PC gamers have it hard. If it isn’t bad enough that many are constantly anticipating the “death” of PC gaming, then it’s even worse that many publishers are taking ages to port popular console games to the PC; and then not even doing a good job of it. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood was one of my favourite titles of last year, and I had the pleasure of being able to review it following its launch last November. For the full run-down of why AC:B was a game worthy of your time, check out my previous review of the PS3 version. This article will, instead, be focusing solely on the PC port of the game.
Games are a unique medium for their ability to challenge the player, but this challenge is usually instigated by the game itself and not its installation. The actual process of getting the game files from the disc to my computer was simple enough, but getting the game to run for the first time was a nightmare I thought PC gaming had grown out of back in the mid 90s. Brotherhood’s launcher continually prompted me to sign up for an account that would then be used to verify the legitimacy of my copy of AC:B. Fair enough I thought, yet lo and behold I wasn’t able to sign up for said account. The launcher just kept erasing the details I’d entered into the boxes every time I clicked the submit button and promptly followed this transgression by crashing. Nice.
Thankfully, until I was able to rectify the problem, there was an alternative of launching the game in offline mode. Yes, you heard right. Ubisoft have learnt the error of their ways from the appalling DRM that dogged Assassin’s Creed 2. This time around, you can launch the game even without being connected to the internet. The only issue is that launching the game offline means you can’t play online multiplayer or enjoy the DLC that is included with the PC version of Brotherhood. Regardless, it’s still a step in the right direction for Ubisoft.
As some kind of recompense for keeping PC gamers waiting for so long, the PC version of Brotherhood comes bundled with some free DLC. Both Animus Project Updates are included that support the game’s multiplayer with two new game modes and maps. The Single and multiplayer content, titled the Davinci Disappearance is also available. Once more I’d direct you to our previous review for the DLC, for a more in depth look at what to expect. Free content is always a plus in my books, but if you suffer from the same launcher problems as I did, you won’t actually be able to take the game online to redeem your content. It’s not going to happen to everyone, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
Just for the record, Brotherhood is a fantastic adventure game. It possesses a solid story, a gripping narrative and some satisfying game design. I begin this paragraph with such praise, so as to cushion my next few attacks on the title. For, whilst I’m definitely a fan of Brotherhood, the PC port stinks. The game just clearly wasn’t designed with the PC in mind, as is shown through a number of issues. The big one is a case of controls. Game pads are an optional control method that render this next set of critiques void, but those who want to show off their keyboard and mouse skills with Assassin’s Creed beware. The controls do make sense and I’m not exactly sure how they could improve upon them, but there’s something just not quite right about them. The AC games have always been about smoothness of movement, a factor which is well complemented by the unique platforming and climbing segments of the series. Yet, this fluidity just felt totally lost when moving around using a keyboard. The controls are designed fairly well overall, but Brotherhood was clearly made with console controllers in mind.
Next up we have the usual rants about ports having inferior visuals. Ironically though, this is only partially true. If you have the luxury of being able to crank the graphics settings up high, Brotherhood does look mighty fine on PC. In particular it was nice to see an increased draw distance over its console counterparts. Yet, this was somewhat marred by some serious collision detection in the game’s combat. The finishing moves and strikes lacked any kind of punch in comparison to the PS3 version of the game I tested, and Ezio seemed to pass through my enemies far too many times for my liking. These are small pickings, but they really spoiled the grit of the game’s fight scenes.
What was more criminal than the visual discrepancies between the two versions was the major sound problems. And I mean major with a capital M. Every film sequence was absolutely ruined by one glitch that prevented many of the voice clips from playing. Occasionally I could faintly hear the voices if I turned my speakers up to max volume, but even then the voices were still muffled and inaudible. Ezio also stopped making any sound at all on occasion. I know he’s meant to be a bad-ass assassin and all that, but his sword would still make a noise when it strikes his foes. Bugs are a natural part of the development process when it comes to the eclectic selection of hardware that PC developers must take into consideration, but this kind of major fault really ruined a lot of the game’s narrative for me.
There is also a severe problem with the multiplayer of the game (provided you can get the game online that is.) The title adopts the same matchmaking features of Brotherhood’s console counterparts, neglecting those who like the customisation that individual servers offer. What’s worse is that there isn’t even a text chat function, whether in game or in the lobby. Sure, you can still use a mic, but not all PC gamers are privy to using a headset. This isn’t a game-breaking omission, but it’s fairly typical of an industry that seems to be taking PC gaming less and less seriously as the days go by.
So there you have it, a fantastic adventure title robbed of its high production values and engaging gameplay by a series of coding errors; each more devious than the last. Naturally these bugs won’t affect everyone, but it’s still indicative of the effort (or lack thereof) that has gone into this port. The removal of annoying DRM schemes (at least ones that I know of) is certainly a step in the right direction, but the rest is unimpressive at best. If you have a 360 or PS3, make sure it is your weapon of choice when it comes to taming the beast that is Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood. If you only have a gaming PC, make sure you wait until the game is patched and updated. This current incarnation fails to do the game justice in any way, shape or form.
This game was reviewed on the PC.
It's still a fantastic game, Graphics look awesome on higher settings, Free DLC is a nice touch, No frustrating DRM that always requires an internet connection
A plethora of bugs and glitches, Controls don't always feel right, No text chat or servers in multiplayer, The launcher is horribly broken
The magic of Assassin's Creed Brotherhood has finally arrived for our PC loving brethren, but removing unpopular DRM schemes and including free DLC is not enough to justify a rather underwhelming port filled with glitches, bugs and issues galore