developed by: Ubisoft
Franchise: Assassin's Creed
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence
PEGI Rating:
18+
Mikel Reparaz
GamesRadar

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.

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  • alwaysthere1996 - May 16, 2011 1:37 a.m.

    so super awesome and there is soo much to do... i can play it for hours and never get bored! :)
  • sohaibifikhar - April 21, 2011 6:36 p.m.

    MrCeatherMalone97 is the man... this one's better as in improved for me as compared to AcII minus the character development thing... If AcII's a 9.0 than this is an 8.9...
  • MrCeatherMalone97 - December 13, 2010 9:55 p.m.

    Why did you give it a nine ? Listen to that it's ten out of ten , Would this be better then black ops ?
  • pots555 - December 1, 2010 10:04 p.m.

    This is, for me, the best game of the year. Simply amazing.
  • gamerchick101 - December 1, 2010 7:42 p.m.

    im sorry but am i the only one who hates the ending!?! unless there will be a fourth one, i hope they make one.
  • opeth784 - November 23, 2010 6:09 p.m.

    Amazing dubbed Lebowski reference made me lol hard.
  • kangaroocory - November 20, 2010 12:55 a.m.

    The thing i like most is probably the different outfits instead of the plain ol' white of AC1. Looking forward to a broader color spectrum in the next AC game!
  • Slayer11496 - November 19, 2010 1:48 a.m.

    NON-SPOILER short review for Assassins Creed: Brotherhood I just finished the game and I must say it is awesome.It is nice to see that Ezio's character actually evolve through the two stories. Resurrecting the brotherhood is cool for fans, and strangely fulfilling. Rome is a great landscape that I truly enjoyed playing. Renovating shops is good to the player and is not as repetitive as implied in the Super Review. The combat seems to have gotten a huge overhaul. Players can now use hidden pistol with your sword, and can do quick(and entirely badass) kill streaks. On to Assassins Creed new multiplayer. I have played about five hours in this surprisingly addictive addition. Players new to the game prepare to be molested because this is an in depth, hardcore, multiplayer that requires a full understanding of the game. I have spent a lot of time in the first two games so I am doing pretty well. My favorite game mode is wanted(I think that's what it's called). This mode involves you hunting another player in a sea of look-alike AI's, but the twist is that most of the time you will have someone hunting you too. When I was dominating this one match I had three other players racing to kill me, and as expected it made life difficult at the top. On a scale of one to ten I give this a 9.5 because it delivers in every way a fan can hope for and the only thing that's missing is a 3 at the end of it's name. -John Alvarado
  • Coolbeans69 - November 19, 2010 12:59 a.m.

    Am I the only one who finds Red Dead a little overrated?
  • Deutero - November 18, 2010 8:37 p.m.

    Great review thanks Mr Reparaz. Its good to know that i should lower my expectations for the story and focus more on its other offerings
  • quincytheodore - November 18, 2010 1:08 p.m.

    It's barely a year since I hunted those feathers, they are fast and the quality seems good. I'll definitely try this out. Assassin's Creed is one of those game that really worth you buck.
  • Spybreak8 - November 18, 2010 2:27 a.m.

    I know you have to find games to compare with this one but Fable III and AC:B seem to be very different. It's almost like comparing Burnout and Forza just because they're racing games. Annnyway, good to hear this is good but not better than AC2 per see. Glad I grabbed NFSHP but I plain on grabbing this once I finish AC2. Thanks Mikel for not spoiling AC2 for me, much appreciated.
  • dontshootthereviewer - November 18, 2010 2:01 a.m.

    ok now i gotta get black ops, fallout new vegas and this! way to put out big games so soon guys.
  • philipshaw - November 17, 2010 7:41 p.m.

    This looks awesome but I'm waiting until Christmas to getting it
  • benjman - November 17, 2010 6:50 p.m.

    If you need a new PS3 to play this on go here: http://consoles.freebiejeebies.co.uk/199577 I got a ps3 160gb with 2 games. all completely free!
  • andym - November 17, 2010 12:54 p.m.

    What is the reviewer talking about? The story in ACII was truly awful. The game was good despite it's story, not because of it. Decent review otherwise. My only question is whether it still has the ridiculous assassination missions, where you stealthily take someone out, then for some reason you start talking to them as they're dying so all the guards can see you. It wasn't a stealth game, it was a running away one! I thought this was going to be an identical game with few changes, I'm pleasantly surprised. Will probably get it when it becomes cheap.
  • Shinn - November 17, 2010 10:53 a.m.

    I saw a hot blonde Assassin, i'm in.
  • humpiedumpie - November 17, 2010 8:02 a.m.

    Great review! :) I am still not sure to buy this one though, because i will only play the singleplayer. Assassins Creed is just not a game for me to be played in competitive multiplayer. Maybe ill wait till it's half priced :) Still a good game though
  • Defguru7777 - November 17, 2010 4:39 a.m.

    Seems pretty good. I'll pick it up eventually, but not until after Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, Dead Rising 2, and Fallout: New Vegas.