Assasin’s Creed II review (Xbox 360)

Seeing as I loved the first Assassin’s Creed (which I am going to shorten to AC from now on) so much, I immediately decided to pick up the second game in the series. I should mention that I was able to do that as I played the first AC sometime after the second AC game was released. Seeing as the game is a direct sequel the first AC, this game was developed by the same people as the first one, meaning the people at Ubisoft Montreal and it was published by Ubisoft. The game which is labelled as a sandbox style action-adventure video game was released back in November ’09 for all the consoles and in March ’10 it was released for the PC.

 

The story

AC II kicks off right where the first one ended. You start out with Desmond telling the player about what happened during the events of the first game after which the game really kicks off. You start out with Desmond seeing images painted on the walls of his bedroom, left behind by Subject 16, Desmond’s predecessor when it comes to Abstergo’s experiments. Almost immediately after this, Lucy Stillman comes into the room, covered in blood and she tells Desmond that they’re getting out of Abstergo, but before they can go, they have to get the data core of the Animus that Desmond has been using. After Desmond gets into the machine, you witness the birth of Ezio Auditore Da Firenze, the new lead character who is going to replace Altaïr.

After this, the two of them escape Abstergo and they meet up with two modern day assassins, Shaun Hastings and Rebecca Crane. With this team, Desmond will continue his journey though the memories of his ancestors to find the artefacts called the Pieces of Eden.

As I mentioned before the memories of Desmond’s ancestors will now focus on Ezio Auditore, a young man who lived during the Italian Renaissance. Ezio’s memories will take place about 300 years after Altaïr lived; although why there was a character change is not known, at least not to me.

Ezio Auditore Da Firenze

Ezio (even though his whole name sounds awesome, it’s a bother to type) is about 17 years old when you start to submerge yourself into the game. He is descended from Florentine nobility and from the Assassins’ order, which his father was a member off, but did not know about this when you start the game. You start with fighting a gang lead by Vieri De’Pazzi, an enemy of Ezio’s. It’s in this fight that Ezio receives the scar on his lip that Altaïr and Desmond have as well. After the fight, Ezio and his older brother, Federico, flee the site of the fight and after visiting a doctor and climbing a church as a race, Ezio goes to spend the night with a girl. The following morning he gets caught and he receives a scolding from his father, Giovanni because of it. Later on however, Giovanni admits that he was the same when he was Ezio’s age.

Later on in the day, after Ezio does a few errands for his little brother Pertruccio and his sister Claudia, he goes with his mother to visit Leonardo Da Vinci.

Yes I mean that Leonardo Da Vinci, the one that painted the Mona Lisa. It seems like Leonardo en Ezio get off to a shaky start when it comes to meeting each other, but as the game progresses, it turns out that Leonardo will play somewhat of a vital role in Ezio’s quest for vengeance. I’m not going to tell you why Ezio wants revenge; although you can probably guess why, but if I did I would probably spoil you. Still Leonardo will help with deciphering the Codex pages which are scattered across the various cities of the game. These pages will give Ezio ‘upgrades’ as it were for his abilities.

 

The gameplay

The gameplay in this game isn’t that much different from the first AC game. You still have to deal with the different moving profiles, but this time there’s been a few additions to the gameplay. What I neglected to mention in my review of the first AC game is that you have an ability called ‘Eagle Vision’, this ability allows you to distinct people in 4 separate groups, red means enemies, blue are allies, white people are people with information and gold ones mean that they’re a person of interest or possibly a target. In AC 1 you couldn’t use the ‘Eagle Vision’ while you were walking and it was in first person view, in AC 2 this has been perfected. Now you can walk around with ‘Eagle Vision’ on but now you won’t switch from 3rd to 1st person views.

What’s also been upgraded is the ability to swim, Ezio can now swim and even use the water as a potential hide out for when you’re trying to evade enemy soldiers. Ubisoft probably added in this ability because there is a lot of water in the town of Venice and sometimes you need to make your way across it to be able to reach certain mission objectives. So now when you happen to come across a situation to make a run from enemies, feel free to dive into the water as the enemy soldiers won’t be able to survive this, so they won’t even attempt to follow you.

Another upgrade is the economy function. This basically means that you can walk up to a shop and buy things ranging from medicine, weapons, clothing dyes and bigger utility pouches. So now you can basically decide what colour Ezio’s outfit should be or create your own arsenal of weapons which you feel will work best.

But the best upgrade by far is the fact that you can now carry medicine to heal Ezio during battles. In the previous AC game, this wasn’t possible and it could get a little annoying seeing that if you died during a fight, you had to start it from the beginning. But that is simply not an issue anymore, if you’re low on health, just click a button and you get filled up again, allowing you to safely finish the fight.  You would think that this takes away the tension that you feel as soon as you notice that you’re one hit point away from death, but that isn’t the case, Especially if you’re like me meaning that you don’t pay attention to the health bar and only see that you’re about to die when it’s almost too late. This is because of the fact that the medicine only restores a certain amount of health each time, so the longer your health bar gets the more medicine you need to take in order to fill up your health completely.

The one thing that they took out however, which I think is kind of a shame, is the fact that you have to either pickpocket or beat up someone for information. But I have to say that after a while  of playing, you hardly notice that these ‘side mission’ are missing as all of them, except for the pickpocketing, will have been integrated into the game in some way or form.

 

The conclusion

Well, this game is another great one from the Ubisoft Montreal team. They took the plot devices from the first one and ran with it, making it better with each step, not to mention they added a lot of stuff that only makes the game even more awesome.

There is really no other word for it, if you were a fan of the first AC game, then this one is pretty much a must for a fan of the series.

The only thing that I’ve got to say about the game is that I would’ve liked to see more about Altaïr’s life, but I have to admit that after a while of playing, you hardly notice that it’s not Altaïr that you’re controlling.

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