Ezio di Auditore is growing up. He has gotten scruffier and wiser, but he still has a lot to learn. According to Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood producer Vincent Pontbriand, Assassin's Creed II hero Ezio is now legendary. He's a leader, but he's legendary. He's wiser, but he still makes mistakes. He's also deadlier than ever. From the stage of Ubisoft's E3 2010 press conference, Pontbriand showed off Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood in action, though we were first treated to Brotherhood's most recent (and absolutely excellent) trailer. We were even treated to a pre-trailer introduction, which showed us eagles flying and splashes of color, while a rumbling voice-over proclaimed: "Destroy them. But remember for whom the assassins fight."
If you haven't already, be sure to check out our previously published impressions, as well as the excellent trailer. But let's break it down! The trailer takes place in Rome, 1503. Pope Alexander VI is carried through a crowd of Roman admirers, showered by flower petals and accompanied in the carriage by his son, Cesare Borgia. We see Ezio emerge from the shadows and march toward his prey. Gunners take aim at him from the rooftops, but they are felled by unseen assailants before they can fire at the robed assassin. When Ezio arrives at the carriage after leaving a bloody trail behind him, Borgia steps out to taunt him, and a number of guards surround the unfazed Auditore. Ezio captures a feather in his hand, looks to the sky, and gives a nod. Arrows shoot into each guard, again shot by unseen attackers. Guards on horseback set upon Ezio, but they are no match for the agile assassin. Borgia licks his sword as his cronies surround him--but Ezio is no longer alone, either. His compadres, previously concealed, appear behind him, and the two groups rush toward each other, but before we witness the final clash, the game's logo appears on the screen, and we see a release date: November 16, 2010.
We then returned to Pontbriand, who explained that the ongoing struggle between the Templars and the Assassins is escalating. He then cut to a cutscene in which ladies' man Ezio has bedded a comely auburn-haired lass. The sexual bliss is clearly not meant to last, however, as Ezio's quarters--and, in fact, the entire villa at Monteriggioni--is under siege. Ezio leaps out a broken window and onto the roof to see his beloved home base beset by attackers. The entire village is collapsing before his very eyes, but fortunately, his aging uncle Mario is there to assist. Mario tasks Ezio with holding off the attackers while he evacuates innocents from Monteriggioni. As Ezio leapt onto a horse, Pontbriand took the opportunity to inform us that horseback gameplay has evolved in Brotherhood. Players will be able to enter cities on horseback, and apparently there is "advanced horsefighting" toward the end of the game, though it was unclear exactly what this meant.
Ezio scaled to the top of a collapsing edifice, where he found several cannons to man. According to Pontbriand, Ubisoft is hoping to instill Assassin's Creed with more "memorable moments" than previous Assassin's Creed games. As if to prove this, we watched as Ezio manned these cannons and took aim at the soldiers below, as well as at the towers they had swarmed into. "Diversity is a priority" exclaimed Pontbriand, as we watched cannonballs fly toward the angry assassin. According to the producer, your goal is always to strike first and strike fast. To this end, there are new moves and mechanics to learn, and the AI is more aggressive than before. In the combat sequence we saw next, Ezio clashed with multiple soldiers at once. The combat didn't look remarkably different, but we noticed that not every enemy waited for Ezio to finish the move in progress before attacking. We did notice a few new fatality moves, however, including a particularly bloody one in which Ezio impaled an axe into his foe's chest.
Ezio nears the Villa's gates, where Cesare Borgia and his mates have surrounded Mario. Borgia taunts Ezio and holds the fabled Apple of Eden as if to tease our hero. Before Ezio can intervene, the Borgia men cock their rifles, take aim at the prone Mario, and the camera cuts away. We hear the guns fire, and Ezio grimaces, horrified. It seems Mario has been killed. Pontbriand told us that Ezio will now need to take the fight to Rome, the center of the corruption, and gave a brief mention of the game's multiplayer modes. We'll have more on that aspect of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood soon, but regardless, it's clear that if you like Assassin's Creed--or at very least, studly bearded men in robes--you should be keeping a close eye on the newest entry in this intriguing series.