We'll stick our neck out and say that it's even more fun to explore and uncover Rome's secrets than it is to play through the main single-player story. The Romulus platforming missions - new Assassin's Tombs - are absolutely fantastic, while flashback quests detailing Ezio's relationship with Cristina in Florence (she's the one you do at the beginning of the last game) add awesome fan service.
LIVE BY THE SWORD
Yet while Brotherhood's creative risks bear new and exciting gameplay mechanics, they also bring frustrations.
Ubisoft's adopted a new model that issues Ezio secondary objectives, often encouraging stealth and speed rather than offering out every guard in sight. Complete the given secondary objective ('only use your hidden blade', 'don't swim' etc.) and you'll be rewarded with a 100 per cent synched mission, eventually unlocking hidden memories in the form of the previously mentioned flashback scenes.
This isn't a problem, as those who don't give a monkey's about story can simply ignore the secondary objectives and stab away. The system also results in some genuinely brilliant sequences when obeyed - including one which has you scaling the huge Castello Sant'Angelo stealthily avoiding and assassinating guards, Splinter Cell-style.
It's when these demands to tackle objectives in a certain way seep into the primary missions that things take a turn for the worse. Towards the end of the story, it often feels like Ubisoft Montreal is barking out your orders.
The number of ultra-strict stealth missions has grown substantially in Brotherhood, which means repeatedly failing a mission thanks to an unseen eagle-eyed guard or simply killing an enemy you apparently weren't supposed to, can become a problem. There were more than a few occasions when we used our most creative swear words in annoyance.
We say this not as a large, gaping criticism however - more an occasional bugbear.
There are so many brilliant steps taken and ideas introduced in Brotherhood that we feel we absolutely must see them again in Assassin's Creed 3. The Brotherhood system works brilliantly, the sandbox is more enjoyable than ever and a sped-up combat system is a very welcome addition.
That's without even mentioning the slick VR missions and promising multiplayer mode - which naturally we haven't had a fully extensive session with yet (we're waiting for you lot to come online first), but certainly shows great potential.
Overall, Brotherhood is an awesome package with enough new content to kill the competition this Christmas.
Story limitations and a few failed mission experiments cement our statement that it's not Assassin's Creed 3 - but with a lick of paint it would've come dangerously close.
There's enough quality and scope here to put Brotherhood in the running not just as a top festive purchase, but one of the best action games of the year.
Hit and miss story means it's no ACIII - but brilliant sandbox elements and side quests better return in future.
- Amazing sandbox
- Excellent side quests
- Brotherhood works brilliantly
- Promising multiplayer
- Scaled-back plot
- Occasional harsh mission