Critical Consensus: Assassin's Creed Brotherhood
How do reviewers feel about the last days of Ubisoft's Rome?
Popular opinion is that, with Assassin's Creed 2, Ubisoft successfully salvaged something smart and fresh from the first game's collection of bold but often flawed experiments. Fans settled down to wait a couple of years for Assassin's Creed 3 - but then Ubisoft revealed the series would instead enjoy an iterative stop-gap, Brotherhood.
Rather than following the series' apparent trend of switching to a new setting every time, Brotherhood remains in 15th Century Italy, continuing the story - and play systems - laid down by Assassin's Creed 2. Would the inevitable similarities leave critics unsatisfied?
In general, not a bit of it. With a Metacritic average of 90, it's proven to be one of the highest-rated games of the year - and of the series.
"Brotherhood is an awesome package with enough new content to kill the competition this Christmas," felt CVG's Andy Robinson in his 9.2 review.
"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."
High praise indeed came from Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell, who scored the game 10/10 and concluded that "a game that started life as what sounded suspiciously like a fund-raising stopgap conceived on the back of an overdrawn chequebook and blurted out during a conference call... is anything but – it's one of the best games of 2010."
Bramwell singled out the game's realisation of Rome, its central setting, as a highlight. "Never before have we seen a game whose open world is so densely packed with things to do while maintaining such high quality. Whatever your particular taste, you simply cannot run from one area to another without encountering something else that you want to stop and do."
However, he did observe some simplicity to the game's property acquisition sub-game, and difficulty spikes in the action missions. "In a game that seems designed to be greedily and intensively consumed, they are faults that matter."
Multiplayer, a first for the series, also drew praise as "gripping and unusual, if not especially deep."
Joystiq's Griffin Mcelroy was more taken with the multiplayer, enthusing that "Not only does it constitute something entirely new for the franchise, it represents a cerebral antipode to almost every other current-gen game's multiplayer offerings."
While he also felt that the online mode was "fairly single-faceted, ...that one facet is simply brilliant. You're basically just playing hide-and-go-seek."
Scoring the game 4.5 stars, he concluded that "Ultimately, it doesn't matter whether Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is a sequel or expansion. I'm not sure even Ubisoft knew which it was while developing it. All that matters is that if you let that ambiguity keep you from playing it, you'll be doing yourself an awfully huge disservice."
Something of a lone dissenter was Wired's Chris Kohler, who concluded a torrent of invective with a surprisingly positive 7/10 score (though that does, of course, remain a number no publisher wants to see).
"This is the laziest cashed-in, churned-out sequel (without the name Guitar Hero on it) of the year," he argued. "The whole thing feels like it should have been a downloadable add-on."
Kohler was especially critical of the property management element. "There's no strategy or skill to any of this - it's just click-click-click busywork... 'Oh God,' I thought. 'I'm playing FarmVille.'"
While somewhat more forgiving of the multiplayer, he felt it was poorly-explained and suffered technical problems. "We spent a lot of time before each match waiting for the system to find partners and connect us all."
Overall, he felt, the game was "just barely worth full price" and was "a purely cynical ploy to squeeze out more money in lieu of preserving any semblance of artistic integrity." Again, this warranted 7/10.
None of the major outlets have shared Kohler's sentiments as yet, with other scores including 8 on IGN, 8 in Edge and 10s from Giant Bomb and GameSpy.