Brotherhood's multiplayer is smart. The singleplayer might have you driving tanks and sinking ships, but the multiplayer remembers that you're all meant to be assassins and has a ton of fun with that. There’s some expositional stuff about how you’re all Templar agents training in the animus, but what it boils down to is that you choose from one of eight different Renaissance characters and then spend the next ten minutes desperately trying to murder one another. But this isn't some plain old deathmatch, or even some exciting new deathmatch with the Assassin’s Creed engine. You see, you guys are professionals. There are rules.
The first of these is that as soon as you hop into the game, you’re given a target. Apart from innocent civilians, that’s the only person you can assassinate, and they’re tracked by a circular radar at the bottom of the screen. It’ll tell you the general direction they’re in, as well as how far, and their elevation, but it’s nowhere near pinpoint accurate. It’ll put you in the vicinity of your target, and let you do the rest of the work.
Of course, they’ll have their own target to worry about, which is awfully convenient for you, as it means they’re less likely to be on the look out for man with pointy object #5. But, at the same time, if you come at them like a deranged lunatic with a penchant for speed and recklessness, the game is going to go and tap them on the shoulder, point in your direction and go ‘Look mate, that guy’s a nutter, and he’s trying to kill you. I suggest you bugger off out of here before you’ve got one too many orifices.’ So you exercise restraint, approach your target with caution and discretion, and end them in any number of character-specific death animations.
That’s all fine and dandy, and by making every single civilian in the game one of the seven characters you can pick from, it’s far from easy to spot your pursuer, or the guy you’re trying to kill. Where it starts getting really smart, however, is in how it assigns the targets.
You’ll always have someone to kill. That’s never an issue. But what you might not realise at first is that you’re not the only guy after a target. The better someone’s doing, the more people the game assigns to kill them. The player in first might have two or three people after him at once, whereas the person at the bottom of the list will be unpursued, allowing them to fumble and bumble their assassinations in peace. With three guys breathing down your neck, it does things to how well you can operate, and you’re far more likely to clumsy your way through an assassination, and botch things at best.
Not only this, but you get different amounts of points depending on how you perform your assassination. Get them without running up or pouncing from the air and you’ll get a ‘discreet’ bonus. Perhaps even ‘silent’ depending on how you handle things. You’re rewarded for efficiency and discretion, rather than recklessness and blood lust. It works, allowing even someone at the bottom of the scoreboard to rocket themselves up if they get a particularly well done kill. It’s quality over quantity, every time, meaning that the guy at the top of the scoreboard usually isn’t the guy who’s been running around and slaughtering people left and right.
So the game balances itself, while providing an unfrustrating game for the newcomers, and presenting a challenge for the more experienced players. On top of that, you’ve got a system of perks and skills, one defensive, one aggressive. Some of these entirely make sense in the game world, like throwing knives, smoke bombs or the wrist mounted gun, but there’s also morph, which turns all nearby NPCs into an exact replica of your character, and disguise, which switches your player model to another, picking from random. They’re on a pretty hefty cool down, so their use is reserved for getting you out of the tightest of spots, but they work. Everyone’s got two, and how you use them can either make an assassination easy as hell, or escaping a thrilling experience.
And that’s what Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood’s Multiplayer does. It’s risk reward in the finest sense of the term. You’re only ever one button press from death, but evading pursuers or nailing a kill without the guy ever having suspected to you are pretty great rewards. It’s all about trying to split the two hemispheres of your brain and having one focus on watching your back, and the other on watching the back that you’re planning to perforate. It's tricky. Oh, it's absolutely a taxing experience. But ultimately it's also a very, very good time.