There was a brief period back in 2007 when the marketing of Assassin's Creed was pretty much being sustained by wheeling producer Jade Raymond onto a stage and having her say something about wall textures. In a sense you could say the game has come into its own since that point, having developed enough credence within the gamer population to not actually require Raymond's lovely Uncanny Valley face to help draw attention to the series. The AC franchise has matured brilliantly since its original title, having more or less perfected the idea of a "living" virtual city, with the inclusion of beggars, guards, prostitutes, thieves, continuous waves of background chatter and fights that break out if you push someone over in a crowd. Outside of the context of the game, such a list would make you think "Oh, Croydon.", but within a game, it only helps to colour the setting with a sense of humanity.
That sense of humanity was extended in Assassin's Creed 2 with the introduction of Ezio, a character who had a range of charm and likeable characteristics despite spending the entire game assassinating guards. And now we're back to Ezio's Italy. The original game's distinctively odd-but-intriguing supernatural cliffhanger gave way to Assassin's Creed 2, whose own odd, supernatural cliffhanger brings you to the second chapter of Ezio Auditore's Italia story. Last time you were trailing Ezio as he entered into the world of the 16th Century Italian Assassins; now you are following him as he takes control of an entire clan of killers.
But even before his personal rise, Brotherhood is about the fall and reconstruction of Rome. The game begins with the Borgias, a political family related to the then-current Pope, who have started infiltrating Monteriggioni which leaves you to defend the city from its turrets as the invading enemies slowly break down the city's defences, stream in, and inevitably take power. It's a lost cause to be fair, but your first significant battle here lays the groundwork for the rest of the game's battle formula.
And it's a varied formula, one that tries to give you combat scenarios that range between the usual assassinations and sword-to-sword stuff to (honestly) an on-rails shooter interlude with an ancient wooden machine gun. Even the basic melee has been revised. Enemies are now faster to attack and more aggressive than in the previous titles, meaning you'll spend less time standing in one place, waiting to counter their blows. Instead you have the option to perform Execution Streaks, pushing the left-stick toward your next target and attacking, and then again, to link kills.
But the result of the aforementioned siege is a broken Rome, an Assassin guild that is out of operation, and Borgia influence over key parts of the capital. Oh, and remember that mechanical-looking apple from Assassin's Creed 2? The one with mysteriously supernatural powers that you vowed to keep safe? That's been lost to the Borgia as well.
That's the first twenty minutes of the game in a nutshell after destruction Monteriggioni, which follows on with Ezio's appeal to re-develop the Assassin clan, take out the influential Borgia towers that have sprung up in various areas, rebuild Rome and get back the Apple of Eden from the corrupt political powers.