Hey, do you remember that game “The Ship”? It was a 2006 PC release, one of the first games to use the Steam platform for multiplayer, built on Source technology. You assumed the role of a passenger on a cruise ship. It was your sneaky goal to murder another passenger on the ship, while yet another passenger was trying to murder you.
Given only the portrait of the player, you had to casually stroll about the ship in order to locate your quarry, but without giving yourself away. The player had the additional challenge of discretely murdering the quarry without being detected by security guards or cameras on board. You were given the ability to change clothes and could use just about anything as a weapon, the more creative the better. (Wielding an axe or gun on the ship would get you sent to jail almost immediately). The other catch was that your player had Sims-esque needs: eating, showering, playing, pooping, etc. These, of course were opportune times for your stalker to catch you having a meal, or on the can. Sounds fun right?
Apparently it wasn’t, at the time I played the game I was never able to find anyone else to join. Most of the sessions had only 2 or 3 players. The single-player campaign loosely followed the same mechanic, but with some additional challenges (escorting, finding items, etc) and a storyline. I thought it was a great concept, a welcome departure to twitch fighting, something that required more thought than hand-eye coordination. While writing this I also discovered that a spiritual successor to this game is available for XBL, Bloody Good Time, which takes place on Hollywood movie sets. Interestingly enough, BGT was published by Ubisoft…
Enter Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood multiplayer. In this game mode you are told that you are part of a Templar training program at Abstergo training program to hone skills. (Remember those rows of animus you pass by when escaping in AC2?) You enter simulations, consisting of very small, crowded maps, with about 8 other players in which you are given a target to assassinate. Meanwhile, another player is trying to track and assassinate you. At times, multiple players might be after you, or you might be one of many players going after the same target. You receive additional points for killing with style, being silent, acrobatics and escaping from your killer.
The points you earn in game level up your profile. A higher level profile unlocks sets of abilities within an interface reminiscent of Transformers: War for Cybertron’s multiplayer. There are three classes of abilities, and two slots to unlock for each set type. Leveling also provides your avatar with additional clothing options. You can even save quick sets of configurations as “profiles” to your…um… profile.
What is really confusing is that there are NPC copies of the player that you are trying to find, so when your radar alerts you to the proximity of your quarry you might be staring at 3 copies of the same character model, with the other player hiding amongst the crowd. This is usually just enough time for someone to run up behind you and slit your throat. Breakout into a run, though, and the chase is on with all of the free-running that you know and love. It is somehow simultaneously fun and frustrating. I’d like to think it will be even better trying this mode with friends.
- A Welcome Departure: Apparently it’s really difficult for some players to break the run-and-gun mentality. That being said, there’s a certain sense of satisfaction in calmly sitting on a bench for minutes until jumping up to stab someone. Meanwhile, the “runners” stick out like a sore thumb. Staying cool earns you more points, and is just plain stylish. This isn’t your grandpa’s Call of Duty; in fact, it’s no one’s Call of Duty. This reason alone should be enough to give it a shot.
- It’s Assassin’s Creed: Do you like the style of the game, free running, blending in a crowd? Well, then, here’s more game for you to play after you finish the single-player offerings. Think of it as a little something extra to tide you over until AC3. This, with the virtual trainer in single-player, round out the disc nicely.
- “Meanwhile, at the Legion of Doom”: I’ve mentioned it on the podcast, but in the AC universe I’m more interested in what is happening in the present, than what transpires in the memories. At the beginning of AC2, Lucy takes you through the animus-cubicle-farm on your way out of Abstergo. What? There’s more than one animus? What are they using them for if there have only been less than 20 “subjects? Why does the company logo from Persons Unknown look suspiciously like the Abstergo logo? Well there you go (sort-of): Abstergo has been developing multiplayer for Ubisoft. Also, nice touch with the different animus UIs for Abstergo and Assassins, respectively.
Not Nerd Appropriate:
- NPC Simulator: What you’re really doing in this game mode is not drawing attention to yourself, acting like everyone else, acting like an NPC. You can go mano-a-mano but the game discourages it; you don’t receive as many points for the kill, and your quarry has a chance to flee, stealing your points. I also felt cheated at times when my best attempts to blend in still somehow got me killed like a sitting duck.
- “And when everyone’s super, no one will be”: You don’t have the full arsenal of standard single-player weapons at your disposal. The weapon you have is specific to your character, and doesn’t seem to make an impact on that character’s ability. In fact, it doesn’t seem like there are differences between the personas other than appearance. The differentiation comes from leveling up and customizing ability sets. More prior expectation than anything else, I expected to have more up-front variety at my disposal, such as environment interaction or a class specific set of weapons. The result is that it doesn’t really feel like I am playing Assassin’s Creed, just something that looks like it.
- Finally, Assassin’s Creed Multiplayer (with sarcasm): This is more of a commentary on the state of games lately. IMO not every game needs a multiplayer component, and I am still not sure why this game has one. For some games it makes perfect sense (Borderlands), sometimes it doesn’t (Fable), and other times the execution is poor (Red Dead Redemption). It’s not a bad feature, but it is one that I did not ask for. I would also wager a bet that there are some things that could still be improved upon or fixed in the single player, where the effort would be better directed. So now this game goes the way of so many other single-to-multiplayer games: I’m looking at you, Dead Space 2 and Resident Evil 5. And, stay away from Alan Wake.
You probably didn’t buy AC: Brotherhood for multiplayer, but since it’s on the disc you should give it a shot. The mode is definitely challenging and fun, and will be even better with friends. Just don’t go thinking we haven’t been here before; pour one out for “The Ship” on your way into the animus.