Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Revenge is sweet in "Assassin's Creed II"
"Assassin's Creed II"
Developed by Ubisoft Montreal
Published by Ubisoft
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3 and PC
Assassinations. Murder plots. Women of the evening. Espionage. Sounds like a James Bond movie, huh?
Not quite. It's some of the things gamers will see in Ubisoft's newest offering, "Assassin's Creed II."
Developed and published by Ubisoft, the game takes players into the memories of Desmond Miles, the bartender-turned assasin who was Altair in "Assassin's Creed." This time around, Desmond working with a new crew and an upgraded Animus 2.0.
The game starts out where "Assassin's Creed" ends. However, before you can blink, Lucy Stillman, also a character from "AC," comes into your room, panting and her shirt bloodied.
After breaking Desmond out of Abstergo, his version of Hotel California, Lucy introduces him to a team that helps him embark on a new set of memories, but this time in the old world of Italia. Desmond assumes the role of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, a son of a wealthy banker Giovanni. When Giovanni uncovers a plot, enemies arrest him and his brothers and execute them. Ezio is hell-bent on avenging the murders and will end all of the parties involved. Just think about the original '80s film "Man on Fire" - but set way, way back in the day.
Players familiar with "Assassin's Creed" will know how awesome Altair's skills scaling tall buildings are. Ezio, a descendant of Altair, has the same skills - and since he's Altair 2.0, he can learn several other lethal methods of warfare.
Just like "Assassin's Creed," players will also run into historical characters. According to Wikipedia, the figures include Leonardo da Vinci, Niccolò Machiavelli, Caterina Sforza, Lorenzo de' Medici, the Pazzi Family, and Pope Alexander VI.
Leonardo is the first character you encounter. He will later help you decrypt drawings for advanced weaponry. He'll also make the weapons for you.
Of course, "Assassin's Creed II" is about taking your enemies to the mattresses. New to this installment is the ability to buy moving cover. Let's say you want to take out a hit on an individual. You can rent women of the evening to walk around you, effectively hiding you in plain sight. You need help against your enemies? Hire some mercenaries. Be forewarned - if you hire a set of women and then try to hire mercenaries, you will lose the first group you hired.
You can also blend with the crowd, by sitting on a bench or traveling with groups of citizens, not just monks.
Also new to "ACII" is the ability to loot. You can stand over a fallen enemy and pick their pockets - and even take their weapon, temporarily. Be careful - the townsfolk don't like people with sticky fingers and will report you to the guards.
See a weapon on an enemy you have to have? Take it. Press X and hold the trigger to disarm the enemy. Feeling a bitty competitive? Press Y to taunt them.
Speaking of weapons, you have about 8 slots of weapons and various items. On some missions, your contacts will provide you with weapons, thereby unlocking the weapon for you. My personal favorites? The double hidden blades and smoke bombs. I did enjoy the throwing knives, but not as much as the hidden blades - and when you strike, think Wolverine. The smoke bombs? Get this - you assassinate your mark and need to get outta dodge quick. Select smoke bombs and throw one on the ground. Puff - and you are exiting, stage left. Especially with well-armored enemies, this is one of the best weapons you can use.
Of course the leap of faith is back. An easy way to spot places to jump are the bird droppings. And you can take to the skies with a way funky flying machine, courtesy of your boy, Leonardo. Flying the friendly skies with Ezio, FTW.
You can also steal from any NPC in the game a lot easier than in "AC." Just press a button, brush against someone and scram. It doesn't get easier than that. And just as you can boost some coins from people, people can jack you as well. Expect some fun chases.
Another new feature is an in-game economic system. After Ezio's family flees to his uncle's Auditore villa in Tuscanny, players can opt to invest in the villa. The more a player invest, the more income the villa generates. Players also get a discount on their goods (weapons, medicine and clothing).
The game is vast - it takes place all over Italy - Florence, Venice and Rome, to name a few places. The scenery is simply amazing - the storm clouds look ominous, the rolling countryside is breathtaking. The leaps of faith will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Visually, the game is a stunner. What I think is just downright funny is how the gameplay looks far better than the cutscenes. Hmmm.
Gameplay is solid. Ezio is smart, most times and won't leap to his death. He'll stop or will hang on this ledge before jumping into the unknown. I did overleap and have to be *resurrected.* Yes, just like "Assassin's Creed," you don't die - you just come back to an earlier point.
Replay value? You bet. Though it is only single player and no co-op play, it's big enough that you may take a break for a while and come back to finish it up.
If you are looking for a fun ride, with more than enough side quests to keep you busy, take a good look at "Assassin's Creed II." The only thing cooler would be cruising the Tuscan countryside in a Ferrari or Lamborghini.
The verdict: 9.25 (out of 10) The first game was awesome - the sequel outshines it. The new weapons, the looting feature, the economic system keeps the game from being stale. If you like adventure and not scared of heights, check this game out.