What happens when you pit eight skilled assassins against one another in a small section of town? People die, because that's how assassins roll.
At Ubisoft's E3 demo, I sat in a cushy stool with seven others, given a PlayStation 3 controller and a basic set of rules by Ubi's teams. First, we choose from the eight character skins available, ranging from the masked doctor to a conniving nobleman, courtesan to executioner, and so on.
Most look pretty familiar if you've played Assassin's Creed II, and differences between each character are purely cosmetic. Special abilities and stats come from the next step, which is choosing a loadout. Each setup comes with an offensive and defensive skill, like revolver/smoke bombs or throwing knives/sprint boost. You can even transform into another character or turn a crowd into yours for a short period of time. Sorry, no custom mix 'n' match.
In this particular mode, each player is given a target to track and kill, while being hunted at the same time (by another player). At the beginning of each round, a photo of your prey appears, and you need to track him (or her) down through crowds designed to throw off predators. Streets are occupied by clusters of the same NPCs, allowing prey to blend in, but a keen eye can still spot the anomaly within a crowd.
A blue radar on-screen keeps track of your mark, rotating and expanding to show direction and proximity. Just don't go charging in without a plan or you'll spook the target -- maybe even alert the guy hunting you. Peculiar behavior like sprinting, climbing or assassinating are obvious red flags, so discretion is always your most valuable asset.
Otherwise, prepare to run. As a marked player, you can escape from a would-be killer by any number of means. Break line of sight by running through highlighted gates that fly shut behind you or dive into a conveniently parked hay wagon. With any luck, the other assassin is still a building away and has already been assigned another target.
Once within range, assassins only need to press one button to take someone out, and my priest was being murdered by a doctor, I noticed the Square button pop up for a split-second. As it turns out, that prompt is your only chance to deflect an assassination attempt, but I lacked the cat-like reflexes required to actually tap it.
Brotherhood will be out some time this winter, and by then, we'll be seeing multiple multiplayer modes. The current roster will also expand by nearly twice the current number, though specific numbers were not uttered.