Assassin’s Creed 2 Review

31 01 2010

Assassin’s Creed II is just…fucking rad. I finished it not too long ago, and honestly, I was sad to see it end. Having skipped the first one, (because, well, I don’t really know) I was worried that I would not be able to follow the story, but after being inundated with images and video and hearing how much improved AC2 was over AC, I was desperate to play it, and my lovely wife got it for me for Christmas, along with Brutal Legend. I was still playing Dragon Age: Origins, but as soon as I started playing AC2, I forgot all about it, and honestly, have yet to finish Dragon Age (I will finish it at some point, it’s a great RPG, if a little clunky).

I never played the Splinter Cell games, for the most part avoiding stealth games as a whole after a frustrating and disastrous attempt to play Hitman 2: Silent Assassin for the original XBOX. I didn’t think I was cut out for stealth, instead mostly sticking to shooters, sandbox games, and RPGs. Then I got Batman: Arkham Asylum because it was a Batman game, and looked awesome. And it clicked. The whole stealth thing clicked for me, despite my trepidation. I was roping fools up and descending from the shadows like some heinous gargoyle come to life, and I loved it. So when AC2 came along, I was ready to sneak up on some folks and horribly murder them.

What really grabbed me though, was the story. An epic across time, as modern man Desmond Miles uses the Animus to relive the genetic memory locked inside him. Experiencing the life of his ancestor Ezio Auditore da Firenze (what a cool name) in this way really immersed
me in the world quickly, and it was a blast exploring Renaissance Italy through the eyes of a bad-ass, rooftop-running, Templar killing assassin. Ezio is fighting the Templars, a shadowy cabal of men who seemingly run the world. Famous faces abound, especially if you paid attention in European History. If you didn’t, handy bios fill you in on the recognizable people and places. The story of the game is basically unraveling a global conspiracy that you uncovered in AC, one that stretches throughout history and includes some pretty familiar names.

The controls took a little getting used to, and the camera would turn traitor on me at times, but once I got the hang of the puppeteering mechanic, and the combat flow of wait for enemy to attack , movement became natural, and fun. My one complaint is that the combat can get kind of boring after a while, especially if, like me, you favor one particular weapon. With no difficulty setting, the game is challenging with out being Ninja Gaiden levels of aggravating, but can be ridiculously easy and forgiving at times.

The crowd mechanics of the game are another highlight. By “going with the flow” of the crowd (i.e. standing in or walking with a group of four or more civilians) Ezio pretty much disappears, allowing him to move past guards unhindered, or hide when they are on the lookout for him. Though this mechanic is not used a whole lot with regular AI crowds, when you hire Courtesans (hookers), they will follow you wherever you lead them (I guess 15th century prostitutes were more trusting) or, at a command, distract guards for a while so you can loot some treasure. You can also assassinate people from just about anywhere, from sitting on a bench as they walk by, to pulling them into a haystack, to reaching up from a ledge and shanking them in the ball sack. It’s endlessly entertaining, and the “flourish” moves when you kill someone in combat are always fun to watch.

The voice acting is great, with very few weak spots, and the Italian accents are well done, without sounding too hokey. The dialogue is well written, with a very “real” sound to most if not all of the conversations. The cut scenes never run on too long, and are never static scenes of two heads talking. Like the rest of the game, they are dynamic, always in motion.

The economy system is fun, but very, very easy to max out early on. Early on in the story you get access to a villa, a little town of your own, that you can invest in to earn money back. If you don’t buy anything other than repairs, and just upgrade the villa, you will soon be earning tens of thousands of dollars an hour, and never have to worry about being too poor to buy that new mace, or armor. The paintings that art dealers sell are pretty, and interesting to read about, but serve little purpose other than OCD collecting. There’s a ton of collectables, in fact, from treasure chests to feathers to paintings, pouches, and dyes for your clothing. They are not necessary to get, and sadly you don’t get an achievement for getting them all, but they are a really good way to learn the city and navigate around.

All in all, I would really recommend this game. Assassin’s Creed II is fun, it’s long without being tedious, and some parts of the game are really funny. Plus, once you find out who the final boss is, you will laugh your ass off. I did.

Follow me on Twitter! @charliehamlin

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