Assassin’s Creed II: review




  • Format: PS3 (version reviewed), 360, PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://assassinscreed.uk.ubi.com/
  • Assassin’s Creed was, to be honest (which a lot of magazines and sites didn’t seem to be), an overhyped disappointment. Nonetheless it sold by the bucketload, and spawned this sequel – which is thankfully much, much better.

    Gone is the one dimensional Altair in the Holy Land during the Crusades. Your avatar here is the charismatic young Ezio Auditore in renaissance Italy, a well fleshed out character who always has a clear personal reason for wanting to kill each of his targets. The present day (well, future) sections where you take control of the decidedly uncharismatic Desmond Miles are still present; and while they’re not nearly as frequent or as boring as they were in the first game, the series would still benefit from their removal.

    Desmond’s presence is essential to the plot however, and let’s get this straight right now: Assassin’s Creed II is very much a story driven game. It’s a great story too (often told in cut scenes). Very well written, usually very well acted, and relevant to each and every one of the missions. The plot uses many real – life historical people and places, and offers plenty of information on them in the menus as you progress, should you be curious. The notice about the development team’s religious beliefs remains – but so too, sadly, does their fear of lingering on the subject of religion for more than a few seconds at a time. More saddening still is the fact that the ending gives them the option of abandoning Christianity, Judaism and Islam altogether in the next game.

    Historically inaccurate, as swimming wasn't actually invented until 1867.

    We’ll leave you to discover the ins and outs of the plot for yourself, however. Ubisoft have been keen to promote the fact that they’ve listened to criticisms of the first game, and that Ubisoft Montreal have taken it all on board and made improvements all over the place. As it turns out, they’ve done a fantastic job in this regard. Repetition is no longer a problem. Yes, you’ll still spend a huge amount of time climbing up walls, jumping across rooftops, and killing people dead with pointy things. Sprinkled throughout all this is a wealth of other activities however, including surprisingly enjoyable follow – without – being – spotted sections, a horse and carriage getaway, and that well publicised Flying Machine (which you actually only pilot for two very brief sections – upcoming DLC possibly?) from a young and very likeable Leonardo da Vinci. He’s able to decode pages from the mysterious ‘Codex’ and upgrade your hidden blade – well, blades, now you get two – and is fortunately willing to do so without reporting you to the authorities.

    Becoming and remaining hidden from enemies is thankfully now much easier, and fits much more comfortably into the rest of gameplay. You can still sit on benches if you wish, but breathe a sigh of relief that you will never have to. You can now ‘blend’ in with any group of NPCs who are friendly or neutral so long as you’re not already being chased, very handy in the busy streets. Guards and citizens will also no longer become suspicious if you dare to move faster than a snail’s pace.

    There is also now plenty to do outside of the story missions. Instead of flags there are now one hundred feathers to collect (it makes sense in the context of the plot, and is actually rather touching). There are also plenty of manic clambering races, ‘beat up events’, assassin tombs to discover and traverse, courier missions – where you’re sort of like Parkour Postman Pat, only willing and able to kill – and private assassination contracts. You collect these contracts from pigeon coops, but we don’t think it’s the pigeons ordering the hits.

    Ssh! Don't tell my dad where I am, he'll kill me for being out so late!

    The diversion we enjoyed the most was unlocking the Da Vinci Code – style conspiracy The Truth. Certain buildings in the cities (including Venice, Florence, and Tuscany) have glyphs hidden on them. Get close to such a glyph whilst employing your ‘eagle vision’ – usually used to make important people and collectables easier to spot – and you’re taken to a historical painting, sketch, or photograph. Each has a hidden message or item, and after solving a few such puzzles, you unlock a tantalising glimpse – just a second or so – of The Truth. Find and solve all the glyph puzzles to view the whole sequence…

    Back in the story you will, of course, be killing lots of people. Combat is simple yet rewarding, with instant kill counters being joined by the ability to disarm or grab your opponent. You can now buy different weapons, or pick up any dropped by those you’ve brought to a bloody end.

    Pleasingly, you’re often given options other than violence. You can hire thieves, mercenaries, or courtesans (renaissance whores basically, who can also act as a mobile hiding spot) to distract guards while you assassinate them from behind, or sneak past to loot a chest they were guarding. You also soon get your hands on smoke bombs, which are great fun to use; any guards immediately surrounding you are left to blindly cough and splutter while you heroically run away to safety.

    The mission where you hunt and kill cossack dancers on the rooftops is hilarious, and doesn't exist.

    So there’s much to praise, but sadly still some criticisms – mainly technical. There are still frame rate issues, but of slightly higher concern are minor bugs. One such bug, which prevented a cut scene from finishing, forced us to restart a mission. AI, especially for allies (why are you running all the way back to the bridge? Follow me, can’t you swim?!?), can sometimes seem rather suspect. Many gamers should play start to finish with little to no trouble at all, however.

    This still isn’t historical Hitman. You’re given very little choice in how, where and when to kill each target. The important thing however, is to provide the player with fun. Assassin’s Creed II does this very well, and with great consistency. Whether you enjoyed the first game or not, this is well worth your money.

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    Written by Luke K

    Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

    2 comments

    1. Anthony H /

      I really think we should make an effort to get Parkour Postman Pat commissioned as a TV series. His bright red van clearly lacks the disadvantage of traversing rooftops at great speed whilst still sticking to the laws of safety and physics.

      • KrazyFace /

        HERE HERE! I concur! And his van should have cannons and some fuzzy dice too!

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