As a fan of strong single player campaigns and of Assassin’s Creed, I was naturally apprehensive when Ubisoft announced that they’d be introducing online multiplayer for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Still, I’m willing to give anything a chance, so when presented with a Brotherhood multiplayer demo at Sony’s Holiday preview event, I happily jumped right into a six-person match of Wanted.
Wanted begins with a simple premise. Each player has a target, and each player is in turn a target for someone else. The goal is to execute your target before your tracker executes you. Should either happen, you respawn and/or receive a new target and the game continues.
You navigate towards your mark using a compass at the bottom of the screen. As you get closer, the compass ring will gradually fill with blue. When you’re looking at complete circle, you know that your target is within range. You receive points for each kill, with bonuses awarded for stealth and style.
With the basics out of the way, we went straight to character select. You can choose from one of several generically anonymous avatars, including a jester, a monk, and a doctor. I opted to play as a courtesan, and outfitted her with one of the pre-set skill packages that you can use to customize your character. Unfortunately, my time with the game was too brief to get any sense of how the various skill options impact gameplay.
Once the actual game started, I discovered that while killing an opponent is relatively easy – as in the single player, one button will get the job done – identifying the person that your supposed to kill is a bit more of a challenge. Dozens of civilians populate the multiplayer maps and there’s no way to differentiate the other player characters from the identically clad NPCs.
The trick is to watch for ‘human’ behavior. The NPCs won’t do anything out of the ordinary. The players, on the other hand, will be prowling around looking for the people they’re trying to kill, and their predatory actions will always give them away. If a monk starts sprinting or climbing a building, then he’s not an NPC.
Fortunately, the fine-tuned gameplay balance doesn’t always favor the attacker. Breaking cover to rush your target will send out a notification that gives the other player the opportunity to initiate a chase. If your quarry gets away, you’ll be assigned a new target and the escapee will be rewarded as if for a kill, which means that it’s possible to win without making a single assassination.
The most efficient assassins are ultimately those with the patience to stalk their prey and wait for that one opportunity to strike, and the cat-and-mouse dynamic significantly amplifies the tension. Every single controller twitch could be the movement that tips someone off, and the methodical pacing rewards strategies that are impossible in more frenetic multiplayer environments.
Wanted isn’t nearly as much about reflex as it is about strategy and cunning. If you kill someone other than your target you’ll lose points and be assigned a new mark, so you can’t run around butchering everything that moves. You really do have to think like an assassin, and it makes each successful kill a surprisingly satisfying accomplishment.
Despite my initial skepticism, I walked away from the demo with an overwhelmingly positive first impression, and not just because I won. The Brotherhood multiplayer stays true to Assassin’s Creed and is just as exciting as any other game I’ve played online. It’s not necessarily better or worse than Halo, but it should serve a nice counterpoint for fans looking for something other than the usual FPS death match.