Let me start off by making this simple for fans of the first game. If you enjoyed Assassin’s Creed 1 then pick up this game because everything is improved and better. For those on the fence over AC2 then let me go into more detail about one of the best games of the year and a game you should be playing…
Presentation (Note: I played the 360 Version):
The game uses the same engine as the original, but they have tweaked it. Nothing insane, but a nice upgrade. The game is not a sore on the eyes especially considering that I think it has the best graphics for the other major open world games this year (inFamous/Prototype/Red Faction). The graphics are good, but what really is great are the settings. The most popular settings in the game are Florence and Venice and personally they are both amazing environments. There are six overall areas you can visit in the game and each have their own distinctive feel. Not one area feels the same, and each have been made with great detail to match the feel of Italy. If you like Italian architecture or the style of the Renaissance then you will feel it in this game and appreciate the world.
The soundtrack is incredible. It is probably the best original score of the year for a game and that is saying something because I just beat Modern Warfare 2 and Uncharted 2 that both had amazing scores. The sound is very similar to Shadow of the Colossus soundtrack which is a great thing. It has a epic feeling to it. The voice overs are good, but nothing like Uncharted 2. Some of you may need to put on the subtitles for the accents in the game but they are never too bad.
The battle function is basically the same in this game. You stand, block, maybe avoid, and either do a counter attack or just start mashing the attack button. The main combat of this game is to be patient and get your counter kills because all it takes then is one press to kill a enemy. A nice addition to this game is hand to hand combat, and the ability to steal an opponents weapon. Instead of trying to mash away against a “heavy” opponent you can just counter, steal his weapon, and kill him nice and easy.
Weapons wise, you can now actually use the hidden blade in normal combat so if you screw up an assassination attempt on someone you don’t need to switch weapons to attack normally. You have a couple new weapons including smoke bombs, the pistol, poison blades, and “heavy” weapons. In the game you can upgrade armor and weapons throughout. You start off with average weapons and then build up getting newer and better models as you progress through the games new “store” system. That means you can get whatever you want whenever you want and don’t need to rely on the game to tell you what you get and when you get it. Though a couple weapons like the pistol, poison blades, and dual assassian blades you cannot buy since they are given to you in the story. Though the swords, heavy weapons, daggers, armor, etc can all be purchased at your discretion.
The parkour obviously returns and it is great once again. This is one of the best games out there when it comes to movement, but it still has a few minor problems. Sometimes you “stick” to things you don’t really want to when trying to get away from enemies. Like you will want to run up a wall, but instead of running up and continuing to move you bounce off the wall and grab onto some other object that totally messes up your flow. This happens here and there, but not often enough to consider it a major flaw. For the most part you move very smooth and Ezio does what you want. One addition that would be nice in this game would be the ability to take cover though, so hopefully they add that in the future when you are on assassination missions.
The mission structure, which was the biggest gripe in the first game, is improved GREATLY. You don’t have to do Mission A,B,C to do an assassination. They come and go naturally and you actually feel like you are progressing story while doing missions in between assassinations. The supporting characters are much better in this game and keep you interested in what you are doing. There is more mission variety, and even a few well made “vehicle” missions. There is well over 15 different mission types and when they do repeat they don’t feel like you are doing the same thing.
A big addition that I appreciate is the monetary system. As a fan of RPG’s, it is always nice to be able to upgrade your character and home throughout the game. Like I mentioned earlier you can upgrade Ezio throughout the game with new weapons and armors. You can also change the color palette of his outfit to nearly any colors since they have a wide variety of options of different outfit colors. You can also upgrade your home base which is at first a run down little town with your mansion as the center piece. Overall, it is a piece of crap at first, but throughout you buy upgrades to the town, buy new weapons and armor for your home, and buy real pieces of art to put in your house to raise your towns value. You see the changes in your town the more you put money into it.
A very cool addition to the game are the assassin’s tombs. These are scattered throughout the game and basically put your parkour skills to the test. It isnt about killing people, but trying to get through these platform/puzzle levels. They are just a nice change of pace, and if you complete them all you get a nice ‘in-game bonus’.
One problem with the game is the replayability. After you beat the game you can replay side missions or the assassin’s tombs, but you can’t go back and play story missions. You have to start a whole new game to play those missions which is a shame since some of them are great, and would be fun to replay with all your end of the game upgrades.
You continue the story of Desmond, and the Templars/Assassin’s in this game. I don’t want to spoil anything since the story is really great, but overall they balance Desmond/Ezio’s story out very nicely. You don’t jump back and forward as much in this game, but when you do jump back to present time it has some pretty cool story moments.
Ezio’s story is filled with revenge and spans over a decade. You actually see minor changes in his physical appearance to show that he is aging. On the way he meets important people of Italy like Leonardo Da Vinci, Lorenzeo Medici, Machiavelli, and others. If you are a history buff you will appreciate the cool little story moments that involve these real famous Italians.
Throughout the game you discover these “glyphs” and codex pages which I suggest you find all of them because both of them offer good insight into the overall story. At the end of the game, the whole story comes together and while parts may be confusing, overall it is freaking epic and sets up very nicely into future installments. The story goes back to before humans were created and into the realm of the “end of the world”, and everything in between. This is a deep story with a lot of great twists and turns.
To quickly touch on Ezio, he is a cool character. Altair was probably more badass, but Ezio is more likeable. He is badass, but is also friendly and a lady’s man. He has a sense of humor and represents more of what we would all be like if we were Assassin’s. His story is nice, but by the end of the game the guys at Ubisoft want to make sure that you know that this is still Desmond’s story.
The game was a blast. One of my favorite games of the year and is only rivaled by Uncharted 2. Some gripes include replayability which suffers after you beat the game because you have to start the entire game over to do “story” missions. The game is long, which is a nice change, and will take about 20 hours or more to complete. Another small problem are the “sticky” controls but you get over that real fast. The story is great, the gameplay is greatly improved, the parkour is still fantastic, the music is top notch, and the graphics are great for an open world game. If you have even the slightest interest in this game then it is a must buy. The game is long and it feels fresh throughout. This is one of the best games of the year and is everything the first game should have been.