Assassin's Creed Brotherhood: raises the bar, but with some technical difficulties
You once again play Desmond Miles reliving the genetic memories of your ancestor Ezio Auditore da Firenze via the high tech Animus machine. The game starts off immediately where it ended in Assassin's Creed 2. The first thing you notice is how polished and clear the game is. The graphics (at least on the PS3 version of the game I have played) are noticeably improved. The controls are exactly the same as in previous Assassin's Creed games with one notable exception: Combat.
In previous games, combat consisted of waiting for the AI to attack and then successfully performing a "counter kill" via the use of careful (but not too careful) timing of the square button. This has changed dramatically in Brotherhood. Ezio can now take out multiple attackers, sometimes 8 9 or more, in a few seconds using the new and vastly improved combat mechanics. You can now kill in multiple ways in open combat and it is loads of fun to do. The secret is in stringing together what the game calls "executions". Once you kill one bad guy, you can immediately attack the next, if he is within range, and pull off a flashy, and often extremely violent one hit kill for every press of the button. The catch is that the AI is MUCH more aggressive in the game especially later, and they will attack simultaneously forcing you to use your environment and blocking/counter kill moves from previous games to avoid getting hit. The array of new death dealing tools is also impressive giving you a sometimes mind boggling combination of moves you can pull off to smite your enemies.
Movement has also been tweaked, and for you hardcore AC fans like myself, you will notice that free running is slightly smoother, and Ezio is a little more responsive than he was in ACII. There is also a Grand Theft Auto style mechanic now when it comes to horses. Horses play a larger role in gameplay as you can now use them to traverse the city itself, unlike other Assassin's Creed games. You can now hijack horses, start free running sequences from your horse (which is really cool if you aim your horse right) and do horse to horse assassinations.
The one complaint I have about the game is the audio. For the most part it's perfect, but there are some places where sound is missing or the timing is off, notably near one scene near the beginning of the game where Ezio is speaking with his fellow assassins, their moths move out of time with the audio. Also the sound of the hidden blade being deployed is missing, specifically in the "modern day" game play where you play as Desmond. *SPOILERS* - yes you do get to play as Desmond, actually a lot more if you want to. You can exit the animus at any time during game play and walk around not just your hideout, which just happens to be Monteriagionni, where Ezio's old villa is still standing, but also around the town itself. There are 5 collectible artifacts scattered around the modern day decapitated villa, and Desmond is faster and more responsive than Ezio, and he can fall from just about any height and not take damage or die. There's a catch though, apparently the templars use some kind of cell phone surveillance like in Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" so your only allowed 10 minutes at a time outside your hideout to explore the town, which is very well worth it. Also talking to your fellow modern day assassin's will reveal some interesting tidbits that expand the story and provide some rather funny comic relief from the otherwise serious and sometimes convoluted narrative. *END SPOILERS*
The story here will only make sense to those who have played the other Assassin's Creed games and doing a little conspiracy theory research will help you greatly in understanding the plot. The game can be hard for newcomers to the franchise and getting to know the complex combat system and free running can take a little time, but it's worth it when you run up a wall, jump behind a guard who's about to attack, stab him in the back with your hidden blade with flare and panache, and then proceed to take out his 6 buddies in less than 10 seconds. Trust me, you'll feel like a bad ass. All in all, this is a great game that should definitely be in your collection. The smooth new polished look of the game, the tight controls (how they got them better is beyond me) and the exhilarating new combat system alone make this worth picking up, add in one incredibly deep story line, and great voice acting and this game in damn near perfect. Only reason it didn't get a 10 is because of the audio timing, which can be easily overlooked. So remember "nothing is true, everything is permitted" Now go kill you some Templars!!!