The release of Assassins Creed in 2007 was one of the first games to really ring in the new generation of graphics and game play. Unfortunately, the original title lacked in alot of areas that make a game fun. Gripes like repetition, monotony, and boredom, echoed from nearly everyone that I talked to about the game in my circle of gaming friends. But, once you pounded your way through the game you got one hell of a cliffhanger ending. In it’s conclusion the game made you wonder what was coming next, with the sense of a plot developing that was much larger than you had suspected. With all its faults Assassins Creed wasn’t a bad game, it had its moments that made you appreciate it. Here we are 2 years later with Assassins Creed 2, with some issues to fix, and questions to be answered, here’s our take on AC2.
I have to admit, I didn’t know WTF was going on in Assassins Creed until about 3/4 through the game. The story was hard to piece together and now after playing through the the successor I have to think that they did this purposefully. In Assassins Creed 2 you are gonna start out right where you left off. In control of Desmond, and now escaping the lab with Lucy. The game shows its multiple layers of story right from the start in Assassins Creed 2, as after a brief escape sequence you are introduced to your team of Assassins at a nearby safe house where an Animus 2.0 has been developed. The war between the Templar and Assassins is explained again to give you quick rundown of the big picture and why your character Desmond, must enter the Animus to view the memories of Ezio through the new Animus Machine. After this brief rundown, and by brief I would guess its the first hour of game-play or so, you will take control of Ezio. This is where the other story of Assassins Creed takes place. Though similar to the first game, in its method of telling the story, Assassins Creed 2, does a much better job of developing the internal stories of both Desmond, his supporting characters, Ezio, and his family as well. Perhaps to the point of overkill but, too much is better than too little in my book any day of the week.
The Achilles heel of Assassins Creed was its painfully boring game-play, it didn’t just seem like you were doing the same thing in a different location… You were doing the same things over and over again, and by the fourth round of it, it was sickening. How could a game so beautiful be so repetitive I asked myself countless times during the play-through. Well Ubi-Soft was listening to the complaints I have to think because they took all of the fun things from the first game, brought them back, and implemented a host of other game-play variations. While the core of the game itself is fairly similar to the first. Each town you come across in the story of Ezio is a real city in Italy. Similar to the real world locales of the first game, Assassins Creed 2 features sprawling city scapes to open and explore by unlocking Synchronization points throughout the city. By climbing to the perches of tall structures Ezio will be able to see what exactly is in his area. Whether that be merchants, doctors, assassins tombs, codex pages, assassination targets, races, and some other mini games throughout the city. While these elements aren’t entirely new to the series the way in which they are implemented is. In each city that you visit there are underlying story points of interest that you must go to advance the story of the game, but to fully unlock the memories of Ezio and ultimately get more of the story of Assassins Creed you have to do these side missions which vary from puzzle solving Assassins Tomb Raids, which are quite similar to the puzzle solving mechanics of a Tomb Raider game to sneaking past guards to get codex pages. Where in the old game these tasks to fully complete an area where menial and repetitive AC2 does well to mix things up a bit in each locale, be it by adding new weapons and items to be gained or pieces of the story discovered.
The exploration factor of the game is fairly large as their are a ton of side missions to tackle if you looking to 100% the game, but being an assassin is about ass kicking too. The combat is similar to the first game but improved in a few areas that make it a little less repetitive than the first. You will often find yourself facing multiple guards as in the previous but in AC2 you have numerous ways of dispatching your enemies and some new weapons to choose from. The combat mechanics have added a few things that make your fights a little more interesting, you can now disarm enemies and turn their own weapons on them, and some of the insta kill animations are awesome with the ability to kill two enemies at once. Just like the first game you will learn new moves in a combat practice arena. As new skills are learned you will also need to upgrade your weapons which can be done at merchants who will sell you swords, daggers, maces, axes, pikes, among others. As the game progresses you will also receive upgrades from Leonardo daVinci as you collect items for him to examine.
