Talk about your out of nowhere come backs - for a good four hours in Assassinís Creed: Brotherhood all I could think was Ďwow, this sure is $100 for a city that should have been in Assassinís Creed 2í.
And then everything switched up - the game started to demonstrate why it deserves more than just a cursory glance and dismissal as a shameless cash in.
Assassinís Creed Brotherhood kicks things off in classic sequel style - by stripping you of everything you earned in the previous game. The mechanism for robbing the player of everything they spent 17 hours earning in AC2 isnít ham-fisted like it is in most games - it makes narrative sense, at least.
Without wanting to spoil AC2 for you, at the beginning of this game an army marches in and blows up your house while youíre getting down and dirty with your girlfriend, so you lose all of Leonardo Da Vinciís inventions and have to start again.
Ok, so youíre back to square one - itís just you, your wrist-mounted gun, hidden blade, sword... well, youíre a bit closer to the likes of square four or five. Youíve got more than just the basics, but youíre still a while off from having become death, destroyer of worlds - if you know what I mean.
The combat is still extremely simple and outstandingly satisfying - sure, youíre not looking at the kind of dynamic fighting we saw in Castlevania, Bayonetta or God of War, but the animations all look good enough to make it worth it - oh and youíre not really supposed to be fighting either (just killing and leaving).
For those new to the Assassinís Creed series the game is about showing off the characterís mad parkour skills - Ezio makes Spider-Man look uncoordinated as he nimbly bounds across the rooftops of Rome.
Of course people who arenít new to the series are wondering Ďwhat makes it worthwhile after the four hour mark?í
The answer is the semi-management sim style the game takes on once Ezio realises heís going to need some help in his quest - that and the story continues to build.
Rome is made up of areas of Borgia influence in ACB - diminishing this influence by killing the resident Borgia leader and burning their tower allows you to renovate shops in the area, lessens the amount of guards around and allows you to recruit another Assassin to your cause.
These assassin recruits can be trained by sending them off on missions or by calling them to help you out in battle. It works on a rudimentary XP system - depending on the difficulty of the mission they can get more or less XP and helping you kill someone gets them probably the least of all.
Still, regardless of their level they tend to act like an ĎI Winí button a lot of the time - tap the LB button and who ever youíre targeting will die seconds later. Itís helpful when taking on the cowardly Borgia leaders - if those guys run away you have to wait until the guard change before you can attempt to kill them again, which is annoying as hell.
This management situation adds heaps to the game though and easily makes up for the fact that a lot of the game is far too Ďsameyí. The story helps too - building the characters outside the animus - via emails and cutscenes - was an excellent move by the team at Ubi Montreal.
The ending of Assassinís Creed 2 prepared me better for the twists and turns of Brotherhood, even if the game is a little light on exposition - this game is a bridge, more than a full on new chapter in the story of Desmond.
That doesnít mean it doesnít come with some huge additions - multiplayer being the most obvious of these.
Multiplayerís biggest weakness is in the almost non-existent tutorial - you play through a brief Ďgo here, kill this guy, donít get seení sequence which was obvious to anyone who had read the title of the game they were playing... itís Assassinís Creed, not Terminatorís Creed.
After that itís into the deep end, where you get to play one of four modes - deathmatch, hardcore deathmatch, team deathmatch and squad deathmatch.
Well, thatís a little simplistic. Wanted and Advanced Wanted are the teamless variants here - youíre given a target (who looks like everyone else in the game world) and you have to assassinate them. Naturally, theyíre trying to assassinate someone else and another person is trying to get you.
The key to not being killed is acting like the AI - walking places, milling at stores and most importantly hanging out near AI who look like you. Other players will be following suit, so getting kills relies on your ability to pick the right person.
It reminds me of the criminally underplayed Half-Life 2 mod ĎSuicide Survivalí - itís insanely tense and extremely rewarding when you earn a kill.
The other modes - Manhunt and Alliance - build on this by putting you into a team with other killers. Manhunt has teams of hunters and hunted while Alliance is simply a paired version of Wanted - the team variants tie in my books as the best versions of MP, but all up itís still a good deal of fun.
Assassinís Creed Brotherhood started out shaky, but built into a great game with quite a bit to offer for AC fans. Series newcomers will be a little confused story wise, but theyíll have the benefit of experiencing the gameís combat at its highest level; the combat might be a secondary system in the AC series, but at least in Brotherhood itís delivered in a satisfying manner.