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Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood E3 Preview

It's hard to believe that the original Assassin's Creed came out in 2007 as it feels like one of the most talked about games of the current generation. While the original wasn't perfect, the follow up sequel released last year addressed the criticisms levelled at the first title and delivered a very memorable gaming experience. Taking place in a unique period to gaming, the Italian Renaissance, players can now continue Ezio's story in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood.

Assassins Creed Brotherhood

The plot continues from the end of Assassin's Creed II with Ezio having assumed control of the brotherhood of assassins. Enjoying some time with a lady friend at Monteriggioni, he is rudely interrupted by a cannonball crashing through his bedroom wall and a besieging army laying siege to the town (don't you hate it when that happens). Your new nemesis will be Cesare Borgia, the son of the previous villain Rodrigo (who has since become the Pope), and he is after the Apple of Eden recovered during the events of the last game (and expanded upon in the subsequent DLC content). Continuing the story of the battle between the assassin's and the Knights Templar, a lot of the action will take place in Rome with Ezio battling against the Vatican.

 Assassins Creed Brotherhood

Instantly the action is cinematic and fluid, with some impressive visuals as the city comes under attack by the Borgia's forces. Learning lessons and responding to fan feedback from Assassin's Creed II, developers Ubisoft Montreal have enhanced the role of horses in this sequel. It is now possible for Ezio to ride within the game's cities and he can fight and assassinate from the saddle. After making his way through the streets, filled with panicked civilians, he jumped from the horse to the city walls and began to free-run. Climbing still looks intuitive and Ezio's ascent to the top was brief but action-packed and cannon shot crashed into the stone around him.

Reaching the top, the scale of the attacking forces was revealed, which was very much a showcase for the enhancements to the game engine. It is now possible for up to 400 enemies to be displayed on screen, which certainly seemed the case as the opposing troops began to approach the city with several siege towers. In an unusual move for the series, Ezio was forced to man a cannon in order to destroy the towers and thin the numbers of troops. This turret section did seem a little unusual in a series usually more noted for its combat and stealth, but enhancing the variety of gameplay is important according to the developers.

 Brotherhood

However, when questioned about how far the series was moving away from the stealth and assassination element, Ubisoft Montreal emphasised that this would remain an important part of the gameplay. They commented that one mission would involve the infiltration and assassination of someone during a play concerning the crucifixion of Christ set in the Colosseum. However, when pushed they refused to reveal any further details, but the prospect of this is very exciting, as set pieces in the previous games have proved to be some of their best moments.

Combat has been revamped for Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood where successful kills make further finishing moves easier. Enemy AI has been improved and will now attack en masse, rather than one at a time, forcing you to watch all sides for attacks. The combat that we saw was fairly violent with Ezio stabbing opponents in the throat and throwing an axe into a foe's back to finish him off. In order to make the combat flow as easily as the free-running it is now possible to wield a gun at the same time as your sword, allowing you access to a range of moves exploiting both these weapons. During the combat sequences, Ezio had access to a number of new moves including using cargo lifts to rapidly access areas above him. This proved useful during the demonstration as it allowed him to get above an enemy before leaping down for a killing blow using the hidden blade.

 Brotherhood

One of the major new additions is a development of the upgrade system last seen in Assassin's Creed II. In the last title it was possible to improve your villa in order to increase your income and a revised and improved system will be in implemented in the sequel, with the city of Rome as its basis. While the developers have yet to reveal more details about this, it seems that upgrading will be more integrated into the story and as you expand and rebuild you will unlock side-missions. Tied to this is the inclusion of your fellow brotherhood members who play a much larger role in this sequel. Now that Ezio is effectively leader of the assassins he can use other members of the brotherhood to do his dirty work.

Jumping ahead to a later portion of the game, the developers showed us this system in action which looks set to have a big effect on the gameplay. Standing on the rooftops of Rome, a guard could be seen in the distance and, with the press of a button, an assassin leapt out behind him taking him out with a hidden blade of his own. This happened very quickly and as the body hit the floor, the assassin had jumped back out of sight. Dropping to the streets, Ezio encountered a group of guards ahead of him who would clearly be a problem. Whereas in the previous game, he could have chosen to distract them with courtesans or sneak past himself, Ezio chose to use his fellow assassins to deliver a surprise. With another button press, a rain of arrows suddenly fell from the sky, killing all the guards and allowing Ezio to pass. These assassins have to be upgraded and it will be possible to give them new skills and weapons as the game progresses.

 Brotherhood

In a final demonstration, Ezio's target stood praying at a church's alter surrounded by some of the hardest enemies in the game, the Swiss Guard. Looking upwards into the rafters, his fellow assassins stood poised and sure enough dropped down killing each guard with a hidden blade. This left the terrified target alone, with Ezio coolly taking out a crossbow and killing him before turning and leaving. As he reached the entrance a group of guards dashed towards him, and calling his assassins to his side, a huge battle erupted on the streets. This was an impressive demonstration of the role of the fellow assassins and the role that they could play in helping you during the missions. The developers were keen to emphasise that your allies in this E3 demonstration were fully upgraded and all-powerful, but in the finished game their chances of success will be more varied. While it is possible to send them to assassinate people at a lower level, their chances of succeeding will be severely reduced. It's an exciting new direction and fits in well with the series and it will be very interesting to see what other skills and weapons they will get access to.

With a whole new multiplayer mode, which we didn't get the chance to experience at E3, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood certainly will have a lot to offer and from the looks of the single-player demonstration, it appears to have the gameplay to support the cinematic visuals. With a release date this November on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC prepare to dust down your hidden blades and start blending into supermarket queues: we can't wait.

evilgiraffeman | 23rd June, 2010
Angelfromabove's picture
Really banging out the previews today arnt we!
Another great one, this looked really interesting in the demonstration Ubisoft showed in their E3 conference.
One to keep an eye on I think.

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