Assassin's Creed II ReviewMatt Andrews
In November of 2007 Ubisoft released a brand new game they called Assassins Creed. It took the gaming world by storm, and now, for holiday season 2009, Assassins Creed II is here for your gaming pleasure.
Assassins Creed II places you in the shoes of Desmond, the unfortunate bartender who has been kidnapped by a company called Abstergo. Abstergo is the present-day remnant of the Knights Templar, and Desmond is the ancestor of a Templar knight. Abstergo has developed a device, like something straight out of The Matrix, that allows the user to enter a sort of alternate reality in the form of a genetic ancestors body. By doing so, Desmond can travel back in time to potentially reveal some of the Templars most sensitive secrets.
The game begins with your escape from Abstergo, followed by an introduction to your new, present-day friends. They too have one of these matrix-like chairs, and want you to uncover the truth on your own terms, rather than Abstergos. Luckily, the present-day background story doesnt take up more then twenty minutes of your time before you sit down in that chair and are introduced to Ezio Audituerre de Firenze. Youll play the remainder of the game, excluding one or two unfortunate trips back to reality, as Ezio, a 15th century assassin from Florence, Italy.
From this point on, the audio and visual experience in Assassins Creed II is outstanding. The locations youll travel to, including Florence, Venice, Monteriggioni, and Tuscany, are incredibly expansive and detailed, and make up what is possibly the best set of locals ever created for platform gaming. Characters are visually impressive and move very realistically. This is notable because nearly every building, wall, and tower is completely climbable, and Ezio does so in a very convincing manner.
This free-running feature is one of the highlights of Assassins Creed II game play. As you journey through renaissance Italy, youll use your ability to free-run (scale buildings, leap from rooftop to rooftop, and move through the cities acrobatically) in virtually all types of missions encountered throughout the game. Only the tops of the tallest towers contain viewpoints, locations that will challenge your climbing ability, and reward you with breathtaking views of Italy, as well as an updated map for that area of the city. The controls youll be using for these climbs are much improved on the original Assassins Creed. They will serve you well throughout the game, allowing you to do some incredibly complex things without a complex system of controls, and the camera will rarely be any problem at all. That being said, they do occasionally falter, and you may find yourself restarting a four or five minute climb because Ezio jumped a little bit to the left or right of where he should have. All in all though, Ubisoft did a good job of creating a relatively reliable control system.
The heart of the Assassins Creed II storyline is solid, but cant be called perfect either. As an adolescent Ezio witnesses the murder of his father and brother. You will pick up when Ezio is a twenty-something year old womanizer, and play through Ezios life working to uncover why your family was killed, all the while leaving a wake of corrupt and now bloody Italian aristocrats. With each assassination you complete, you uncover the name of another person involved in your familys murder, who you can track down, sneak up on, and assassinate. Youll also receive a Codex Page with each assassination, which you can then take to your friend Leonardo da Vinci, who will decode the page and create a new weapon for you to use for your next assassination if you so choose. All the weapons Built by Leonardo prove helpful in your career as an assassin, and most will give you a good laugh, or at least a smile the first time you use it on an unsuspecting guard. The game carries on in this manner for quite some time, and the plot twists gradual development of your character and abilities will definitely keep you compelled. The one fault with the bulk of Assassins Creed II is that though the title assassin implies stealth and precision, it seems understated in the game play. There is definitely a strategic way to complete each mission as opposed to dashing in swords flailing, but there was not one mission in which our fearless hero Ezio went completely undetected (and oh did we try!). For some this wont be any concern at all, and in the games defense, it wasnt designed to be the next Splinter Cell game, but it is a style of play that we would have liked to see included.
Remember that whole story about Desmond, Abstergo, and sensitive historical information? The process of uncovering the truth, can almost be considered a complete storyline in itself. The truth is the secret that Abstergo, and now Desmond are trying to uncover, and yes, this was the objective from the very beginning. Once youre tossed into Ezios shoes, the quest to avenge his family seems to trump Desmonds search for the truth. The most notable difference is that as you play through Ezios life, the missions are very sequential, introducing new allies, enemies, etc., but the truth is revealed in a non sequential series of glyphs, hidden throughout the cities of Italy, that you must find all by your lonesome. The truth is no less compelling than the story of Ezios family, but for these reasons, we must deem it a side quest, but possibly the most elaborate ever created.
Side missions in Assassins Creed II are just diverse enough to offer everyone an entertaining break from the main storylines. At any point in the game you can engage in a free-running race, a timed courier mission, or complete an assassination to collect a bounty, all of which implement the free-running system. The developers also included a family-owned city that Ezio is responsible for developing. Seeking out a number of collectibles including artwork, assassin seals, statuettes, weapons and armor, as well as funding the construction of new shops and buildings will all add to your citys value which in turn provides you with a steady stream of income proportional to your citys value.
Sound like a great game yet? Well if youre uncertain, you can rest assured that Assassins Creed II is a great game. In fact, it is possibly the best pound-for-pound action game available for the Xbox 360. At a price of sixty dollars, you will be more than satisfied with the amount of game play that Assassins Creed II boasts, and overwhelmed by the quality.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.