Even though it seems to contain all the typical trappings of one, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is not a full-fledged sequel to last year's phenomenal Assassin's Creed II. That's mainly because Ubisoft is saving the Assassin's Creed III moniker for another game in the series that will feature an entirely different character and setting. But based on content and features, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood has the mark of a fully satisfying iteration of the series.
Recently developer/publisher Ubisoft gave the media an opportunity to play the first few hours of the game, and to experience the continuing story of Renaissance hero-assassin Ezio. We did not, unfortunately, get to play the game's much anticipated new multiplayer mode, but what we did get to play would have any Assassin's Creed fan drooling all over his hand-woven tunic.
Brotherhood picks up where AC2 left off, in (potential spoiler alert) the bowels of the Vatican, having just offed Borgia and entered the secret bunker. From there, Ezio and his uncle return to Monteriggioni, where new features like cannons on the city walls herald a new gameplay mechanic that will come into play soon after. The town is subsequently invaded and Ezio finds himself on the run and an enemy of the state once again.
Most of the action of the game takes place in the vast expanse of Rome, where players will freerun to their hearts content while taking part in a whole new set of missions. Some new features of the game are introduced like an assassin's league that allows you to recruit new assassins when necessary, and employ them in tight situations. Calling in the assassins is similar to using the other helpful npc's like courtesans and mercenaries, except that he assassins can be called in whenever, as long as you're in a neighborhood where you've recruited some. These assassins are persistent and can even have their skills and weapons upgraded by you.
Another new aspect introduced in AC: Brotherhood are the Virtual Training missions, which allow you to do a series of different tasks under a timer, and you compete to achieve the best times to be put up on the leaderboards. VT missions include things like free run races and stealth assassination tasks, but none take place in the actual world, but rather in a virtual environment. There's also a combat VT game that relies on you putting together combo chains when fighting enemies, something thats much easier to do with the revamped fighting system. Killing one guy leads into directly killing another guy as long as you point your analog stick in the right direction and time your follow-up strike precisely.
There are a lot of other new and exciting things to enjoy in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood like firearms, unlockable Unicorns and scenes of renaissance sexy times that would make the Mona Lisa blush (I know, what doesn't?) but gamers who didn't play Assassin's Creed II shouldn't feel lost. The difficulty ramps up gently for neophytes while staying interesting for the game's veteran players. Everyone who plays it when it releases this November should feel like they're playing a game that's much more than just an extension of the previous title though, even if a full fledged sequel remains on the distant horizon.