Previews

Brotherhood: Best Assassin's Creed yet?

CVG travels to Rome for an epic single-player hands-on

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OK so it's banter of the mildest kind and only a small touch, but it adds to the game's levels of immersion.

Another small but effective tweak in climbing sequences sees the camera subtly angle towards the direction you should climb. The AC team has definitely improved its methods in the last 12 months.

ROMAN EPIC
Ezio's story kicks off with a far grander sequence; starting where the last game drops off, our hooded protagonist escapes the Vatican with Mario and travels back to the Monteriggioni Villa.

Once there, he explains to the Assassins what happened. Machiavelli feels Ezio made a mistake by keeping Rodrigo alive and furiously leaves for Rome only for the villa to quickly fall under attack.

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We could climb that

In a cinematic and explosion-filled action sequence (see it in video form below), Ezio jumps and sprints along the Monteriggioni walls to fire cannons and defend the villa until villagers can flee.

Inevitably, the town crumbles. Suddenly, Mario staggers through the main gate. Cesare Borgia appears behind him beside his loyal followers: Lucrezia Borgia, Juan Borgia, Micheletto and Octavien, the Baron of Valois. Cesare takes the Apple from Mario, and shoots him dead. As Ezio rushes to prevent Cesare's death blow, he himself is shot in the back. He collapses.

This video is no longer available

Ezio wakes in a Rome safehouse, where his wounds have been tended to and his equipment gathered. It's here our man goes about his newest mission; to free Rome of Templar influence and build an Assassin Brotherhood capable of striking at its most powerful footsoldiers.

Rome is predictably beautiful and epic, with a play space said to be three times larger than even Assassin's Creed II's largest city.

The Ubisoft team admit initial concern that the Renaissance setting might not have carried the same wow factor the second time around, but the sheer iconic-ness of the Roman skyline and its dramatic landmarks guarantees exploration is just as satisfying.

The series' dedication to historical accuracy is again extremely impressive; a stroll around Rome results in building-inspired déjà-vu from our own real-life trips around the city, with every polygon-perfect window ledge and crumbling column fitting the part (no Hard Rock Café though).

What's interesting is Desmond can now leave the Animus at any time, leaving you free to browse e-mails, chat to the cast and explore Monteriggioni for artifacts. At first glance this appears to be simply an option for you to take a breather, but it's another example of fresh ideas Brotherhood brings to the series.

Skipping to a sequence later on in the game, what's most striking about Brotherhood's main locale (he'll also travel to Spain, plus other Italian cities via flashbacks) is the sheer depth of its sandbox.

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Ezio can now liberate areas of the city and upgrade buildings, horses can be used to navigate and blend through the streets. Occasionally bandits will rob Ezio at nightfall, plus hidden glyphs, flags and a small number of feathers wait to be discovered.

One of the most interesting additions to the open world however is the inclusion of Borgia Towers - the physical representation of Pope Alexander VI's stranglehold on Rome.

These are completely optional and separate to the main story, but if you choose to infiltrate and destroy them you'll liberate a part of the city and the local people will benefit - a bit like GTA: San Andreas' turf wars.

More exciting are Leonardo Da Vinci's new War Machine missions, which have Ezio taking charge of some rather OTT inventions the real man "actually" drew plans for (we assume Ubisoft's using the word "actually" quite loosely there - they're all a bit mental).

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