Last year’s Assassin’s Creed 2 was the very best kind of sequel – it took what worked in the slightly flawed original, beefed those parts up, and discarded all of the elements that made the second half of that first game something of a chore to play through. Aside from those excellent gameplay refinements the plot was also far more involving, the dialogue and characterisation were noticeably superior, and Ezio Auditore De Firenze was an immeasurably more compelling and charismatic hero than Altair ever was.

The E3 gameplay presentation of Brotherhood strongly emphasises a predilection for the same kind of jaw-dropping, huge-scale action sequences that Sony’s Uncharted series both popularised and perfected. Brotherhood‘s opening stretch is an episode of very confident spectacle, as your uncle Mario instructs you to hold off a surging army until the villa’s populace can get themselves to safety. The bulk of this endeavor involves Ezio having to use a large mounted cannon to keep them at bay, and the experience looks tub-thumpingly exciting; representing an unusual sidestep for the series into straightforward thriller territory, but certainly a very welcome one.

So if the announcement that Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood‘s story is a direct continuation of Ezio’s is instantly intriguing, the new multi-player components sound downright mouth-watering. There are several modes that still have yet to be announced (and have all apparently been in development for well over a year) but the first one to be revealed publicly is called Wanted, is tailored for up to eight players at once, and involves carrying out a series of contract murders on your opponents. The difficulty will be balanced in accordance with prior performances, and the style with which you kill is just as heavily rewarded as the kill itself. Obviously, you’re also handsomely compensated for evasion.

There is also a new combo system available in combat, a decision that Ubisoft have clearly made in light of some fan complaints that the battle system in Assassin’s Creed 2 (and the original, for that matter) was far too defensive. This new system enables you to continue with a combination after you’ve initiated an offensive kill, and entire groups of enemies (provided you can avoid their frequent attempts to break your combo) can be dispatched in this fashion. It’s too early to tell if the new system plays as well as it looks, but you’d be mad to bet against a shrewd development unit like Ubisoft Montreal.

Despite the comparative speed with which this quasi-sequel has been created, there is a lot more to it than you may first expect. The game is set in Rome rather than Florence this time, and apparently this new environment is three times the size of the previous one. Although more details on both the main single-player campaign and the multiplayer modes are still relatively scarce, it’s still patently obvious that this is so much more than just a cynical, throwaway update. The reported 15-hour duration of the single-player campaign may cause concern, but the utterly tremendous possibilities of the multiplayer should more than make up for a punchy campaign run-time.

Watch the Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood trailer here…

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