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Brotherhood: Best Assassin's Creed yet?

CVG travels to Rome for an epic single-player hands-on

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One of them is the naval cannon, which can render useless an entire boat fleet in minutes. Mounted on top of a gondola, the cannon shoots flares which send boat sails up in flames, leaving the vessels useless.

Another is Leonardo's version of a machine gun (amazingly, not the most far out invention), which sits on top of a chariot as a mounted wheel with multiple small cannons. Finally there's the armoured tank - and we're not joking.

The keeping-it-historical bit is that Ezio must destroy each of these inventions in order to prevent the Borgia family from using them in its plans for power. We don't think 15th century France could've done much about a tank, after all...

BROTHERS IN ARMS
Brotherhood's biggest bullet point however is the erm, Brotherhood. It's a genuinely immersive and enjoyable gameplay addition which has you training up your own stab-happy army and dispatching them around Europe to test their blades on Templar kings and historical villains.

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Incest happened here

As you progress through the story, you'll recruit certain characters into your brotherhood and be given the option to customise them with specific outfits and weapons to boost your cause.

As you recruit novice assassins, you'll be able to train them up by sending them out on assignments around Europe via a unique animus interface. This is a real gem for fans of the conspiracy narrative hidden throughout the last game's glyphs, with each mission historically accurate and detailed with a short synopsis. One, for example, has you assassinating an English princess with ties to the Pope.

Assassins will gain experience with each mission completed, and the animus displays a percentage chance of completion based on the ability of the members you've tasked to the mission. Basically, it's like a miniature strategy game within Brotherhood.

But when you're not micro-managing your foot soldiers and looking at stats, your trained Assassins can be called on at any time with the press of the right shoulder button - an ability you can only call on when one of several 'tokens' are cooled down and ready for use.

This changes the way you approach missions in a big way. In one sequence for example, we're tasked with quietly tailing and assassinating a templar banker, Juan Borgia, as he strolls through a Pagan party, which is basically a big orgy (there's definitely more humour sprinkled through the narrative this time).

As Ezio scrambles over walls and hides behind humping flesh to avoid the attention of Templar guards, you can use your Assassins to stealthily remove enemies from your path, or even start a fight so you can sneak past undetected.

The Assassins inject a whole new layer of strategy into missions and feel like a powerful and valuable weapon, especially considering that when they die, they're dead for good. That's not good news when you spend a bundle of time and effort training them into quick-witted super-assassins.

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Condense these impressions into bullet point form then and you can see why Brotherhood is bringing a lot of new ideas to the table that could potentially result in a game that's more polished, more in-depth and more compelling than even last year's sequel - which itself turned out to be one of the top-tier action games of the generation.

And there's still so much in there that our 2000 words didn't cover; the Florence flashback scene with Ezio attempting to chat up girls, the precise and satisfying bolt of the crossbow, the faster and more brutal combat and the all-new Romulus side missions.

Another controversial addition we skipped is the addition of "100%" synching, which challenges you to replay a sequence in a certain way - never being seen, or only using your hidden blades, for example - in order to fully synch.

We must admit, being told we were constantly 'doing it wrong' proved a little distracting in our playthrough, but it could just as easily add tons of enjoyable replayablity in the final game.

Either way, Ubisoft Montreal seems confident this is the best Assassin's Creed yet. Tinker your anticipation meters, because they could be on to a real winner...

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