When In Rome...
The Assassin's Creed series is very much like marmite; you either love it or you hate it. While the series has had a somewhat rocky start with mixed reviews across the board for both the original and the sequel, things are about to change. While some of you may be under the impression that Brotherhood is a vain attempt by Ubisoft to make a quick buck, this could not be further from the truth.
Think of it as Assassin's Creed 2.5, an epilogue if you will, to AC II's “more questions than answers” ending. However, this fact does not make Brotherhood any less of an incredible gaming experience as it enhances on AC II in almost every way. Granted, the formula is much the same: ride to this well known historic European city, climb all over some medieval architecture, then plunge your hidden blade into some unsuspecting Templar baddy and leg it before anyone's the wiser. The simple fact is, the formula works.
The players will once again step into Ezio Auditore's boots as Desmond makes his way back into the Animus to find one of the fabled pieces of Eden. Instead of travelling around Italy like in AC II you're limited to the city of Rome throughout the Ezio portion of the game. While this may seem quite a small area, it really isn't. The game world is 3 times that of AC II's Florence and takes a considerable amount of time to get from one end to the other. This is helped by the fact that horses are now usable inside cities as well, as is Ezio's ability to 'Fast Travel' using various tunnels you must renovate around the city.
In addition to the main storyline there is a multitude of side quests for players to complete around Rome. While the first two games fell prey to repetitive side missions, Brotherhood redeems its predecessors by providing a wide range of diversely interesting quests. In the short time I've had to play Brotherhood, I often found myself heading straight for the side missions rather than the main storyline, something I rarely did in the other two games. Some of the best side missions are those that revolve around Leonardo da Vinci, in which you are first tasked to assassinate an overseer to steal his map leading you to one of the many war machines that Leonardo's been forced to make for the Templars. Upon obtaining the map you're asked to exit the city of Rome and you are then transported to a small area somewhere in Europe. An example of one of these sequences sees Ezio beating the crap out of an architect, burning up the plans for the war machine, in this case a wooden tank that looks a bit like a flying saucer, and then stealing the said war machine to wreak havoc amongst the Templar encampments before finally blowing it to smithereens.
Show Me Your Moves
The AC series has always been top notch in the combat department in terms of cinematic spectacle, with its vast array of medieval weaponry and brutal counter attacks. Brotherhood really goes the extra mile in providing great combat gameplay. The typical silent assassinations are now more encouraged than in the previous games due to the '100% Synchronization' challenges which crop up whenever you start a mission, giving you a specific parameter to complete in order to gain 100% Synchronization for that memory. These challenges may range from not being detected at all in the mission, to killing off your target using only your highly trained assassin goon squad that you'll be able to call in whenever you please.
However, with these additions come new combat mechanics and weapons. Amongst these are the chain executions. These moves are quite easy to perform, requiring the player to perform one counter kill and then push the movement stick in the direction of their next victim and press the attack button for an instant kill after the 1st counter kill is complete. While this makes combat slightly easier, the enemy AI has been much improved in Brotherhood, with guards being more on the aggressive side, causing them to attack more frequently or even at the same time to catch you off guard and provide a much more challenging fight compared to huddling round the player, scratching their backsides, and waiting for someone to pluck up the courage to attack.
Another new move Ezio has at his disposal is the good ol' groin kick. Ezio delivers a swift kick to an enemy's groin, lowering their defences so that Ezio can go in for the easy kill. It's a nice addition and definitely a massive help against the Brute enemies who can now break through your blocks, regardless of their attack. While these new moves are a welcome addition to the already robust combat system, the new weapons add even more to the experience. Amongst the new weapons are the two handed weapons, which you're now able to buy and equip instead of having to disarm a Brute every time you want to use a Longsword - only to have Ezio throw it away like a used hanky when he's dispatched all his enemies. However, the greatest addition in my opinion is the hand crossbow. This one-handed, one shot machine of death is a great addition to any assassin's armoury, not only providing the means to pick off targets from long range silently but also gaining the ability to be used in melee combat to perform counter kills like any other melee weapon.
Vastly improved gameplay, side-missions, AI and combat mechanics.
Main story provides more unanswered questions than an episode of Lost.