Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood took the single-player mechanics of one of our top games for 2009, Assassin's Creed 2, and sharpened them to a fine point; but that's not why Brotherhood clambered so high on our best of 2010 tower. The sequel is here for blindsiding us with a panic-fueled, engrossing multiplayer component.

Like many of you, we've grown cynical watching companies cram unnecessary multiplayer into games with solid single-player experiences. Upon its announcement, that's exactly what Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood's stab-or-be-stabbed multiplayer sounded like: typical padding to a cash-in sequel, still riding high on the last game's wave of success. Wrong. Not only did Brotherhood's single-player campaign offer a focused, distilled romp through Rome, but its multiplayer gave us a unique experience that, refreshingly, didn't have shooting at its heart.

We'd seen shades of the core mechanics before. If we go way back, Brotherhood's "Manhunt" mode feels influenced by the board game Scotland Yard (German "Game of the Year" Award winner, 1983), while the predator/prey cycle of the game's "Wanted" and "Alliance" modes felt like a rapid-fire variation of The Ship. There are also several lessons taken from Splinter Cell's "Spy vs. Merc" multiplayer modes, all of which Brotherhood beautifully incorporates into the franchise's two timelines.

Killing is easy in nearly every multiplayer game, and so far removed from any consideration that there's never any hesitation before pulling the trigger. Brotherhood is unique in forcing you to consider a target's validity -- is there a human player in that crowd of computer-generated civilians? -- as well as your visible behavior. Between successfully stalking someone and concealing your own identity you'll find a taut, intense game unlike any other. And after years of complaining about silly, meandering NPCs, it's an unusual reversal to find yourself impersonating the dumb computer.

The computer still renders an impressive single-player game, of course. Brotherhood may not match its predecessor in terms of variety in locations, but it excels in a variety of activities: replay a mission, train new assassins, grab a treasure, set up some contracts, fix an aqueduct, complete a story mission, buy some property, burn a Borgia tower. Do something, do something, do something. Brotherhood seemed to tweak Alec Baldwin's famous Glengarry Glen Ross monologue from "ABC" to a design philosophy of "ABD." Always Be Doing.

And if there's one thing we'll always be doing, it's looking out for sequels that explore a familiar concept in ways we never expected. Put us back in the animus, Ubisoft.


Joystiq is revealing its 10 favorite games of 2010 throughout the week! Stay tuned for more must-play picks, and take heed as each staffer stands atop a soapbox to defend those games that didn't quite make the cut. Come to think of it, has anyone seen Blood Drive?

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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