After the release of last year's megahit, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, two other sequels came to the market and pulled niche sales all their own. While Valve's Left 4 Dead 2 picked up the co-op audience, it was Ubisoft's sequel to the sleeper-ish hit, Assassin's Creed, which drew much of the media attention. This year, one week after the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops, Ubisoft will release its own release in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and will bring a surprising twist on the Creed formula in the form of the multiplayer. One match was all it took to show that this extension would be a worthy experience.
I didn't get any time with the single-player portion, which will focus on just one city — Rome — and continue the story of Ezio Auditore da Firenze. Toward the end of Assassin's Creed 2, Ezio made some very surprising decisions, but he soon found out that his work was not done. The Templar are far from finished, and this time, his own hidden blade won't be enough. The single-player scenario, which Ubi's rep clocked at 15 hours will now center around building up — and getting the help of — a brotherhood of assassins.
Meanwhile, the multiplayer fast-forwards to 2012. When Lucy Stillman used Ezio's birth to get the full data of Desmond's ancestor ready for copying, she left behind the original files. Abstergo scientist Warren Vidic (and others) seized on the opportunity, analyzing the data to create a simulation of the assassin's environment with the intent to use the bleeding effect to train some of their own agents in the art of assassination. In the multiplayer portion, the player takes the role of a bad guy training in the good guy's tricks. Who better to test them on than one another, in an environment where death is completely consequence-free?
The multiplayer uses the full Animus menus to set up things. The player selects one of eight archetypes and a pair of weapons or items (in addition to the trademark hidden blade). In the demo scenario, the players spawned into a limited, but wide, reach of Rome, which is occupied by hundreds of people. After a minute of looking around, I was given a target: a courtesan.
Naturally, the goal is not to just find a random courtesan and shank him, which would penalize my score. Instead, the goal is to find the player courtesan, who is, in turn, ordered to hunt me down. I had to try to catch the target player while either acting like one of the NPCs to avoid notice or just plain outrunning him by using the environment's hazards to block my opponent's way.
The result quickly turned into the best computer representation of the Paranoia tabletop RPG that I've seen. Trying to sneak from target to target, occasionally being told that the person after me had me in his sight — and choosing between acting normally in hopes of tricking him or running away — created a tense, fast-paced scenario. In the conditions of E3's LAN, there was no sign of lag, and all the Assassin's Creed controls were present and smooth as silk, to the point where I was so focused on the game action that I didn't need to glance at the control reminders as I built up a decent kill streak.
The multiplayer may require some balance patching, but the core idea is sound, enjoyable and neatly captures the gameplay feel of the single-player entries. It remains unclear whether a new story will be unveiled during the multiplayer segment.
This November, gamers who aren't addicted to Call of Duty: Black Ops will get their shot at an extension to the Assassin's Creed story with Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. Things are looking decent for the series, but Ubisoft has confirmed that it'll be a while before a new game comes out after this installment.
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