Stabbings, smoke bombs and skipping across the skyline in Ubisoft's newest sequel.
I sucked at Splinter Cell's multiplayer. I don't necessarily blame the game design, but there was something about the pacing and the ability sets of both soldiers and spies that I just didn't get. When I sat down to play through the assassination game in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, I was kind of expecting to hate it. Fortunately, the game won me over and proved that multiplayer doesn't have to be about head shots and build queues.
The match we played was, not surprisingly, an assassination game where six players wander the crowded streets of an Italian city and try to kill each other. Each player is assigned another player as a target, so that means there's someone you need to find and kill and someone who's trying to find and kill you. It creates an interesting duality to the game, because while you're busy hunting down your target, you're literally looking over your shoulder to make sure no one is sneaking up behind you.
You'll have a little radar at the bottom of the screen that shows you the general direction and distance to your target. Once you get in the general vicinity of your target, the radar is no more help and you'll have to rely on the picture of your target to find out who you're supposed to kill. It's a nice balance because the radar gets you close but you still have to rely on your own observation to pick out your target, particularly if there happen to be a few people around who look like the person you're tasked with murdering.
One of the crucial components of the multiplayer is the way you try to blend in with the crowds. Since there are certain behaviors that will automatically reveal you as a player, you have to be careful how you move through the town. It's clear that running or jumping up on the roof is a dead giveaway, but you can also sometimes spot players just based on the way they're walking or looking around. And once you know that the person in front of you is a player, they're fair game for assassination, whether they're your target or not.
Once you find a target, it's simply a matter of sneaking up behind them and executing an attack. Kills are quick and you'll be assigned a new target as your victim waits to respawn. I managed to draw first blood in this game and score a few more kills over the next ten minutes, but it's clear that my challenge is going to be avoiding my own assassin. It's easy to get so focused on finding your own target that you forget to check behind you to make sure no one is sneaking up on you. And of course, constantly looking over your shoulder, even with the game's free camera, tends to make you look like a player more than a townsperson.
Each player can select a number of special abilities at the start of each level. In my case, I chose a super sprint to help get me out of trouble and daggers that would knock other players off of walls. Unfortunately, both of those powers required that I give away my status as a player and open myself up to attack. After a while, I switched to the subtler blending powers. One gave me a smoke grenade I could use to immobilize other players temporarily. This was great not only for eluding assassination, but also for stopping targets that I wanted to kill. The other power instantly transformed any nearby townspeople into copies of me, making it hard for my assassin to pick out the right target.
We didn't get a chance to play any of the other multiplayer matches, but this assassination mode fits well with the game's subject matter and definitely has me eager to play more. Now I just need to find a player model that wears rear-view sunglasses.