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Critical Reception: Ubisoft Montreal's  Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

Critical Reception: Ubisoft Montreal's Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

November 17, 2010 | By Danny Cowan

November 17, 2010 | By Danny Cowan
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This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, which reviews praise as being "too irresistible to ignore." Brotherhood currently earns a score of 90 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

Destructoid's Nick Chester scores Brotherhood at 9.5 out of 10. "Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood isn't a quick cash-in on last year's massively successful and (mostly) critically-acclaimed sequel," he begins. "It's not a full-blown sequel, either; this isn't Assassin's Creed 3. Instead, it acts more as an epilogue to the story told in Assassin's Creed II.

"What Brotherhood is, however, is a deep and rich game experience that builds on the strengths of its predecessor. And here's the kicker [...]: Brotherhood is, in almost all ways, a better game."

Chesterhood praises the new "brotherhood" gameplay mechanic in particular. "[Brotherhood is] the ability to recruit novice assassins from among the citizens of Rome," Chester explains.

"Once they're brought into the fold, a meta-game opens up that will have you sending them on tasks all across Europe, either alone or in groups. As missions are successfully accomplished, the assassins earn experience points and can then be leveled up, allowing them to attend to even more difficult engagements."

"While it's certainly a nice diversion to build up a fellowship of clandestine murderers," Chester continues, "the real satisfaction comes from calling on them in the game world to perform assassinations or help you in battle. With a simple button press, you can summon your brothers (and sisters) to assassinate targets right before your eyes. As empowering as it is to quietly sneak up on a guard and take him out, sight unseen, there's something even more fulfilling about watching your minions descend (seemingly from nowhere) upon a target at your command, doing your dirty work for you."

Chester finds that the game's narrative is lacking, however. "Taken by itself, it's not terrible, but this is probably not the narrative follow-up that fans wanted trailing the mystifying finale of Assassin's Creed II," he writes. "The overall narrative doesn't really hold as much gravity as previous titles. There's certainly not very much explained or even revealed about the overarching assassin/Templar chronicle, outside of the game's final hours."

Otherwise, Brotherhood "improves on just about every facet [of Assassin's Creed II], and dumps a ton of content on the player to boot," Chester claims. "It not only lives up to the hype, but it manages to completely outclass its predecessor. Brotherhood is a game that Assassin's Creed fans simply cannot afford to miss, and one of best games this year."

Mikel Reparaz at Games Radar rates Brotherhood at 9 out of 10. "More than an update, expansion or sequel," he notes, "Brotherhood feels like the missing second half of Assassin's Creed II."

"If you've played ACII, Brotherhood will feel instantly familiar," Reparaz continues. "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."

Reparaz describes optional commerce-boosting missions as noteworthy highlights. "Ezio's out to do more than just assassinate his way to the Borgia clan's leaders," he writes. "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."

Brotherhood refines several other areas of Assassin's Creed II's gameplay. "If commerce isn't your thing, take heart: like so much else in Brotherhood, it's largely optional," Reparaz assures. "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."

Brotherhood's new multiplayer modes also prove to be surprisingly engaging, according to Reparaz. "Each multiplayer match takes place in a medium-sized, town-like map populated not just by other players, but also crowds of civilians who all look just like the player characters," Reparaz explains. "Since you won't normally be able to detect each other on sight, the key is to try and blend in with the civilians,follow your radar and keep an eye out for anything that might give your intended victim away."

"It's a fantastically challenging setup, and one that can either be extremely rewarding (if your minutes of careful plodding, hiding and misdirection lead to a gruesome kill) or immensely frustrating (if someone else kills you when your kill is within reach)," Reparaz says. "So long as you've got the patience to slowly stalk your kills and gradually level up to the good stuff, multiplayer is definitely one of Brotherhood's high points."

GameSpot's Kevin VanOrd gives Brotherhood an 8.5 out of 10. "This follow-up tale doesn't have the same impact of the story that spawned it," he admits, "but Ezio's world is a wonder to inhabit, filled with amazing architectural detail and bursting with tons of enjoyable content."

VanOrd explains: "There's a bit of drama when an associate is accused of betrayal, but for the most part, Brotherhood's straightforward plot doesn't have much emotional impact, and because Ezio exhibits little personal growth, there's the slightest hint of staleness to his escapades."

"While Brotherhood's story falls just short of series standards," VanOrd continues, "its sense of place and time is as impeccable as fans could possibly hope for. You spend the majority of the time in Rome, and while you may miss exploring multiple cities, the city is nevertheless huge and gorgeous, brimming with so much visual variety and exquisite detail that Brotherhood feels as consequential as its forebears. [...] It is all rendered with amazing detail and lit beautifully, undercut only occasionally by visual blemishes that will be familiar to fans of the series."

VanOrd finds that the new "brotherhood" mechanic falls flat, however. "This aspect of Brotherhood is another way of giving you something to do in a game already full of content," VanOrd explains. "At the very least, it's fun to call upon your brothers and sisters and watch them do their dirty work on your behalf.

"Ultimately, however, this aspect feels unnecessary and contrived. This is due in part to the combat's lack of challenge. Swordplay has been tweaked for the better, but a move that lets you string together one-slash kills keeps it from ever being so challenging that you need to call on your fellow assassins to gain a strategic advantage."

In terms of core gameplay, however, VanOrd notes that Brotherhood features many welcome changes. "Almost every aspect of the series has seen enhancements in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, from travel (you can whistle for a horse and ride it almost anywhere) to value (you can now replay any completed memory)," he writes. "There is joy in leaping across the Roman rooftops, taking in the grand sights in front of you and realizing that it is all your own playground."

"This may not be Assassin's Creed III," VanOrd concludes, "but like Ezio's smirk, Brotherhood is too irresistible to ignore."


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