Stealthy killers will begin stalking the Internet on Tuesday when Ubisoft releases the latest title in its line of "Assassin's Creed" videogames.
"Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood" builds on the 15th century Renaissance era treachery and intrigue of its predecessor, but with a first-ever online feature that allows players to divert from the storyline and hunt one another.
"We could say that you've been training for this moment," Ubisoft senior vice president of sales and marketing Tony Key said while discussing the third installment in the blockbuster 'Assassin's' franchise with AFP.
"You are assigned to kill someone, while at the same time someone is assigned to kill you," he continued. "It creates this real sense of paranoia about everyone around you."
Ubisoft software savants in Annecy, France, crafted online multi-player capabilities into "Brotherhood", which was a team effort that also involved the French videogame maker's studios in Canada and Singapore.
Videogame play has been moving increasingly online, letting people pit themselves against friends or strangers in titles tailored for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or Wii consoles linked to the Internet.
"Brotherhood" allows a player to pick from an array of characters, each with signature weapons and assassination techniques.
The online multi-play feature won a "Game Critics" award at the major Electronics Entertainment Expo videogame industry gathering in Los Angeles in July.
Unlike shooter games in which veteran players typically mow down neophytes in virtual skirmishes that last minutes if not seconds, "Brotherhood" promises prolonged battles of stealth and wits.
"Every time someone walks by you, you are holding your breath," Key said.
"There are other characters that look like yours walking around, so you've got to watch for tells," he added. "If someone starts acting strange and getting close, that is usually a dead giveaway."
Players can opt for a storyline mode that puts them in the trademark hooded garb of Ezio, part of a bloodline of master assassins that used their deadly skills to thwart corruption and grand conspiracy.
The third installment of the line-up was designed to stand alone, but devotees of the franchise will note that it picks up Ezio's story about 20 years after the end of "Assassin's Creed 2" (AC2).
"Ezio is now famous and recruiting a brotherhood of assassins to help him," Key said.
"Someone new to the franchise will get a deep story, while people who loved 'AC2' will see Ezio as an older, wiser guy with some flair."
The stage was set in "AC2" when the hero's family was betrayed and murdered by ruling families of Italy, compelling Ezio to learn the ways of his assassin ancestors to obtain revenge.
Ezio became a freedom fighter to his friends and a bogeyman to tyrants of Italy.
"Assassin's Creed" was the first game to immerse players in a believable and mature experience inspired by historical events, according to Ubisoft videogame producer Sebastien Puel.
"AC2" built on the original title's winning elements with more gorgeous cityscapes, animations, and 15th century historical settings.
Ubisoft reported that sales of "Assassin's Creed" titles have topped 19 million copies worldwide and that the videogame titan has logged a record high number of pre-orders for "Brotherhood."
Ubisoft chief executive Yves Guillemot is to reveal the pre-order figure when the France-based firm releases earnings figures on Monday.
"Consumers can't wait to get their hands on 'Assassin's Creed Brotherhood,' and we're looking forward to delivering them an experience they'll never forget," Key said.
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