Assassin's Creed Brotherhood

360 (also PS3) ¶ (15)

You just canít keep a do-gooding nobleman down; twelve months ago, Ezio Auditore da Firenze was trying to set the many wrongs of 15th century Italy to right. This involved a lot of running, hiding, climbing buildings and stealing. Oh and quite a bit of murder. Assassinís Creed II was a sprawling adventure that not only covered a lot of ground in Italy but also through time itself.

Assassinís Creed Brotherhood picks up from where Ezio last left off, although this time he finds himself in the beautiful city of Rome. The city is over-run by the evil Borgia, who have set up strangleholds in zones across the city. Once again itís down to Ezio to overthrow the corrupt powers that be, and rebuild Rome to its former glory.

To all those who made the wise decision to purchase Assassinís Creed II you will instantly feel at home. In fact, thereís very little to distinguish between the two in both look and gameplay Ė initially at least. There has certainly been some tweaking to the combat system, which sadly wasnít for the better.

In fact itís fair to say that itís borderline broken now. Many a time we found ourselves stabbing the X button to attack, with Ezio not doing a thing Ė not a salami. Itís about as responsive as a dead dolphin. And although the inclusion of a gun and a crossbow sound like great ideas, they have an aiming system that has a life all of its own. We weíre never fans of the combat system in the previous game, but at least it kind of worked. Here though, it just dies a death.

boom reviews - Assassin's Creed Brotherhood image
It really doesn't matter what time you get here, the place is always crawling with tourists.

At another point in the game we found ourselves in a bit of a pickle. We were overwhelmingly outnumbered by guards, for a battle we clearly werenít going to win. So we decided the best strategy was to retreat, regroup our thoughts and try again. Problem was, we couldnít. As hard as we tried, we couldnít physically get Ezio to run away from a fight. He just stood his ground, like a renaissance tit, with no intention of going anywhere. It turns out to get out of a fight you have to pull the left trigger. Of course, silly us, pulling a trigger makes more sense than just pushing your character in a different direction. What were we thinking?

Itís not the only flaw of the game either. There are more sections where Ezio has to do exploring of temples (sound familiar?), where he has to climb, jump and leap to a set destination. Once again, thereís little accuracy in his ability to get from what seems like an easy route from A to B. Itís as if heís been possessed by the mid ninetyís version of Lara Croft; if it looks like a jump he can make, then you can guarantee heíll miss it.

In one section you have to complete it in under eight minutes to get mucho credit; after adding another 20 minutes to that figure, we finally emerged, glad to see the light of day once again. It seems the only direction Ezio can manage with any real assurance is, rather sadly, a backwards step.

Despite these glaring faults, itís still really difficult to pull yourself away from exploring Rome, which depicted here truly is an open city. Thereís a real atmosphere on the streets, as you brush through the crowd. And thankfully thereís a little more fluidity to Ezioís movements when it comes to climbing the buildings above ground.

And when you finally get to start using assassins (we somehow managed to clock up over 10 hours without coming across any), it certainly makes things more entertaining.

If all Brotherhood had was its 15 hours of single player campaign gameplay, it would be a hard game to recommend, particularly if you already owned Assassinís Creed II with its 40+ hours. Brotherhood however, has a further string to its bow Ė multiplayer.

There must have been a temptation to just stick a routine, run of the mill multiplayer experience into the mix. You know the sort of thing, Deathmatch Š la renaissance Italy. Ubisoft however, have turned the multiplayer side of things into a true gaming experience.

The multiplayer plays to the gameís core strength, that of stealth. In Wanted mode, you are given the identity of your target, and you have to hunt them down. Problem is, there is more than just one person with the exact identity walking around. You have to make your way through the crowd and try to catch your opponent out. At the same time, one or more of the opposition can also be hunting you down. So itís a cat-and-mouse-and-cat-and-mouse kind of thing. Before too long, you really start to feel paranoid, as youíre never really sure of how far or close your opponent is. And this is just one mode out of many.

If youíre looking for a unique multiplayer experience online, then you really need to get your hands on Brotherhood.

Although the game as a whole impresses on so many levels, thereís definitely a case for it being a Jack of all trades but master of virtually none. Itís almost as if its ambitious vision is its own undoing. We canít blame it for trying so hard, but feel frustrated that we canít achieve the basic actions we so desperately want to achieve. After all, should you really have to pull a trigger and press A just to get your character to simply run?

If itís an inspired, purely single player campaign youíre after, then weíd still say go for Assassinís Creed II if you donít already have it. However if multiplayer is your bag, then Brotherhood is that rarest of games Ė a must buy.

We can only hope that Ubisoft pay close attention to their own history Ė and learn from their own mistakes Ė before they send Ezio (or whoever else it might be) on further historical adventures.

four out of five