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Assassin’s Creed II Review

February 22, 2010

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platform:  X360 (Version Played), PS3, PC (Coming soon)
Genre:  Action-Adventure
Players: 1
Release Date: Consoles (EU) – 19th November 2009
PC (EU) – 5th March 2010

Many people were let down by the first Assassin’s Creed. It was by no means a bad game (Well, I didn’t think it was) but it suffered from some poor design choices, repetition and various other problems. All the hype the first game was getting didn’t help much either. This time around, however, Ubisoft have listened to the complaints and done everything gamers wanted plus a lot more.

It starts off with a bang, throws you straight into the game without answering any questions. All you know is that the shit has hit the fan and it’s time to get out of the facility. Before leaving, Desmond has a quick stop in the Animus however. Already, at the start of the game you can feel at lot more involvement with Desmond. Now he can do more than walk and has managed to get some skills from his time spent with Altair in the original game. This leads to an exciting opening which keeps players in the dark story wise and opens a path to a fantastic story later on. Don’t worry I won’t spoil anything or mention where it goes from here.

The Desmond parts of the game have been cut down significantly for Assassin’s Creed II. Unlike the first game where you gained control of Desmond after every memory block, this time you only leave a few times for key events. Every Desmond section in this though is much better than all of the Desmond sequences combined from the first game. You are able to do much more due to having some handy skills and they play a more important role now.

It’s all well and good in the out of animus sections (Gameplay wise anyway) but that’s not the part you’re interested in. Of course we can all say goodbye to the dull, boring Altair from the original game and welcome the much more fleshed out and actually likeable character, Ezio. You’ll also be saying goodbye to the Holy Land in favour of 15th century Italy.

As a character, Ezio is far better developed than Altair. When the game starts out he isn’t an assassin so you learn more about his back story and motives before he makes the move to full assassin. Oh, and he doesn’t have a really out of place American accent. All the pre-assassin parts make you feel more connected to him; you learn more about him; you understand his decisions and methods, and so on. Ubisoft have done a great job with characters this time.

The present day/out of animus/Desmond section (Take you’re picked, I’ve gave it loads of names already) characters were good in the first game and they’ve just been expanded upon into better characters this time while the new people also boast good development. The characters from Italy are so much better than the ones from the Holy Land. Everyone was so dull and boring in the Holy Land where as Italy is striving with likeable and interesting characters. In particular, Leonardo Da Vanchi is awesome.

One of the first game’s biggest achievements was the overall design of the world. It looked fantastic and all of the major Holy Land attractions had been replicated perfectly. Unsurprisingly Ubisoft didn’t fail when doing the same thing for Italy. All of the famous landmarks are present; it looks amazing and is just generally a fantastic creation. Exploration is great fun and the cities all feel alive.

One interesting addition is your own personal Villa. Within the Villa you are able to upgrade and purchase new shops and services. The more you buy means that money will generate quicker giving you more money to spend in the long run. It’s a nice addition to the game that adds something extra to do.

The game is filled with more variation now. Nearly everyone complained that the game was repetitive and that there wasn’t enough to do. However, Assassin’s Creed II went completely overboard with new content which is, of course, nothing but a good thing. In fact, so much is added in that some of stuff only gets to be done once or twice. The missions are a lot more varied now and not only boast a wider range but also offer multiple methods of completion. It helps to keep the game fresh and exciting to play, unlike the first.

In general, the gameplay has just been improved upon. It still sticks to the combat and platforming mix of the first game, but adds more depth and irons out the flaws this time. It was hard to fault the original’s free running and climbing elements. The controls worked well, it was fluid and tended to always be enjoyable. Somehow Ubisoft managed to make it even better. It feels weightier now, and also a lot smoother.

Chases are still as fast paced as ever and are pretty much always enjoyable. There is always a sensation of speed and wits apparent. It requires right timing and some form of direction to escape the guards. The long chases are always the best; down to the satisfaction you gain from finally escaping them.

One of the main criticisms of the combat from the first game was that it didn’t require anything more than tapping the same button over and over again. The combat sticks to the same groundwork but refines it and adds even more to it. You are able to perform grabs now which lead to a few more attacks but the main addition to combat is all of the new weapons. Whether you steal them from enemies, or purchase them yourselves there are loads of weapons you can make use of now. The hidden blade returns but is now exactly two times better (You have two now) which helps the takedowns be even more satisfying.

Assassinations and stealth sections flow a lot better than the first game. It’s now actually possible to be stealthy; something that was lacking before. The blending returns but Ubisoft went for the more sensible option of making you hide in crowds of civilians rather than just specific groups. Along with the improved blending you can cause distractions through various methods. These range from hiring courtesans to distract guards, hiding in hay and taking out anyone who comes close enough, going underwater to remain hidden (Yes, you can now swim) and plenty more.

Due to the much more varied gameplay it’s able to spread itself out over a longer period without getting boring or repetitive. It took me just over 20 hours to finish the game. I did do a handful of the side missions (Which are also a lot more fleshed out and interesting now) but there was still plenty that I could do in Italy.

Throughout the cities there are assassination tombs which have a Prince of Persia vibe to them; it gives the feeling of exploration and treasure hunting. There normally involve lots of climbing and puzzle solving which is a nice change of pace from the rest of the game. Feathers, akin to the Templar flags, are scattered throughout the game with a total of 100 to find. It will take a while but it’s always fun exploring and climbing through the cities. As well as that, you receive optional assassination contracts, races and more.

Now put all of the above together with the fantastic soundtrack and the experience is enhanced even more. Jesper Kyd does an excellent job of making the game feel intense and adds to the pace through the game.

With extremely polished gameplay; a captivating story; a highly detailed world with beautiful visuals, Assassin’s Creed II is an amazing game. Ubisoft have listened to the fans and solved every problem whilst adding loads of variation to ensure that the experience is fantastic for both fans and haters of the original. This is how to do a sequel.

+ Gameplay has improved significantly
+ The story and characters are really well written
+ Lots of variation in missions

Cliff hanger ending leaves you desperate for more – again

9.5/10

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