I remember seeing the first few teasers and gameplay trailers, where the devs promised us a lot of excitement and stuff...
Then I played the first game and, like I said in another thread, thought it was, apart form the story, the worst garbage I have played in years. And I still think that. The overall concept and idea was amazingly cool and original, but the execution of it all in the first game was just irritatingly bad. The controls were buggy and unresponsive, the soundtrack was muddy and uninteresting, the graphics not bad, but also not good.
AS2, on the other hand, was a true gem. Everything that the first game missed and did wrong was corrected in AS2... and then added even more. Much more exciting overall, original missions, sidequests, better graphics and soundtrack; everything seemed to be balanced out perfectly to make the game great... Except that it was too easy for most players, who ended up with tons of cash in their pocket having nothing to spend it on; the fights, although generally raising in difficulty towards the end of the game, were still too easy; but fortunately, it did not really take as much fun out of playing it as in the first game where complete repetitiveness cause boredom in addition to buggy controls which resulted in many deaths and retries... far too many.
Now, AS Brotherhood seems to be by far the best game in the franchise (though not my favorite, my fav is AS2). Tons of sidequests and activities, the money issue from AS2 was corrected and balanced out, too. The graphics? Great again. The soundtrack? Overall good, but doesn't always fit into the game (I realized this only when I actually bought and listened to it, then started recognizing them within the game). I feel like the controls have been tampered with in a naughty, naughty way and are not as great as they used to be
The Animus interface is something I really don't like about this game. It just looks and feels, not to mention works as if it was only meant for the stupid consoles; using a mouse with it is at times impossible. Adding a "full sync" challenge to missions is great, but sometimes "pushing it". I found myself retrying certain (relatively easy) missions just to get that 100% sync... Also, using the map with the mouse is horrible! Zooming in can be so painful when I need to pinpoint something quickly, and the worst part about this is that near the beginning I seemed to continuously want to walk right into "memory not available" barriers, not really being sure if I can go where I wanted or not. I had no problem with this in AS2, even though the very first playthrough.
The difficulty actually varies a lot in this game, depending on which kind of missions you're doing, which is awesome. It keeps certain suspense and never "lets down".
Before I played it, I had thought that the members of Brotherhood will have their own missions; collecting people with certain reputation for fighting against the Borgia, who have the skills to become assassins... So helping random peasants on the streets was kind of a let down, but the ability to create diversions, kill the guards/targets quickly just by walking by and send them on their own missions to complete made me forget about it.
The franchise is definitely a fresh, exciting and original concept in gaming, especially in terms of storyline. Now, whether it is better than GTA and aforementioned FPS games (why would you want to compare them with FPS games in the first place) is debatable, but seeing as how we didn't exactly have many games like this (except the "Thief" franchise, I guess) it is certainly something one must check out.