assassin's Creed 2 - released on Xbox 360 and PS3
Ok first thing first, this review is co-written by myself and Urban Darkfire, so we are both going to be covering different parts of the game, and then doing our own summaries at the end. Urban's part is in red, mine shall be blue. Anyway enjoy the review folks.
Before looking into what AC2 has to offer, here is the story so far..... *AC 1 major spoiler alert*
Assassins Creed had two characters. The first is Desmond Miles. A descendant from a long line of assassins, he has been kidnapped by a company known as Abstergo. This company holds a machine known as the “Animus.” Desmond is forced to use this machine and through it he is able to see and interact with the memories of a previous ancestor, Altair ibn La-Ahad. Altair is a member of an order of assassins during the Third Crusade. The opening scene shows Altair attempting to retrieve a “Piece of Eden” from Solomon’s Temple. Long story short, he fails and gets demoted by his master. Throughout the game you kill 9 main figures and learn how they are connected to the Templar’s and the Piece of Eden. Eventually after the last man is killed, you learn that your master was in fact a Templar as well and the Piece of Eden creates illusions. After defeating your master the Piece of Eden activates showing other pieces all over the world.
Desmond is pulled out of the Animus and is meant to be killed by the leader of Abstergo but an assistant saves him. The Animus has created an effect that allows Desmond to identify between friend and foe. This assistant is indeed a friend. This new vision also allows Desmond to see otherwise invisible messages over the walls and floor of the complex which all relate to various “end of the world” theories. The game closes with Desmond puzzling over what this all means.
Now the sequel continues from where the first game left off with Desmond and his assistant on the run from Abstergo, with Desmond trying to make sense of everything that has happened to him. After escaping Abstergo forces, Desmond meets a new team who encourage him to become an assassin himself, to help fight with them and uncover other pieces of Eden. To do this, they ask him to once again step into the new Animus 2.0, and step into the shoes of another of his ancestors, one Ezio Auditore da Firenze, an Italian nobelman who lives with his family in Florence, and this is where our new story begins.
If you’ve played Assassins Creed 1 then you know what you’re getting with AC 2. All those basic mechanics are still in place. There is still exhilarating parkour, you still have your hidden wrist blade, and yes, guards still stand patiently waiting for their turn to attack you. However there are also notable changes and additions that are certainly worth mentioning. First let’s address that big issue from the first game. Does the word “repetitive” ring any bells? Unless you live under a rock then you know that the biggest problem with the original was its massive repetition problem. And to put it simply, Ubisoft went and fixed that issue brilliantly. Gone are the compulsory beat ups, eavesdropping and pickpocket missions.
The beat ups are still present but they are now an optional side mission which you can do to earn a bit of extra cash. In their place sits a single marker. Every time you head to this marker all you know is that it’s a main storyline mission. They are now varied and interesting and range from helping some mercenaries storming a castle to protecting a boat from archers as it floats down the canals of Venice. In reality, the only real repetition problem is in the new notoriety system. Basically you have an icon in the corner of the screen and as you perform impressive or unacceptable actions it begins to fill up. When it is completely fill the guards are now on high alert and are actively looking for you. Since this meter does not automatically go down, you are required to tear down posters of yourself, bribe heralds and assassinate officials to make it go down. However, since your meter fills up so fast, you are required to do something about it far too frequently. Otherwise it is a great improvement over the last game.
Anyway, other tweaks include Ezio being a much, much better assassin than Altair. In short, he kicks Altair’s water fearing ass. Yes you no longer need to worry about accidentally falling in water for Ezio can now swim. They must have only invented swimming in the 100 odd years between both games. Also, he can climb much faster than Altair can. This is quickly forgettable but it really does make scaling buildings less of a chore. And finally, he has much more gear and skills than Altair ever had. First of all if you are hanging off a ledge, hiding in a haystack or on a higher point than a guard then you can perform an assassination from that position. It is particularly satisfying to climb a particularly tall tower and throw a guard off after sticking your blade in his gut and watching him fall all the way down. This makes remaining undetected a fair bit easier and much more satisfying. And of course, you need new gear for these fancy new techniques and AC 2 delivers plenty. As most of you will know, you now have two wrist blades. First of all, this is awesome but it has downfalls. Basically since you can only lock on to one person at a time you end up only stabbing one guard when you were meaning to stab two. It isn’t a gamebreaker but it is a bit frustrating. Over the course of the game other upgrades are made available which I won’t spoil here but rest assured they are heaps of fun.
