It is the Assassin game. It is a game within a game. Ooo, meta as fuck, boyo. If ever there was a series that would enjoy such a wanky post-modern analysis, it is certainly the Assassin’s Creed franchise. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is. Brotherhood’s multiplayer is lovely. Not lovely, as in “full of love” or “adorable and fluffy.” Lovely, as in “oh gosh, I’ve just had my jugular slashed away by that innocent looking fellow in glasses.”
A lot of people have been comparing the central conceit (that of having a specific target while also being targeted by someone else) to that of The Ship.
It’s true that the idea is not a new one. Like I’ve said, it is essentially the Assassin game university students play between lectures, sometimes for weeks on end, complete with kill reports and leaderboards.
From what I know of The Ship, a similar feeling of suspense is definitely replicated by Ubisoft but added to that is a glorious element of panic. When the player who is trying to assassinate you breaks cover, a dangerous red blinks fearfully at you from the screen, an authoritarian font reads “Run Away!” and a counter tells you exactly how many meters they are behind you. 7 meters. You leap through gates, slamming them behind you. 10 meters. You grab a pulley cable and lurch to the rooftops. 15 meters. You bound off onto the street and through the crowded market. 20 meters. The screen commands you again, this time in a cautious amber “Hide!” You stand next to a vegetable stall and begin heckling with the attendant – “You have escaped!”
Relief grabs you by the throat.
No, wait – that’s not relief. It’s a priest with a knife. And he’s stabbing you. He’s stabbing you right in your pride. (That’s in the gut area). You notice the two icons hovering at the top left of your HUD. Two little red riding hoods. That means you were doing too well and the game assigned two players to come after you to balance things out. You escaped the freaky looking doctor. You didn’t even see the priest.
It’s a good touch this. Not only does it balance the game out and make for Mario Kart-like last minute victory snatching, it is also genuinely terrifying to be getting chased by three people at once (and equally satisfying if you manage to evade all three for a long stretch of time).
You don’t just need to rely on acrobatics and the environment to get away. At the character selection screen (and during respawn) you can decide on special abilities or equipment to aid you. Smoke Bombs slow down and disorientate your attacker if they run through the haze, while Disguise changes your character model, making you unrecognisable. There’s a Gun ability too but it takes a little bit of effort to put it to good use since you have to spend some time standing perfectly still while locking on to your target – a tense prospect considering at any moment you might get a spike in the back of your head.
It is an undeniably fun game. I defy you – defy you – to find anyone who doesn’t enjoy sneaking around and looking over their shoulder for fear of death by a barber’s shaving knife. Although, there are some reservations about the longevity of such a multiplayer experience. People can play Call of Modern Racism 2 almost every day for years. It remains to be seen if a game that subverts the established multiplayer deathmatch style will hold people’s attention for as long as the most refined shooters. It is fun to play now but will it be such a novel experience after a month of play time? Possibly not. But to be honest, if the game remains as enjoyable as it’s current form, even a month of novelty will be worth the price tag.