Product Type: Ubisoft PS3 games
Newest Review: ... conspired against his family. With ACII, there's been quite a revamp. AC had its fair share of problems, though Ubisoft Montreal was lucky... more
The Second Assassin Who Also Likes To Think He Came Before 47 But, Like Alta´r, Didn't Really Either
Assassin's Creed II (PS3)
Member Name: caseybrady1992
Assassin's Creed II (PS3)
Date: 06/09/12, updated on 06/09/12 (46 review reads)
Advantages: Stunning visuals + graphics; soundtrack; voice acting; enjoyable gameplay
Disadvantages: Not really that stealthy; corny dialogue; too easy
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X
[see my review on 'Assassin's Creed': 'The Original Assassin Who Came Before 47 But Didn't Really'. Please note that there may be a few spoilers of the story of this game in the following review]
Little over two years after the release of 'Assassin's Creed', a sequel was released: 'Assassin's Creed II'. The game is a direct continuation of the story from its predecessor. You are Desmond Miles, a New Yorkian bartender who has been kidnapped and forced to relive the memories of your ancestors that are imprinted in your DNA in a machine called the Animus. The first game saw the reliving of Alta´r, an assassin of the Third Crusade. By the end of the game, you have discovered the importance of delving into such ancient memories: the organisation Abstergo who kidnapped you are in fact the modern day Knights Templar, and the war between these Templar and the Assassins is still ongoing. Abstergo, by using Desmond, have located certain powerful ancient objects known as 'Pieces of Eden' and strives to hunt them down. But they have no use left in Desmond, so Vidic, the scientist in charge, plans on disposing of him, before he is saved by Vidic's assistant Lucy. As the game ends, Desmond notices mysterious bloody symbols on the wall that only he is able to see due to the 'Eagle Vision' that he possesses through Alta´r.
'Assassin's Creed II' (herein shortened to 'ACII', and 'Assassin's Creed': 'AC') picks up exactly where AC left off. Lucy (who is in fact part of the Assassins and has been working undercover at Abstergo) and Desmond escape together to a warehouse where we meet two new characters: Shaun and Rebecca, and the Animus 2.0. The four of them work together in hidden quarters to learn more from Desmond's memories to arm themselves further against Abstergo. Alta´r has been put to one side for now, as Lucy reckons they were looking in the wrong place. Enter Ezio Auditore da Firenze.
Ezio is a young man from Firenze (or Florence) in Renaissance Italy (late 15th century). He is good-looking, charming and athletic, and although the gameplay within Renaissance Italy begins rather light-heartedly so the player can find his/her feet, a political plot surrounding the Auditore family soon emerges, Ezio's father and two brothers (one of which is only 13 years old) are hanged to death. Ezio, following his now deceased father's last words, discovers a secret room in his study which holds Assassin attire and weaponry. With his Mother and sister, Ezio flees to his Uncle's villa in Monteriggioni, where he learns the ways of the Creed, and seeks to take vengeance on those who conspired against his family.
With ACII, there's been quite a revamp. AC had its fair share of problems, though Ubisoft Montreal was lucky enough to gain recognition for what they were onto with the Assassin's Creed series. Whether or not the negativity they received caused them to scrap their protagonist, I don't know. But Ezio Auditore provides a far more likeable and interesting protagonist for the player; cocky but nice in character, and the Italian-ness offers far more appeal (no offence to any Palestinians - we Brits are just more familiar with the Romance of Italy!). A large portion of the style of gameplay has been reworked, too. AC featured a sandbox world (open, free roaming) with side missions to complete, and this is retained for ACII. However, these side missions became very repetitive after a while. What ACII offers is a less structured story that dictates what missions and side missions you have to complete. AC was dictated by the nine men you were contracted to assassinate; ACII possesses are more free-flowing and realistic story. There are still a number of people that you have to assassinate, however, but the build-ups to these assassinations are far more diverse, interesting and relative to the story. The side-missions that form these 'build-ups' include tails (where you have to stealthily follow a target to learn some information), escorts (where you may have to fight off some baddies) and less high-profile assassinations amongst others. There are also an array of optional side-missions, including races, beat-ups (usually some wench who wants her cheating husband taught a lesson or two), the very enjoyable tomb missions (you must find your way to an ancient Assassin tomb to find some treasure) and the glyphs (a series of puzzles spread across Italy). Like its prequel, the game is separated into memory sequences (originally 'memory blocks') that help divide the story and allow players to revisit missions and side-missions more easily.
