Assassin's Creed 2 Review
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Despite some frustrating combat moments, Assassin's Creed II secures its place among 2009's finest and is sure to keep you entertained well into the New Year.
- The beautifully crafted Italian cities
- The epic storyline of betrayal and mystery
- Running across very valuable architecture
- The clumsy, frustrating combat system
- The occasional graphic and voiceover glitches during cutscenes
- The crummy accents
An assassin’s job is to eliminate a target with cunning stealth, blend in with a crowd, and when necessary use brute force to accomplish his objective. They live in the underbelly of society, but appear as an everyman, only to pounce on helpless prey with lightening fast attacks. This was the premise of Ubisoft’s finely crafted Assassin’s Creed, which despite some minor gameplay flaws went on to become one of the most successful new IPs in recent years. In the months leading to the release of the sequel, Ubisoft Montreal promised it had learned from its mistakes and we’d see a perfectly polished open world action-adventure game with Assassin’s Creed II. Sadly, while the end result falls short of this pledge, the developer more than makes up for the sequel’s flaws by delivering a captivating story and sprawling, eye-popping world to explore.
By now, we assume many of you have played Assassin’s Creed II, or at least the prequel. The game focuses on Desmond Miles, an average man with some more than average ancestors. Assassin’s Creed 2 picks up shortly after the events of the first game, but instead of doing research in the Abstergo facility, the lab-technician, Lucy, helps Desmond escape the facility altogether. Lucy wants to help Desmond flee Abstergo to keep researchers’ dirty hands off Desmond’s memories. The pair ends up in a renovated warehouse where an ad hoc team working against Abstergo is conducting its own experiments. They hook Desmond up to an Animus and start searching through his memories. Without giving too much story away, it’s safe to say that the individual on the cover of the AC 2 box, especially how he is dressed, doesn’t appear in the actual game for a few hours. In fact, this entire opening sequence is decidedly slow burning and plot heavy.
Despite the rocky start to the story, Assassin’s Creed II actually excels at plot and character development. Perhaps the best part of the AC 2 lies within the plot twists and character betrayals, and the devices Ubisoft uses to illustrate and guide the gamer. One minute you’ll be in a carefree life – laughing with your brother, sleeping with a sexy woman, and running around on top of Florence’s majestic rooftops. Then, you’ll watch as your brothers and father are executed at the hand of a trusted family friend. If the game feels slow at the beginning, rest assure that after about three hours, everything starts to happen fast.
Instead of playing as Altair, the Animus sets Desmond back to Ezio Auditore. Ezio lived in 15th century Florence and was a bit of an arrogant chap, as established by his opening adult combat sequence. For what it’s worth, this switch in character between the first AC and the sequel appears strictly for storytelling purposes. It is extremely difficult to tell the two apart. While Ezio comes equipped with a handful of new tricks (none all that impressive), the game’s core fundamentals are identical to the first game. Ezio still deftly leaps across rooftops, assassinates enemies with concealed weapons, and blends in with crowds to avoid guards’ attention.
Combat in Assassin’s Creed was at best decent, and at worst, downright annoying and monotonous. It’s unfortunate that Ubisoft promised a revamped combat system in Assassin’s Creed II, yet we still found it extremely unrealistic, clumsy, and slow paced. It is certainly improved, but if/when we see Assassin’s Creed III, we hope they start with making the combat system better, then build the game from there on out. It’s not to say the combat is bad or overly difficult, but in a genre that begs for swift and graceful killings, bashing the attack button and attempting to properly time counter attacks is just not that much fun. The counter attack mechanic, a cornerstone of the first game’s combat system, is slightly improved. The window in which you have to counter is increased, but only by a little. We presume there are folks out there that genuinely enjoy this style of combat, but we feel the game again fell short in this respect.
Even when the combat feels smooth and you feel in control of the situation, the way the AI interacts with you is odd. You can ... (continued on next page)
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