The first Assassin’s Creed was released just on around two years ago, generating insanely high levels of hype and excitement. Problem is, that once gamers actually got their hands on the game, they quickly grew tired of the repetitive mission structure and overall lack of things to do.
Now the time has come for a sequel and Ubisoft Montreal are trying to right the wrongs of their past offering, claiming to have listened to the fans and changed what needs changing.
Just so happens, that I get to be the judge of that. Was the series doomed to fail from the start or does the sequel bring breathe new life into the franchise.
Assassin’s Creed is all about a machine called the Animus which enables clever people to get other people to experience the memories of their ancestors that are obtained in their DNA.
Assassin’s Creed II sees our protagonist Desmond returning to the life of his ancestor Ezio Auditoire de Firenze and his story that takes place in the lovely country of Italy in the 1400’s. When a major conspiracy causes turns his family to ruins, he takes on his not yet known duty as an Assassin to seek out the conspirators and find the truth.
To get to the point, the first Assassin’s Creed was a great disappointment to me. The game was pretty, the free running was fun but the game ultimately lacked any real substance and the mission structure was repetitive and boring. The same cannot be said for Assassin’s Creed 2.
This time around the missions have been beautifully woven into a grand and epic storyline, with characters that feel real and a good blend of drama as well as humor. Ezio is real and has his faults, allowing the player to also feel better about the learning process and the mistakes that they will make.
The cities are massive, beautiful and more importantly, alive. There are tons of things to do in the cities now, thanks to the inclusion of a money system. Money can now be found, looted and earned and can be put to many uses. Different markets offer you the chance to buy better weapons, upgrade armour and even dye your clothes different colours but all in a simple system that won’t confuse the more casual gamers.
The inhabitants of the city have been improved as well. A newer smarter system allows you to blend in with the crowds by merely keeping within groups at a similar pace and feels a lot more natural. Groups of prostitutes, fighters and thieves can also be hired for various different tasks, such as the ladies of the night distracting guards, or warriors to assist you in battle. Your notoriety can now also be reduced by killing officials, bribing heralds or ripping wanted posters off the wall, giving you something to do while making your way from point to point in many cases.
There are a few scripted sequences to bring in some of the action as well, which also introduce you in many cases to new modes of transport such as gondolas, horse carriages and even the famous flying machine from Leonardo da Vinci himself. These can come in handy when needing to travel (the standard horse is still there) and there is a very welcome inclusion of a quick carriage travel mode to move faster between cities.
The game also has areas that you will visit that serve as platforming levels, requiring you to figure out the way to a location of interest. There is also a healthy dose of puzzle solving which comes as a welcome addition to the story and helps break things up a little and keep everything feeling fresh at all times (day night cycles have been added as well and can be used to your advantage for missions).
Along with your main story missions you also have a lot of other things to do as well. These range from missions seen in the previous game such as beating someone up or a straight assassination contract to finding hidden treasure chests, feathers and even assisting in the revamping of a city that earns you income over time.
The graphics in Assassin’s Creed 2 are gorgeous. While character models don’t hold a candle to games such as Uncharted 2 the overall visual quality is magnificent, especially the cities, textures and the addition of elements such as Ezio’s garments looking wet after swimming.
The same can be said for the sound and superb voice acting. Almost everyone is voiced and one can even choose between English and Italian for the spoken language, with some segments and most swearing flying out of characters mouths in Italian either way and adds a lot of flavour. You will hear the sounds of the different rooftops tiles under Ezio’s feet and the weapons, people and environments all come to life with great audio.
Assassin’s Creed 2 is in every way the game that I wanted the original to be. Almost all of the issues have been resolved, the story is intriguing and the game is difficult to put down. Like many other gamers, I felt that the original had potential that was never fully realised and knew that if done right, could be something special.
This is that special game and a very pleasant surprise, I tip my hat to Ubisoft for listening to its fans and making the game that we all wanted to play in the first place.
Improved controls, varied combat keeps this game feeling fun at all times
Breathtaking cities, great art design and menus. Runs smooth at most times, let down only by some mediocre character models and some cases of screen tearing
Great use of sound and voice. A few technical issues causes some sounds to never actually play.
For a quicker run-through you are looking at around 15+ hours at best but with all of the collectibles (and you will want to collect) and side missions you could squeeze more than 25 hours out of the game with no hassles.
A great big, epic surprise and a definite contender for game of the year. I recommend it very highly and will file this one under “must-buy”.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]