The story is far superior to AC's. As aforementioned, the protagonist of Ezio is far more likeable, and it causes the player to take more interest into how his story unfolds, particularly due to the shocking tragedy of his family very early on in the game. It is clear, especially in this game, that Ubisoft Montreal have taken a lot of their style from Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code' and 'Angels and Demons', particularly the latter. The concept of the Assassin's Creed series is all about taking some periods in history and building fiction around it. ACII takes three important figures in Renaissance Italy, Leonardo da Vinci, Niccol˛ Machiavelli and Rodrigo Borgia, and makes them into integrated characters, in that they play very prominent parts in the story. The game is in complete self-acknowledgement that it is fiction, however (which can't particularly be said for Dan Brown...). The game fuses scientific, mythical and supernatural elements into a historical time, which completely and utterly removes any possibility of realism - something videogames can get away with far better than other forms of fiction can. But within this world, there's perhaps even less realism in the way in which Ezio can climb buildings and use the aforementioned 'Eagle Vision' and what not. And however well designed the story is, I can't help but cringe a little while playing, with typically videogame-esque corniness making itself very much known within the cutscenes and dialogues. That said, Assassin's Creed offers one of the more superior stories in the videogame world, and ACII delivers on this front.
The gameplay is very good too, but could be better. The open world allows you to go far, and with the five Italian towns/cities combined, the map is very big indeed. Controls are good enough (better than AC), although Ezio will sometimes do something you don't want him to do, or go in a direction you don't want him to go, simply because the controls and options are so complex that the magnetic style can go a bit haywire and glitchy. The fighting system is much improved in ACII, and is significantly easier to manage, and the same goes for other forms of combat. The Assassin's Creed series really likes to think it's a stealth series, but when you compare it to games such as Hitman and Splinter Cell, it really isn't. There is no incentive in ACII for you to carry out any of your missions stealthily, when 95% of them are completely attainable (and easy) running in with sword drawn. The stealth elements that the game offers include your hidden blade, concealing yourself within certain objects (haystacks, wells) and blending (making yourself 'invisible' essentially by hiding yourself in a crowd), the latter of which is a cool enough idea, but isn't executed quite as satisfactorily. Furthermore, the game just is a bit too easy. There's lots to do and it offers hours upon hours of gameplay, but whatever happened to difficult games? I use to struggle for hours on certain of my old PS2 games. It seems that in a way, thoughtful and tough gameplay has been traded for a more stunning, cinematic experience, which, depending on how you look at it, isn't the worst thing in the world. Overall, however, ACII offers thoroughly enjoyable gameplay and you will often find your controller stuck in your hands and eyes stuck on the TV.
The experience of playing is helped along the way by the visuals and sound. Like AC, the game thrives on delivering beautiful landscapes and stunning views. One of the main points of the game (though the value of this feature isn't as prominent as in AC) is the 'synchronization', where the player is required to climb up the outside of a tower to reach the top and take in his surroundings, so that the map and HUD (heads-up display) offers more information in the area. And when you're on top of said tower, it's sometimes very nice to just chill up there for a bit - Ubisoft Montreal have put a lot of effort in to making some great visuals, and the graphics engine for the game is superb. It really makes for more enjoyable gameplay. Meanwhile, Jesper Kyd's score is fantastic for ACII. With far more character than AC, the score blends modern scientific sounds with Classical/Renaissance ideas, and the track 'Ezio's Family' is a particular favourite of fans, though mine is 'Leonardo's Inventions, pt. 1'. Jesper Kyd has such a distinctive and unique sound that he ultimately provides a lot towards the Assassin's Creed experience. It's some of his best work yet, and truly improves gameplay. Also worth noting is his influence of Zimmer's 'Angels and Demons', a film, as previously mentioned, with story and style very similar to ACII. Also worth mentioning is the great SFX that accompanies the game, from the horse gallops to the sword fights, and also the superior voice acting, whether the dialogue itself is cheesy or not.
The Assassin's Creed series is on the rise with Assassin's Creed II. Ubisoft Montreal have done themselves proud by building on the ground-breaking but flawed Assassin's Creed, but there is still a way to go. I've played the next two games, and although the stealth elements never even come close to the likes of Hitman and Splinter Cell, other areas improve. But ACII is a very important to the gaming world and your shelf isn't complete without it. It's thoroughly enjoyable and offers many hours of gameplay and a great cinematic experience; it is just let down by certain, important aspects.
Summary: Assassin's Creed on the up
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