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Assassin's Creed Brotherhood

A Roman epic?

Brotherhood isn't Assassin's Creed 3. For that, we'd be looking for a brand new cast of characters, a radically different time period and game systems rebuilt from the ground up.

Instead, we get last year's brilliant formula improved with 12 months of knowledge, depth and masterful sandbox action. Ubisoft's used its experience (and success) with AC II and come up with something more creative, more daring and believe it or not, even bigger than any instalment before. But is it a better game? That one's up for debate...

BIG BROTHER
Brotherhood kicks off exactly where the last game started - sci-fi headscrews and all. Our Renaissance-era protagonist Ezio Auditore strolls out of the Roman Vatican scratching his head and wondering what on Earth went on before AC2's credits.

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For a while all seems conclusive for Ezio; he's dealt with the Templars, obtained a mythical Piece of Eden and managed to become the biggest hard-nut in circa-1500 Italy. That is until part way through the first sequence, when his Villa is besieged and destroyed by the army of Cesare Borgia - son of the Pope - and the assassin is back to doing what he knows best: seeking revenge.

Ezio's anger leads him to Rome, where, wounded and humiliated, he takes aim at the Borgia family currently ruling the city with an iron grip.

The town's not in a good shape. Buildings are crumbling, peasants are begging in the streets and a no-exception lockdown has been enforced on any business not approved by Cesare himself.

Much of Brotherhood's main story will see you building up your forces in preparation to finally kill Pope Alexander VI, Cesare and the rest of the Borgia corrupting Rome.

With a cast of established characters (Machiavelli, Da Vinci etc. see a return - plus there are extensive modern day sections) the writing is, overall, improved from ACII.

However, the very personal story lacks the epic feel of the numbered sequels, and those expecting an ACII-equivalent scale of narrative will be in for a disappointment (ending excluded).

The plot may feel a bit 'side story' then, but the gameplay certainly doesn't. As a sandbox, Brotherhood is a much better game than Assassin's Creed 2. The enjoyable Villa economy from the last game has been absorbed into all of Rome, and it's no effort at all to lose yourself reclaiming turf, rebuilding shops or recruiting new assassins into your Brotherhood.

Ezio can now liberate areas of the city and upgrade buildings, whilst horses can be used to navigate and blend through the streets. Occasionally, bandits will rob Ezio at nightfall, and there are a number of hidden glyphs, flags and a small number of feathers waiting to be discovered.

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In addition, the missions - as previously mentioned - are more creatively designed and take risks, for good and bad.

A fantastic example of this experimentation is Leonardo Da Vinci's new War Machine missions, which have Ezio taking charge of some rather OTT inventions the real man "actually" drew plans for (we're taking Ubisoft's word for it on the "actually" bit - we suspect they've been a little flexible with the truth).

Throughout the campaign you'll be taking charge of chariot-mounted machine guns, naval cannons and yes, an armoured tank.Of course, you'll destroy each of them after use - keeping them out of the hands of the Borgia and, conveniently, the history books. (We don't think 15th century France could've done much about a tank, after all...)

HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
Brotherhood's biggest bullet point, however, is the erm, Brotherhood. Recruiting and training up your own Assassin army and dispatching them on missions around Europe to enhance their skills is a genuinely immersive and enjoyable gameplay addition.

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