XBox 360, PS3, PC
With so much real life history, as well as highly imaginative mythology to play with, the Assassin's Creed franchise has grown to be quite a beautiful thing these past few years. From the ambitious, but disappointingly underachieving, original right through to last year's Brotherhood, the series has grown into itself masterfully; each iteration addressing the issues found in the previous game with aplomb.In Short:
Brotherhood was arguably the best of the lot, adding an expertly realised online multiplayer mode to further development of Ezio and Desmond's storyline, dragging us further and further into the game's universe ahead of the inevitable sequel to follow this November, and as such it's probably the best placed to bring us some really top quality DLC - which The Da Vinci Disappearance hopes to do.
As you have probably surmised from the title, this add-on surrounds the disappearance of Renaissance master, and friend of Ezio, Leonardo Da Vinci. With the help of brand new character Salai (Da Vinci's assistant, and lover). As is always the case in Assassin's Creed titles, the character is excellently created, wonderfully voiced and bursting with loud and boisterous personality. You'll want to hate him, but it's tough not to be fond of the rogue.
As you begin to figure out the truth behind Leonardo's disappearance, the game poses some curious questions - some of which will never be answered with any degree of consistency, which is a real disappointment given the previous standards of storytelling in the series. We don't want to spoil anything, but we'll simply say you might find the events surrounding the end of the DLC both suspiciously convenient from a storytelling point of view, and exceedingly compelling from a player's perspective.
The gameplay within the add-on is much the same as we've come to expect from the franchise, which is obviously no bad thing. There are plenty of fights to be had in the countless action packed sequences, but there is also a notable shift towards the stealthier aspects of the game for long passages of play. Obviously this isn't going to be to everyone's taste, but you'll need to weigh up whether or not your curiosity around the finale is enough to make you soldier on through it. For us, we rather enjoyed it, the change of pace was quite refreshing given the high octane start and end.
Where the game did fall down a little for us was the occasionally fiddly gameplay. Assassin’s Creed has always been a game that excelled in fast paced, open world parkour style movements, and one that tends to frustrate when the player is required to make precision inputs in order to progress. This is definitely as much a case of the engine being better suited to one thing than the other as it is of the player being coerced over time into playing a certain way, meaning the occasional change in tact is something of a system shock.
Despite that minor concern, the single player side of The Da Vinci Disappearance is a fantastic piece of content, and offering in or around three hour’s gameplay it’s one we have no qualms about recommending to fans of the series who are looking for that extra little Assassin’s Creed fix to tide them over between games, but it’s worth noting that there’s far more to it than that – it’s also got some multiplayer additions to bolster its ranks.
The Da Vinci Disappearance also offers players a brand new multiplayer map, two new game modes and a new character to add to their existing suite of online options. Of greatest interest here will no doubt be the new game modes. Assassinate mode offers a free for all mode which offers a completely different gameplay experience to the pre-existing online modes. Rather than being tasked with hunting down and eliminating a specific opponent, here you’ll have to make do with continual rough location updates about the nearest enemies while trying to stay hidden within the crowd. It really adds a great new dynamic to the online mode, and even though it’ll take a few goes to really become accustomed to how it plays, it’s a definite winner for us!
The other mode, Escort, takes a team based approach, with one group defending an AI controlled group of characters as they mode between checkpoints, and the other group trying to ensure they never reach it to their final destination. Communication is the key in this mode, and although it initially seems skewed unfairly towards the attacking team it balances out once you’ve played a few rounds (and assuming your defensive teammates aren’t complete idiots). It’s a decent addition, but nowhere close to the high standard of Assassinate.
All in all it’s very hard not to sing the praises of such a well rounded addition to a game as good as Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Ubisoft Montreal has done a magnificent job here, and given us a package that not only represents real value for money, but goes above and beyond what is expected for DLC these days. If only other developers would take note.
It starts well and ends brilliantly, but even a little dip in the middle can't stop this from being the best AC DLC to date.