Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed franchise is quite well known for its single player experience. Taking on the role of an assassin, learning, locating and stalking your mark until finally delivering that one decisive blow in a myriad of ways. It's quite the experience in both the first Assassin's Creed and the greatly improved sequel. Ubisoft is now undertaking the endeavour to bring that experience further up a notch in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood with a competitive multiplayer mode, something the first two games did not feature. The beta's out in the wild and we've managed to dig our hidden blades into it, here are our impressions.
One may be skeptical about seeing a multiplayer component in the much beloved Assassin's Creed franchise. How would it work exactly? Surprisingly, very well. The multiplayer is set up as an Abstergo training program. I had the choice of playing between various Templar agents, be they the Executioner, Courtesan, Noble, Engineer - you get the idea. These are basically character skins with the only unique differences being the kill animations, aside from that it's all aesthetic. The game world is aptly populated entirely of these characters in order to make distinguishing your target and/or pursuer a lot more difficult and stressful. However, that's the charm of the whole concept, what follows is an incredibly intense game of cat and mouse.
The two game modes currently playable in the beta are quite clear cut. Dubbed Wanted and Alliance, I was thrown into a map with one objective: kill the designated target - with the latter mode being co-op version of the first. Catch is, while I'm out searching for the poor chump, I myself am being targeted by yet another player. This changes dynamically as targets are killed or spotted. Escape sequences can become quite exciting. In fact, it left me on the edge of my seat as I did everything possible to break eye contact with my pursuer. It's a very unique experience that you'll be hard pressed to find in any other multiplayer game out on the market. Blending in with the crowd is key, act too suspiciously and it becomes very obvious who the human players are.
So how do you tell who your target is when the entire stage is filled with copies of the same character? The game is kind enough to grant an indicator whereby the indicator ring would fill up and give the general direction of my target whenever I got close enough. However, that's just it, it only provides a general direction and the distance between myself and the target. Figuring out who to take down is a whole other story. There have been instances where I ended up killing innocent bystanders, thus revealing myself to the enemy and enabling his escape or, worse still, revealing myself to my pursuer.
It's worth noting that if you're quick enough, you can actually stun your pursuer once he's been discovered, allowing you to make a quick escape.
Profiles can also be equipped with several different perks that are unlocked as you level up. One such perk is the Disguise which changes your appearance in order to confuse your pursuer. This really only helps if you're in an area crowded with the same characters as yourself. Having this activated while walking by your lonesome usually yields the same depressing results: a painful death to both character and ego. There are other perks to be unlocked as well, including a very ninja-esque smoke bomb and a sprint boost.
The multiplayer beta is still underway, but at the rate it's going, its proving to be more than just a tacked-on distraction from the single player campaign. Not only is it fun and addicting, but it introduces some fresh new concepts to the multiplayer bandwagon. No headshot or dismembered limb will ever hold a candle to hunting down your prey and striking when it least expects it. Assassin's Creed Brotherhood is out November 16 in North America and November 19 in Europe, look forward to it. We certainly are.