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CHANCE TO ROME FREE; Ezio's epic new journey beats all expectations.

ASSASSIN'S CREED: BROTHERHOOD **** 360/PS3

WHEN it was first unveiled late la st year, many thought the latest addition to the Assassin's Creed series would be nothing more than a cobbled together tale with added multiplayer. But Brotherhood turns out to be a fully-fl edged and absorbing game that establishes the franchise as one of the best of this generation.

The story picks up where Assassin's Creed 2 left off , with Ezio Auditore da Firenze basking in the glow of his victor y over the Templars.

But his life of relaxat ion comes to an abrupt end when a new Templar threat, the Borgia family, destroy his home, kill his uncle and make off with the coveted Apple of Eden. So begins another epic journey, with Ezio heading to Rome to gain allies, take down the Borgia clan, avenge the death in his family and reclaim the apple.

The story isn't particularly complex but if you haven't completed Assassin's Creed 2, you will struggle to fi gure out what's going on.

While Brotherhood gives a nod to Ezio's past in Florence, the majority of the game is spent in Rome.

Ezio's skill set remains largely unchanged. For example, he is still able to nimbly climb towers and cathedrals. But, thankfully, the combat has been overhauled and taking on groups of guards is now more fun than ever. Th e first two games struggled to portray hand-to-hand brawling but the new system introduces a fluid twist to combat. Ezio now gracefully pulls off combos, turning parries into swift attacks. Central to the game is ridding Rome of the Borgia infl uence. Killing guard captains and torching towers causes the Borgia to flee, allowing Ezio to renovate parts of the city. Banks, blacksmiths, art dealers, tailors and other commercial businesses can then be accessed. Brotherhood is littered with a wide range of quests, from sprawling guild tasks to bite-sized shop missions. Th erewards make undertaking these missions well worth the effort, even if some of them are down to sheer luck. Previous games have allowed the player to hire groups of thieves, mercenaries and courtesans, but Brotherhood expands this even further.

It is now possible to recruit apprentice assassins - non-player characters who jump into the fray at E zio's command. Th ey can be sent on missions to hone their skills, making them a valuable asset.

Assassin's Creed 2's tomb raiding was arguably the game's high point and these Prince of Persia style sections return in the shape of hideouts belonging to the fur-clad Followers of Romulus.

These acrobatic excursions prove once again to be a stroke of genius, offering a much-needed change of pace. Multiplayer has been brought into Brotherhood and these head-to-head killing sprees have been impressively handled. You are given a target to hunt down but you are also being hunted by another player.

Because these missions take place on the bustling streets, it's possible to blend in with the crowd.

This leads to dramatic games of cat and mouse, which make a wonderful addition to the game. Brotherhood is a huge experience and any fears it would only be a mere aside compared to what has gone before have been proven wrong. It might be a little to off similar to last year's offering but Ubisoft have delivered a gorgeous-looking and captivating game.

CAPTION(S):

HIGH FLIER: Ezio at home on the rooftops HORSING AROUND: Ezio jumps into action
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Title Annotation:Features; Review
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 3, 2010
Words:571
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