Since it was first announced, fans of Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed franchise have been chomping at the bit to get a taste of the multiplayer action that their newest entry will offer, Assassin's Creed Brotherhood. If you've preordered a copy at Gamestop, or if you're a PlayStation Plus subscriber, you might want to check your inbox for a PlayStation 3 download code and hop online, as the beta is now alive and kicking.
Welcome to the Animus.
Logging in to Brotherhood's multiplayer menu, you're given a default option to jump in and immediately start playing. As expected, there's also the option for ranked and private matches, but only public matches can be sampled for now. After you choose to jump in to a match or play through the quick three-part tutorial, the character selection screen pops up. Ubisoft has made eight different assassins available for their PlayStation 3 exclusive beta. These include "The Priest" who wields a medieval switchblade, "The Nobleman" who's got a mechanical left arm with a claw for a hand, "The Prowler" which will easily remind fans of Ezio, "The Courtesan", a deadly lady with a blade fan, "The Doctor" who sports a giant needle, "The Executioner" who looks like a butcher carrying a nicely-sized axe, "The Engineer" armed with a deadly tool, and a grayed-out hooded lady named "The Smuggler", who dons a wrist blade. Presumably, "The Smuggler" will be made available for selection at a later date.
After selecting a character, the game begins and assigns you a target to track down and assassinate. Noticeable immediately, there's a compass in the bottom center of your HUD. The compass demands the player's attention throughout the match as it helps track your target. A picture of your target is presented in the upper left corner of your HUD, but the catch is that the maps are populated by several AI characters - a lot of which look like your target. The compass helps you differentiate your actual contract from the rest of the pack. One of the abilities you and the other five players stalking throughout the map have is the use of a disguise for a few moments. This mechanic makes using your compass all the more important when tracking a disguised contract who's blending in with like characters. Assassinate your target and score big. Assassinate the wrong one, and lose your contract.
Scoring in Brotherhood is based not only on assassinations, but how you assassinate. Also on your HUD, a thin blue bar runs down the left side of your contract's portrait. Called your "Detection State", the rate at which your meter will deplete (if at all) depends on how much of a scene you cause while tracking your target. If a kill is made while the meter is full, huge bonuses will be earned for being extra stealthy. If you're recklessly running after your target however, the meter will drain and the opponent will not only know they're being followed, but your opponent's HUD will note your location with a red mark and tell you to get into hiding. Hiding can be achieved by blending in with crowds, sitting among others on benches, jumping in wheelbarrows of flowers or hay, or simply running away.
So, why bother trying to get as many points as possible? Brotherhood has an integrated leveling system that boasts rewards like extra disguises, sprint boots, extra compass sensitivity (making it even easier to track your target), kill streak bonuses, smoke bombs, extra ability slots, hidden guns, and even a reset cooldown perk. Unlocking these extras will prove to be rewarding as gamers race to get the perfect loadout for their assassin.
The two maps available in the beta are Rome and Castel Gandolfo. Rome instantly feels familiar to those of you that played Assassin's Creed 2, and is complete with small market like area perfect for losing pursuers. Castel Gandolfo is more of an interior arena with multiple levels and halls. Aside from the aforementioned crowds, benches, and bushes of plantlife that aid in your concealment, Rome has a few weighted zip lines next to the taller structures that allow your character to shoot up to the rooftops - perfect for quick evasion. Navigating through the maps feels like moving from cover to cover while trying to stay
I encountered a minimal amount of problems during my experience with the beta. Actually, the biggest problem I had was that it took a little longer to get into a full lobby than desired. This is obviously something that will become less noticeable as more and more players log in to Brotherhood. Aside from that, the matches I played were lag free and ran incredibly smooth. Play is pretty fast paced, as the wait to get a new contract after death or a successful kill is only a few seconds. You always feel like you're doing something. Hopefully Sony and Ubisoft work to add as many players to the beta as soon as possible so more can experience the thrill of hunting while being hunted.
Have any of you Ranters out there gotten into the beta? How do you feel about the addition of competitive multiplayer to Assassin's Creed? What else would you like to see Ubisoft add in future installments of the franchise? Hit us up in the comments below.
Assassin's Creed Brotherhood steps out of the shadows and into the light on November 16th, 2010 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and Q1 2011 for PC.