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Assassin's Creed Brotherhood looks and, so far in my time with it, plays like an even better version of its predecessors. That's an accomplishment, considering Assassin's Creed II's encyclopedic improvements over the original game.
Maybe it's the uptick in visual detail, a slight, shimmering graininess applied to textures that makes Rome seem crisper somehow. Maybe it's Lucy's (and everyone else's) cleaned up facial design and animation, a kind of back-step to the original Assassin's Creed that better highlights voice actor Kristen Bell's features. Maybe it's just that everything you do feels more purposeful than ever as developer Ubisoft executes narrative twists and gameplay turns with razor-sharp deftness.
Or maybe it's just Ubisoft's fondness for putting knifes in cliches. The game begins where Assassin's Creed II ended, so Ezio ought to come fully equipped. And so he does, which caught me off guard, since that's the opposite of what most sequels do (see: Mass Effect 2). No nerfing-ex-machina to recreate challenges already passed. No "I hit my head and woke up weaker and dumber." It's as if Ubisoft creative sat down and said "How do we take a guy at the height of his powers and rub his face in the mud?" It's also called "the opposite of lazy design."
Sure, there's a moment early on where your defenses come down and your health bar drops, but Ezio remains Ezio, master practitioner of many-ways-ta-kill-ya. No lengthy sojourns around a city just to figure out how to swing a sword or wield a hidden dagger or scale the side of a chapel (though there are new abilities--lots, in fact--on tap here).
When you're finally loosed on Rome several hours in, you're still wielding your sword, gun, vials of poison, throwing knives, concealed dagger, and--from the look of things--Altair's (see Assassin's Creed) beautifully pressed and embroidered armor.
Am I begging for a takedown? Who knows (touch wood). What the designers giveth they may yet taketh away. But at this stage I'm glad to see a developer realize you don't have to physically emasculate the protagonist to make him vulnerable at inception.
Plenty of clever ways to do so without derailing the narrative and cheating players of all they accomplished in Assassin's Creed II, as it turns out.
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