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
(continued from previous page) ...odd. You can face 10 enemies, and they take turns swinging away at you. This breaks the veil of believability the game works so hard to achieve. The rest of the game’s AI is spot on. We absolutely loved walking around the cities and towns, listening in on conversations, pushing away beggars and street musicians, and watching ‘ladies of the night’ dance for our pleasure. We were, however, a bit frustrated with the poor cutscene graphics during voiceovers. On several occasions, the characters' lips were not even close to being synched with the dialogue. Still, that’s not to say the cutscenes are horrendous, they’re just not quite as polished as we expected.
Visually the game is an absolute joy to behold. Throughout your journey you’ll visit a diverse range of beautifully crafted locations, including Florence, Venice, and the evocative Tuscan countryside. Needless to say, it's pretty obvious Ubisoft spent a lot of time working on the game's scenery, as the attention to detail is positively jaw-dropping. The cities are intricately detailed, massive in scale and completely open for your exploration, while the characters and particle effects are equally stunning.
Elsewhere, Assassin’s Creed II also throws in a healthy dose of exploration. Whereas the first game tended to steer people towards storyline missions, the sequel seems to encourage you to take the road less traveled, and investigate every little icon on your mini-map. This is where the game truly starts to excel. There is just so much to do outside of the story mission – which can take you roughly 20 hours to complete depending on how fast you blow through the missions. You’ll find yourself killing unfaithful husbands, chasing thieves, opening treasure chests, searching for feathers, and uncovering various glyphs that all help to tell the story. You can even hire prostitutes to distract guards, or hire warriors to fight along your side.
Another aspect of the game is helping Ezio’s uncle’s villa flourish. Monteriggioni starts in a pretty sad state. There isn’t all that much to see or do. But over time, as Ezio deposits money into the community, and helps the local architect make improvements to the infrastructure, the town starts to bustle. As the game progresses and your donations get put to use, the town starts to liven up and it actually looks welcoming. There’s also potential to make some serious cash off of your investment, so play it wisely.
You’ll spend money on various weapons and armor upgrades. You can also buy medicine and poison. The upgraded armor boosts your overall health, while new weapons do more damage. The differences between the weapons in combat are not too noticeable. One important note, a young Leonardo da Vinci plays a very important role in the game, and without spoiling too much of the story, he becomes an integral part of the story and one of Ezio’s most trusted friends. Notoriety is also a key component in the sequel. As it rises, the guards will be much more likely to find you and attack. You can lower your notoriety by tearing down wanted posters, assassinating corrupt officials, or bribing town criers.
Perhaps Assassin’s Creed II’s biggest flaw comes from how the game begins. It took us a while to find much interest in learning how to properly run across rooftops, or fight pathetic guards. It’s not that it’s overly difficult (although, both of these can be extremely frustrating), it’s just the first couple of hours are downright slow. Once the game picks up, it’s hard to put it down. The noticeable advancements compared to the first game are well needed, but above all, the game is so beautiful and massive that we found ourselves distracted by the Italian cities and countryside, and the long list of side missions and non-story tasks. The story is one of the most complex in all of recent gaming, and the characters are some of the most developed we’ve encountered. Still, hopefully Ubisoft will see fit to tidy up a few of the game’s shortcomings – specifically the combat – for the inevitable third entry. Until then, there is so much to do and see in Assassin’s Creed II, that you won’t spend much time noticing its flaws.
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