Plugged back into the ancestral memory of Ezio, you find yourself in Rome. This isn't the noble city of Gladiator, nor the traffic-choked 21st century sprawl we know today.
No, Brotherhood's Rome is shabby and run down, with ghettos spread throughout ancient ruins and beggars lining the streets - exactly as it would have been in the early 16th century.
Your first mission is to find Machiavelli and follow him around a small part of the city. He points out the sights and makes you aware of the Borgia Towers, important new additions to the game.
These turrets are spread throughout Rome, and while they stand, the areas around them fall under Borgia control. This means tight security and embargoes on property buying and assassin recruitment, so taking them out is high on your list of priorities.
Wrecking a tower means two things: first, you need to eliminate the Captain, then climb and burn down the structure itself.
Captains will either stand and fight, forcing you into combat, or flee, prompting a chase/ assassinate mini-game. Once you've liberated an area, all the usual side-missions are easier to tackle.
You climb tall towers to synchronise with viewpoints, unfogging your mini-map. You help oppressed citizens, recruiting them to your guild (the titular Brotherhood) and perform tasks for financial or material gain.
The wealth of things to do in Rome is staggering, even for seasoned AC fans. You can buy shops to bring in cash, discover tunnels to help you move quickly through the city and purchase stables to make horses readily available (you can even whistle for your nag, just like in Red Dead Redemption). And that's before you start on all the guild gameplay.
HE AIN'T HEAVY
After the first few hours, you start to build your Brotherhood by saving men and women from the Borgia. They can be used in two ways.
First up is combat support. At any given time you can highlight a target and tap L1 to have a pair of assassins take out your quarry (they stick around until all alerted guards have been fought off).
This adds tactical depth to your missions, and we can't wait to explore ways of turning the 'point and kill' gameplay to our hero's advantage.
Secondly, your guild can be micro-managed via pigeon coops dotted throughout the city. Approach one and you're taken to the Guild screen, where you can level up cohorts and send them on missions throughout Europe to earn XP and cash.
Each major city has a list of tasks and difficulty ratings, and the more experienced the assassin you send is, the greater the chance of success.
We anticipate hours spent levelling up and customising our preferred recruits in this moreish mini-game. There's so much more in Brotherhood that we don't have space to talk about here - it's a delight for fans, who'll relish the myriad details.
There are repressed memories, which tell the story of young Ezio before his family's execution, as well as more glyphs to find and a new Truth to discover.
Not to mention cheats to unlock in-game items, and mini-challenges for every mission, which you can now return to as you see fit.
It's an absolute treasure trove of AC goodies, and that's before you even start on the multi player. So, no, Brotherhood isn't the technical leap AC2 was, but in terms of fresh content and fan-pleasing value, it's just as worthy a sequel.
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