“Ooh hello there! *stab* this online competition is *stab* ghastly you know? So much death and destruction *kick*! I say though, you should *crack* give it a *snap* try if you get the chance.”
Yep, so our review(s) for Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood have been up on the site for your viewing pleasure for a while now, and I have been delving into the multiplayer to give those of you who are still sitting on the bench about this one, a specific verdict on the multiplayer component.
Just in case a few of you aren’t aware of the basic set up online, I’ll quickly outline it for you. The game types all stem from the core mode “Wanted”, which is basically your AC equivalent of a free for all. At the start of each match, players are allocated one target from the group of players, and they must hunt down and kill their target. The twist is this: you are the target of someone else and hence are always being pursued in this circle of hit man contracts. Depending on how well you are doing, you can have anything from 1-4 players looking for you or competing with you to kill your target.
That is the fundamental idea behind the gameplay and the other modes are essentially clever variants of this setup. Each map is populated by a large host of AI crowds (like the campaign) but up to 8 of them will secretly be human players, so you can see how the gameplay has several layers. You can engage in chases across rooftops, desperate rushes through busy streets, and predatory takedowns in a whole array of stealthy scenarios.
But how does this all hold up in game? Due to the nature of the gameplay, there is a lot of room for players to experiment with different tactics and loadouts. You could try running around like a headless chicken, pinning down your contracts quickly but sacrificing higher XP rewards, or equally you could bide your time and gently saunter through the maps, pouncing out at the right moment. You could also experiment on a much more subtle level, by perhaps learning to mimic the walk of the AI, sitting patiently on benches (one of the few games where this isn’t camping), morph a chunk of the crowd to look like your character then hide atop a beam nearby, or sprint onto a street to see if anyone panics and starts running (revealing the identity of the human players).
However I am a little disappointed by the small number of maps, and how some of the kill animations look a little rough around the edges. The online play is a breath of fresh air in the medium of multiplayer but it does have a few flaws. Finding matches takes a little longer than some would hope (worth mentioning for those for who time would be an issue) but the game isn’t entirely to blame for this. The different modes only encourage different play styles, and can feel too similar at times, and I find it a bit cheeky that they think sticking “advanced” in front of a game type counts as an entirely new mode.
The cast of characters you can choose from is fantastic and very distinct. The frame rate is bizarrely smoother online than offline, and the maps look genuinely pleasing (particularly from the taller buildings). It’s an annoying oversight that you can’t look at your profile menu while matchmaking is in progress, and because you can’t mute players until the room is full, it often leaves you getting annoyed while some bloke feeds his dog a headset. But the headsets can be of real use for team players if you happen to have someone to go online with, and the potential for coordinated teamwork is huge.
Glitchy kills pop up frequently when climbing up buildings or trying to dive off them, but with any luck this will be remedied with a patch. The spawn locations can be a little ridiculous at times, and there is no way to vote for your preference of map with the game randomly choosing them for you. They also made the decision to include the craze of “killstreaks”, but made them shockingly uninspired (come on…more points for your kills? Please).
Each match is very tense because every player feels vulnerable, and it’s so easy to flip the in game leader board on its head. The range of abilities you can unlock is impressive and suitably tactical; with each one opening up very specific uses (e.g. disguises, throwing knives, sprint boosts, smoke bombs). Levelling up your profile is fulfilling and enjoyable, as the game shows you what you are working towards and what each rank unlocks. One issue that has spoiled more than one match is that if you are thrown into the middle of a particularly close chase, it can mean you fall to the bottom of the scoreboard because you spend the whole time running away from someone you can’t seem to lose. I don’t know what the devs can do about it, but it’s a cheap tactic that can mean you never win (unless you let them catch you obviously).
Despite the game’s flaws though, the free running and chase sequences are absolutely thrilling. Lurking and slipping stealthily through crowds is unlike anything you’ve ever played. Multiplayer is well thought out on the whole and there is excitement and surprise in every match. The game rewards more patient and cunning players who don’t just run about and jump on people (e.g. the person at the top of the scoreboard doesn’t have to have the most kills). All the major offline mechanics make the jump on to multiplayer without a hitch (haystacks, beam jumping, swinging, kick ropes etc).
The maps are the perfect size for the pace of gameplay, which is something a lot of games cannot boast, and there is virtually no lag whatsoever. There are practical help menus if you need them to get you started and the character models have upgradeable colours schemes as you progress through the level system.
There is a more noticeable element of luck involved than in most titles, but this isn’t a bad thing because it means that everyone has a fair shot at winning. Despite this, better players can still quickly rise to the top of games as well, so it caters for the range of skill levels. Overall I think that the multiplayer was by no means tacked on to the side of the main game with duct tape and icing sugar, it’s fresh, it’s innovative, it’s a selling point, and by gosh you have to try it.