At the recent Eurogamer Expo 2010 I had the chance to get hands-on time with Assassin Creed Brotherhood’s multiplayer mode, in which I took the role of a deadly female assassin and proceeded to slaughter those around me (especially the innocent civilians). Sitting down at one of the many booths available I prepared for the match that followed by selecting my assassin of choice. I had to go with the low cut top female assassin, clearly no cause for concern! At this stage you are then given the choice to pick a ‘class’, in terms of having a slight variation on weaponry (ranged gun or smoke bomb for example) or unique ability (such as being able to go into a disguise for a short period). The choices were quite limited with several boxes locked out from choice,no doubt something that can be unlocked as you play the retail release; something which I hope is expanded upon either before the games release or via additional DLC after.
As the game loads you are placed in the world, free to roam around just as you would be in any prior Assassin Creed title, running and climbing with the usual level of ease. Right away you will be assigned a character to assassinate with nothing more than an image and a general direction given to you by the compass at the bottom of the screen. The compass will point you in the direction of the enemy until you are close enough to see them, at which point it will simply fill and provide no further information. The twist comes with the fact that there are hundreds of AI controlled characters placed in the world along with you and there will be many, many, characters wearing the exactly same outfit. This allows for a unique gameplay mechanic that needs the target to blend in with the artificial characters, pretending that they are not the suspect that you are looking for.
Whilst you are hunting down your target you need to remember at all times that you are also a target. At any moment you could be assaulted by any of the surrounding civilians, one of which could be an assassin waiting in disguise. This requires you, like your target, to play cautious and avoid bringing attention to yourself. As you can expect, this puts a lot of tension on the player as they need to attack and defend at the same time, which means moving in to strike, yet sitting back and acting normal – an impossible combination.
This tension hits its heights when you are lucky enough to foil your attackers stealthy advance (simply by spotting them) where you are then told to ‘ESCAPE!’ and given a timer in which you must remain alive evading your attacker. In order to do this, you can run through crowds throwing civilians back at your pursuer, climb buildings and try to outmanoeuvre his advances or run through certain obstacles (indicated by the usual Assassins Creed codec styled glow) that will attempt to halt anyone chasing you, such as running through a door to have it lock behind you. The game reminds me greatly of The Ship, a game based on Valves Source Engine that had a rather small following with a very similar hide and hunt mechanics.
As the matches progressed, I found that the high-scorers were the ones that were subtle about their presence and managed to assassinate their targets in secrecy, avoiding detection at all times. I discovered this whilst attempting to break the style the game wishes you to follow by running full force into enemies clear as day. Not only did I lose my targets and get killed continually by giving away my position, I also caused desynchronisation (death in the Assassins Creed world) by killing several people that looked like my target, but were innocent civilians. These restrictions will help filter out anyone not playing with the game’s intended mindset, and hopefully help maintain immersion in the world of being an assassin (although I don’t doubt you’ll often get matches with screaming idiots running wild).
Outside of the new gameplay mechanics unique to the game’s multiplayer it’s run of the mill ‘Creed with the sharp controls and beautiful cities that you have come to expect. The game looks as fantastic as always, managing to keep the stellar graphics even when the game is running in multiplayer. Whilst there wasn’t anything on view, it is confirmed that there is a twenty hour (in the eyes of the publishers) campaign to run alongside the multiplayer meaning this is in no way a small side project to distract whilst the ‘real’ Assassins Creed 3 is prepared. If you’re a fan of the prior titles ensure that you don’t miss Brotherhood simply because it doesn’t have a numerical value on the end of the title, as everything seen so far would point to you missing out on yet another blockbuster.