The lights are on
The Da Vinci Disappearance has everything an Assassin's Creed fan could want, including hints of where the series may go in the future. Downloadable content for a game can be a mixed blessing. As many gamers have had the misfortune to discover, DLC packs can seem lackluster in comparison to the core game, filled with lazy mission design, rehashed locations, and low production values. Happily, that's not the case with the first major downloadable expansion to Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, which is now available on both 360 and PlayStation 3. The fun new memory sequence adds a great deal to the storyline, fleshes out important character relationships, and delivers new locations and missions that are an equal to anything from the core game release. If that wasn't enough, the pack also delivers a wealth of new multiplayer elements. The new Story Mode sequence delves into the mysterious disappearance of Leonardo Da Vinci and Ezio's subsequent quest to find his longtime friend. The hunt for clues involves familiar faces like Ezio's sister, Claudia, and the toxic Lucrezia Borgia, but also introduces a a new major character in Salai, Da Vinci's assistant and partner. To find the missing inventor and artist, Ezio must track down five missing paintings that together hold a great secret which Leonardo has been keeping. There's even a little sequence reminiscent of "The Truth" as Ezio finally pulls together all the clues.
Each of the eight major new memory missions can stand beside any other mission the Assassin's Creed franchise has thrown our way. Along the way, there are great chase scenes, stealthy infiltrations, challenging platforming, plenty of combat, and even a new dice minigame. Reused areas of Rome feel fresh thanks to some variation in how they're presented, and two entirely new areas are gorgeous and well constructed. The story itself is a smartly written side adventure with great dialogue and an intriguing premise, even if the core conceit of Da Vinci's kidnapping feels a little forced. Ezio's lengthy new adventure is worth the price of admission ($10 at launch) but there's also some exciting new multiplayer content in the mix. The DLC pack adds two entirely new game modes into multiplayer, both of which are fun variations on the cat-and-mouse intrigue that the original Wanted mode provided. Assassinate mode takes off the gloves and creates a free-for-all hunt to bring down the other templars. Fewer onscreen clues dictate who is a viable target, so observation becomes more important than ever. The other new mode, Escort, sets two teams against each other in an effort to protect or kill designated NPC targets. The biggest thrill out of these matches are the enormous melees that erupt around a VIP as the teams converge. There are also four new multiplayer avatars, named the Dama Rossa, the Knight, the Marquis, and the Pariah, all of which have entertaining animation suites. At this point, there's enough variety to the characters you'll see in a given match that it genuinely feels like a thriving city. Finally, a new multiplayer map brings the grand total of environments to an impressive 16, if you count the night and dusk variations that exist on certain stages. Examined as a whole, The Da Vinci Disappearance pack is a hefty and extremely entertaining addition to the already stellar package found in Brotherhood. It's exactly what gamers want out of DLC -- meaningful new content at the same level as the original game. Though the pack doesn't breach any new frontiers in gameplay, everything feels solid and wisely executed. Most importantly for many fans, the new addition slips in well to the wider narrative, and even adds what seems to be important hints about what's to come in future installments. I certainly won't ruin anything here, but I will offer a suggestion: You may want to have a pen and paper handy for the final cinematic sequence. Afterward, feel free to bring your comments and predictions back to this thread to share your thoughts.
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