Completing side missions and such are a great way to earn money for goods that will help you in your fight, but AC2 also added a locker feature of sorts. Your family has villa tucked away in Italy which you can go to to drop of the collectibles from the cities, keep track of your monies, codex entries, and feathers. This area contains your home, and a small city. It is quite rundown when you start and as you collect money you can renovate it, which will in turn bring in revenue ( like a tax), and give you discounts on weapons, goods/services.
All of these excellent additions to the game-play are very welcome to the game, but one thing I wish they could have gotten a little better were the controls. From start to finish in this game I constantly was doing things I wasn’t trying to do. For the most part the combat controls are good. Once you put to memory all of your weapons and become accustomed to the weapons wheel combat flows fairly smoothly. The most frustrating part of Assassins Creed 2 is trying to do the little things. I think it has to do with the free running portion of the game mostly, but unfortunately there are missions that it is necessary to free run to accomplish the task at hand, and not very many of them end up as successes on their first run through. Just for the simple fact that your character will be running full speed then get hung up on something or even jump off of a building which almost always leads to failure. You will notice that you never really get a consistent fluency in the controls as their are just so many variable as to things that can slow you down. I made the same mistakes at the end of the game as I did at the beginning, and it was mostly attributable to being able to perform an action in one situation that looks identical to another so it becomes a game of trial and error. It didn’t take away from the game too much but it was far and away the worst feature of the title, for me at least.
Assassins Creed was no slouch in the graphics department, and this time around is no different. The graphics are improved in some subtle areas. But in all honesty the game seemed to look better in game than in cutscenes for the normal reasons. Bad lip syncing mainly, just takes away from the cinematic effects that are created in a cut scene. There was some screen tearing in the cutscenes also that I didn’t see in any other part of the game. I guess that’s not a bad trade off when you consider the size and scope of each area, and how good everything else looks, and how smoothly nearly everything else runs. There are dozens of characters on screen at once in any given scene in the game and all have these natural reactions (animations) to almost anything that occurs to or around them. Characters and environments look very realistic overall, outside of cutscenes that is. As the locales changed and time period changed so has the environments in AC2. 15th Century Venice, Rome, Florence, and Tuscany are all beautiful in their own rights and the art team captured this beauty well. The catacombs, tombs, caves, and secret areas that are explored as well some of other scenes* not to be noted due to spoilers, are just incredible graphically and may be some of the 360’s best sequences to date.
The game is equally beautiful in its menu and presentations. With much of your story collected in the Animus Desktop, basically your start menu, the design stays true to the first AC. The collections of data and the menus and style with which they are catalogued are attractive and easy enough to navigate to be useful.
Ezio’s story takes place in 15th Century Italy and an interesting blend of realism and commercialism Ubi-Soft did alot of blending of the Italian and English languages. There are many parts of the story where Italian is spoken mixed with English enough so that the authenticity of the setting is achieved but not making it incomprehensible to the 99% of people that play it that don’t know Italian. Fortunately there are subtitles, though I didn’t use them the actions on screen and mixed in English tell the story for the most part even though you don’t get a literal translation in some parts of the game. And although I’m not sure as to the authenticity of the voice actors and their heritages, I didn’t question the accents and the mix of English and Italian was convincing in setting the tone for the game. A lot of Italian cursing (I assumed) and stabbings in this one. The cities also are brought to life by the reactions of the townspeople as you are traveling around and they vary quite a bit depending on what is going on around them. That’s not to say that you won’t hear the same thing twice cause you will but there is a good amount of variation and effect in them as well.
Assassin's Creed 2
- Available On: Xbox 360, PS3
- Published By:
- Developed By: Ubisoft
- Genre: Action-Adventure
- US Release Date: October 2009
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
- Quote: "Ubisoft took all of the fun things from the first game, brought them back, and implemented a host of new game-play variations."