Brotherhood picks up where its predecessor left off in more ways than we had dared to hope. Ezio returns to Rome in full this time, rather than just invading the Vatican, and discovers that it is not only rife with his enemies the Borgia – key Templars of the era – but as vast and magnificent as the cities of Assassin's Creed II put together.
Assassin's Creed II gave you many fun things to do and items to collect, and Brotherhood intensifies this so that your trusty map is a forest of icons within a few opening hours. The real revelation, though, is what those icons represent. Brotherhood's conceit is that you are trying to liberate Rome, but the manner in which you do this is contrived in ways that play perfectly to the series' strengths.
You can also recruit members of the populace and train them as assassins, sending them on missions around the world to sharpen their skills and calling on them in battle. Highlighting an enemy, pressing a button and watching a herald of angelic forms descend unseen from nearby rooftops to perform silent, brutal assassinations in your stead never grows old.
Outside the campaign, Ubisoft's Annecy team has contributed a matching multiplayer component with four modes. In Wanted, Alliance and Advanced Wanted, you are given a picture of your target and a vague radar indication of where they are, while another player is given your image. It's kill or be killed. Just don't kill the wrong person.
Set within the Animus to justify the use of identikit NPC models, the result is that you're never sure who is stalking you, so you have to watch carefully to see who betrays themselves through their actions. In Advanced Wanted in particular – and also Manhunt, where players are split into teams of assassins and prey – identifying targets is satisfying, and skilful anonymity is richly rewarded.
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is a masterful combination of the many things that have striven to define the series in the past, each presented at its best and accentuated by considered design.