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Assassin's Creed Brotherhood is still a game I play when the kids are in bed, but unlike the previous games I found it to have an intriguing - and strangely undulating - pace that kept me playing to the end.
I dabbled with the first Assassin's Creed, as much for the stunning animation and climb-anything gameplay as anything else. I could take or leave the heavy handed time travelling element, and the attempts of the soon-to-be assassinated to convince me I was as bad as them felt a little worthy to me.
The second game, imaginatively titled Assassin's Creed 2, greatly improved all this though, and delivered a solid game around the impressive technical achievements. There was more to do, less repetition and even passable strategy and role play elements.
Brotherhood is hot on the heels of all this, and not as an expansion but a whole new game. I'm always a little suspicious of overnight reinventions of good ideas - particularly ones that mean I have to shell out for a new disc when the last one isn't even cold.
But happily, Brotherhood deftly adds to the formula and rebalances where it needs to. Where the first two games impressed largely on their technical delivery, Brotherhood recommends itself more on the basis of the imagination at work here.
The time-straddling storyline perpetuates, and I'm still not all that taken with the device. Nevertheless it does what it needs to to get you into the action, this time we land in Rome with the Siege of Monteriggioni slowly unfolding before us.
Because Brotherhood has much more light and shade, fast and slow, it plays more like a novel.
This serves to introduce new abilities, riding horses, two-handed combat, disarm moves, kicks and tag-teaming enemies, before things really kick off. This is where Brotherhood's single player really shines. It's simply paced much better than the steady plot of the previous titles.
Because Brotherhood has much more light and shade, fast and slow, it plays more like a novel. At times you are speeding through a chapter to find out what happens at its conclusion, while others you want to take slow and savour every moment. It's a rarity in videogames, I can only recall feeling like this playing Uncharted 2 (PS3), but once you've experienced it it's hard to go back to other games.
The biggest gameplay change is your ability to call on other assassins to help you progress. Brotherhood asks Ezio to grow up, and deal with people management, resources and engaging in city politics. Of course, all this is shot through with beautiful free running escapades and showboating.
Brotherhood asks Ezio to grow up.
Working with other assassins opens up a world of Brotherhood Assisted Moves where you and your cohorts can team up to access more powerful and flexible moves. These comrades are also useful in the stealth missions that proliferate as things proceed. Stealth is still utmost in Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, with the slightest misstep triggering enemy's calls for reinforcements.
Along with the assassination and fighting missions there are now those that require sabotage, object retrieval or character escorting. These are all joined with the impressive multiplayer mode. You can pick from eight types of assassin before being tasked with finding and killing a player-character who is also hunting you.
What I actually found was much more substantial.
This multiplayer is a simple setup that leaves space for you to approach each opponent your own way, and with other players in the world it edges towards the feel of a Massive Multiplayer Online game as allegiances are struck.
I had expected Assassin's Creed Brotherhood to be filler between the second and third game. What I actually found was much more substantial though. I've really enjoyed my time with the game, and have actually gone back to finish off Assassin's Creed 2 (360) while I wait for Assassin's Creed 3.
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