I'd just like to second the frustration with some of the game mechanics, really the only big critiscm I have with the game. I found myself far too many times trying to kill someone one way or jumping to this building and failing miserably, just because the game is so fussy. This can be made even more annoying when facing one of the many 'follow someone on the rooftops' missions, because trying to keep pace with them, and yet ending up bouncing off the wrong wall or pole nearly always results in instant failure, and having to start all over again, which did drive me mad on occassion.
Of course if you’re not in a killing mood (why are you playing this then) then you could always just try and sneak past the guards. Ezio now has the option to throw both money and smoke bombs to distract guards. Money is particularly useful to quickly sneak into a doorway while bombs work well for an escape. In short, if Altair’s abilities left you a bit wanting, then you will be suitably satisfied by Ezio’s range of skills. While we are on the subject of skills, let’s talk about the combat. It’s essentially what you saw in AC1 with a few alterations.
If you counter without any weapons drawn then Ezio will disarm his opponent leaving them open for a finishing slice. Also, the hidden blades are easier to use due to the fact they can now deflect oncoming attacks. Apart from that the only real difference is choosing what weapons to use. Rather than just being limited to 4 weapons, Ezio has a large armoury that can be bought from the local blacksmith. While many of these weapons are still short blade, long blade etc, there are now also hammers, axes and spears as well as great variety in swords and daggers. And as if you needed another reason to spend money, there is the town of Monteriggioni where your family owns a villa. Once you have reached this place, you get in contact with an architect whom you can pay money to upgrade the town’s value. This is fairly basic and doesn’t offer any surprises but the more you upgrade, the more money you receive. It’s a nice system but nothing special.
As you may have seen during the first game, or even from looking on the internet, the graphics in this game are fantastic. From being down in the city streets amongst the hussle and bussle, to up high on roof tops, or even in the countryside riding your nobel stallion, every inch of the environment is a joy to look at. Speaking of environments, one thing I wasn't too keen in the original on was the repetition in environments, but this game has certainly improved that. The towns and cities have a different feel to them, from the famous canals in Venice, to the harbour town of Forli. Even the character models have been improved, and whilst not the best I've seen, certainly do a great job in making the characters seem more alive.
Along those lines the sound in the game is again wonderful. To be honest, how much you pay attention to the sound is hard to say, as you will likely be so busy climbing, riding and of course killing, to notice any background music, but the themes all fit in lovely with the flow of the game, in particular once you hit Venice with the choir signing in the background, lovely stuff. Same can be said for the voice acting. I wasn't sure how well the Italian accents would be done, but I can safely say that I had no issues with the vast majority of characters (and there are A LOT,) all put a lot of effort into the game and that's noticeable to see.
As you can see by the length of this review, there is lots to see and do, so you should be playing the game for a fair length of time, even if you choose not to find the 100 feathers (yes there still had to be something like that in the game,) or solving the mysterious glyphs located around the game (which I might add, for what you get, really isn't worth the pain, just look on Youtube I suggest,) you will find plenty to keep you entertained. Oh and of course, there's killing, killing and more killing, which you can't go too wrong with!
Frankly, AC 2 is a response to the criticism of the first game. Everything is just so much better. It has an interesting, lengthy campaign, plenty of side quests and a tasty reward if you care to complete the assassin’s tombs. If you liked AC 1 then you will love this. If you didn’t like AC 1 then there is a high possibility you will like this. Absolutely incredible game which fully deserves.
As many of you know, I wasn't a fan of the first game, just felt too boring, too quickly, didn't get into the characters, and don't get me started on FLAGS. This game however does away with nearly all of that, and delivers an excellent sequel that gives you everything you could want and more. A rich rewarding story (even if it confuses the hell out of you at the end,) lots of main and side quests that are varied and not all the same thing, lovely scenery and music, being able to customise Ezio with your choice of weapons and outfits, I could go on. If the annoying niggles with the rooftop running/jumping segments, and some camera issues here and there, the game would be near perfect, but you really cannot go wrong with this, so bring on AC3 I say!
Score - 9/10______________
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