Brotherhood brings more to the table, but doesn't quite have the flare of its predecessor.

User Rating: 7.5 | Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (PS3 Slim Bundle) PS3
After the release of the dismal original Assassin's Creed, this series really capitalized on all the endless potential and released a spectacular sequel in Assassin's Creed II. But it was disheartening to learn that Ubisoft was turning Assassin's Creed into an annual release franchise. I haven't appreciated rushed games in the past, and I definitely didn't want the quality of this series to fall back to what it originally was. Fortunately though, I can confirm that Brotherhood is at least a worthwhile sequel, though it is plagued by problems typical to annual release series. But creating a brotherhood is a lot of fun and a great addition to the franchise, and other problems have been resolved, though some have still been left unanswered. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood continues the tale of our hero Ezio, and is a very worthwhile game to fans of the franchise.

We once again get to see Ezio's life through the eyes of Desmond, and this time Desmond plays a huge role as well. But this time, the roles are reversed, and not in a good way. Ezio's story is strikingly disappointing, with a slow plot that doesn't really pick up until the very end. Cesare Borgia has stolen the Apple of Eden, and Ezio must retrieve it while ridding Rome of Borgia influence. You can tell that this was a rushed game, because a whole chunk leading into the ending of Ezio's story is completely missing, not to mention the story loses focus from the previous two games and often seems like a huge side quest. It's not the way we wanted to see Ezio's story continue, after the emotional run in Assassin's Creed II. Desmond, on the other hand, is a rapidly improving character. He now has many of the skills of an assassin, and he is granted some memorable sequences. This culminates in a shocking ending that will leave you speechless.

But much of the gameplay remains the same. Like in the second game, there are several different main guards and soldiers to battle, including those with heavy armor and massive weapons or men who are faster with lighter weapons. You still go back and forth with your foes, timing your strikes and countering their blows. You can still utilize a wide variety of weapons, from regular swords, to your hidden blades, crossbows, daggers, your enemies' weapons, and more. The enemies still come at you one at a time like in a movie, meaning the game is still too easy, though overall, the difficulty has been clearly upped as opponents block your attacks more often, it's a bit tougher to dodge, and in certain areas, enemies just keep coming. You still can easily get so much armor and such good weapons, on top of new kill streaks that allows to take down multiple enemies with just a few swings, that the game is really easy, but this isn't quite the problem it was in Assassin's Creed II. Hiding from enemies is still easy too as opposed to the original, though there is less water to dive in this time around.

Two of the newest additions to the franchise that you'll notice right away are the needs to destroy the Borgia influence in the city and recruit assassins. To destroy Borgia, you'll need to periodically infiltrate their forts and kill a commander before he escapes. These range in difficulty from 1 to 5 stars, the latter often being very annoying, though they're not too difficult for the most part. To recruit assassins, you must save people who are being bullied by guards in the streets, which will have them pledge loyalty to you. You can recruit up to twelve at a time, and recruit more if the others die. You can customize their appearance and call on them in battle, during which they gain experience. Watching them take down enemies like ants jumping on bigger prey is amusing, but ultimately neither the Borgia attacks nor the assassins add very much to the game. Once the assassins level up, which also occurs as you send them on random missions outside of Rome, they don the white robes of Ezio, and unfortunately you can't customize them any longer after that.

But the game certainly has much in common with its predecessor. You can still ride horses, though their role has increased. You can shoot projectile weapons from them and even assassinate people on the ground or on other horses. Horses can also be ridden in the city, though they can no longer sprint for some reason. You can now buy and renovate many areas of Rome instead of one select castle, though this results in so much money that you won't know what to do with it all. There are also some great platforming segments (some bad camera angles notwithstanding) and many side quests to undertake, though they aren't as fun as the main quest. The main quest this time around is highly disappointing after Assassin's Creed II, however. Far too many missions involve tailing people across the city before anything happens, or chasing them down. It's a lot more repetitive than what I expected. But I have to give props for the missions of younger Ezio, which are fun and hold some of the most poignant moments this franchise has ever provided us.

The stealthy aspects of the game are about the same as they've always been, a bit disappointing. You can still blend into crowds, sit on benches, and stay out of eyesight to keep from your target's (or the guards in the area) attention. I'd still like to see more improvement in this area, as realistic stealth is what was promised in the first game of the series, and we still really don't have it. We finally have a competitive multiplayer mode thrown in as well, to add plenty of replayability to the game. While it's nothing special, it's certainly a fun with several different modes and customization available. I consider on a similar level to Dead Space 2's multiplayer: you certainly won't buy the game for it, but it'll definitely add a few extra hours to the game. My only issue is that it might've taken away from the single player campaign, and if so, I'm not happy about that.

Another issue I have is simply with the overworld layout. Rome is a huge city, the biggest by far in the series so far, but there isn't really anywhere else to go in this game, other than on specific instances. The fields around Rome are very limited, so you don't have as many wide-open areas to travel around on horseback, cutting back some of the adventurous feel that was present in ACII. But the game is still gorgeous. Outstanding character models and lighting effects are among the best you'll see on consoles. Textures are crisp, and the city of Rome has some of the most detailed streets and buildings I've seen yet. The world is large with excellent detail even from long distances, and pop-in of the lush environmental details are at a minimum. There are technical gaffs though, with some weird glitches including awry textures at times and sometime when Ezio takes a step, the lighting suddenly changes from yellow to orange or other colors. It's kind of weird to see the sun set so suddenly in obvious increments like that at times. But technical problems aside, we still get some gorgeous scenery that allows for many breathtaking moments.

For the second time in a row, Ubisoft follows up outstanding visuals with excellent sound design. We once again receive much of the awesome soundtrack found in Assassin's Creed II, which means plenty of great tunes that match the environments and intensity of the action pretty much all the time. It's also easy to appreciate the atmospheric tunes in Monteriggioni during Desmond's missions. The sound effects are still just as good, with the city of Rome sounding very realistic with the noises of people going about their lives, the clop of horse hooves on pavement, the ringing of steel on steel or the sound of it ripping through flesh, the dying shouts of your victims, and even the splashing sounds when you run through water. The sound design is just exquisite. The voice acting is still solid as well, though it could definitely be improved with more unique voices for minor characters.

My final verdict on Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is that it's still a good game that follows very well in its predecessor's footsteps, and will be a highly enjoyable experience for fans of the series. The action and platforming are as great, maybe even a bit better, as they were before and will provide many hours of great gameplay. Recruiting assassins and invading Borgia territories are fun new elements to the game, though they don't add much overall and can get tiring. And the multiplayer adds plenty of replayability. The problem is that the main quest and story is very disappointing, with repetitive missions and lackluster moments until the last few hours. Brotherhood is clearly a rushed game and would've been well served to have another two years of development time. But it's still a beautiful game that is worth the money if you've been with the series since the beginning.