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Assassin's Creed II: Hands-on

We made no secret about our love for the original Assassin’s Creed. We scored it glowingly, took some flak from you guys, and stood proudly by our 10 like a Christ-like figure up against an inquisition of haters. Okay, perhaps that’s a bit much, but it’s still a somewhat appropriate analogy given the game’s biblical setting and that the original Assassin’s Creed was just one of those games people either love or hate, with very little in between.


Above: Have a look, boys! 

Take it or leave it: We’re of the opinion that Assassin’s Creed II is a shining example of the maturity of modern gaming. Oh, it’s got all the blood, guts, and even an early safe-for-Showtime sex scene to earn such a classification from the ESRB, but the original Assassin’s Creed has become one of those games people often defend by describing it as “an acquired taste.” Not unlike a fine wine. Or a really expensive beer.


Above: Pure Sophistication 

Pinkies up, bitchy readers! The original Creed demanded a little more from the player than your average game that lets you unlock triple jumps and rocket launchers. “Please acknowledge the technical feat of designing a city where every brick retains not only a distinct interactivity, but character that reflects an actual setting in history.” “Please take the time to learn the rhythmic combat without on screen prompts and you’ll become a better badass in time.” “Please accept the slower pacing of the story, and take your time to allow the journey to be just as important as the goal.” “Please discover everything and your reward will be a sense of accomplishment far more satisfying than an exploding sword.”

That’s all well and good, but what does it matter when this is all your detractors see:


Above: WRONG! 


FOR THE HATERS

So let’s address the haters first off. We’ve just returned from a lengthy hands-on of Assassin’s Creed II, so believe us when we say that the naysayers have been given ample reasons to cast off their preconceptions, while the rest of us have been given much more to love.

More Objectives

“Waah! Boo Hoo! Assassin’s Creed doesn’t give me enough to immediately do!” Shut it, mister. Right from the get go, you’ll see a map populated by new icons to interact with. Viewpoint marks and assassination targets will be instantly recognizable to fans, but there are other icons for races, quick kills, and many others that will be familiar to gamers at large. Which is good, since a lot of people weren’t up to the task of several missions worth of investigation before the climatic kills.

You see, with the architectural framework firmly in place, Ubisoft’s been freed up to create a billion or so other objectives and that should silence the people who slighted the original for being slow and repetitious. For instance, you’ll see points on the map where you can tear down wanted posters of protagonist, Ezio to lower your notoriety (think a Wanted meter) as well as marked locations for hidden money. These can be easy to spot or micro parkour-puzzles in their own right; either way they’re optional, and more excitingly, representative of Assassin’s Creed II’s kickass new economy.

New Gameplay

Part of the reason Assassin’s Creed has emerged as one of this generations most divisive games is that impatient gamers had a little trouble with its play-at-your-own-pace style. ACII’s addressed this with several mammoth indoor sequences that allow you to acrobat through environments in much more linear fashion.

Sort of secret, sort of optional - players who simply desire a Point A to Point B structure should delight in the towering platform puzzles found within underground catacombs and church interiors hidden throughout the game. After all, nobody does platforming better than AC’s Anvil Engine.

More People

15th century Italy comes alive with all the hustle and bustle of a Renaissance marketplace, and there are plenty of new ways with which to spend your hard earned coins. Buy art, maps, visit a frighteningly mask-clad doctor for health, and best of all, a blacksmithy for a little enhanced weaponry. Because what good is all the new stuff to do if you don’t have new implements of death to do it with? (Can you say… Hand Cannon?)

The wealth of options to tackle at your leisure conjures up fond memories of Crackdown, but in terms of breathing new life into a digital setting, Assassin’s Creed II is a helluva lot closer to the feat pulled off by Grand Theft Auto. Like Altair, Ezio’s physical interaction with his setting is second to none, but his actions can have a far greater impact later on. 

Better still, monks and haystacks are no longer the only friend of botched stealth. Pay some salacious courtesans to siren off (straight) male pursuers, or bribe a preachy Herald to spread disinformation as to your whereabouts. You can even hire packs of thieves to create distractions and commission kill-ready mercenaries to accompany you and dole out death on harder missions.


Above: “Go forth and distract, henchmen”

Faster Story

Other complaints stemmed from the overall story presentation and the super serious cutscenes. Take note, all ye ADD-addled assassins: you start kicking ass before you even step into the Animus, the ancestral Matrix in the not-too-distant future where a majority of the events of both century-spanning Assassin’s Creeds take place. And while Desmond isn’t quite up to the status of Altair and Ezio, he’s getting there, and throwing some capable licks right out of the gate.


Above: What the Assassin’s Creed official screenshots never show

You’ll take control of a young Ezio very early in his life (something we won’t spoil), and then you begin the game with him, out of hooded costume, as a young man who seeks only to protect his family. Of course, a tragedy comes along and thrusts him into the role of political avenger, a keeper of secrets, and all around murderous badass.

Either way, it makes for a more personal and compelling story. Plus we immediately noticed that the characters introduced in the short cutscenes were far more distinctive than in the last game. The movement in the Italian inhabitants’ facial features alone made for some of the more expressive characters we’ve seen rendered in real-time in a while. And we should also mention that the dialog has more than a few genuinely funny moments. You’ll know it when you hear someone say the word “vagina.”


Above: Pulling idiots over ledges is the purest form of comedy

41 comments

  • stoner2396 - January 22, 2010 8:54 p.m.

    it was an awesome game looking foward to the third
  • shadowolf115 - November 16, 2009 8:25 p.m.

    i have never tried ac1 some pple told me it was good. after readin this article i want ac2.
  • joker4592 - November 11, 2009 9:12 p.m.

    Cant wait for this game im ripping my hair out bc i gotta wait another week than i thought i had to!! looks like this one will have way more stuff than the first so im counting on it to be better than modern warfare 2.
  • crazyqazqaz - October 27, 2009 6:57 p.m.

    crap thats 2 words...
  • crazyqazqaz - October 27, 2009 6:57 p.m.

    Let me sum it up in one word.... BLOODY AMAZING!
  • Sugarblossom - October 26, 2009 8 a.m.

    i already preodered the AC2 black editon 4 months ago so i seriously cant wait
  • hardcore_gamer1990 - October 25, 2009 9:48 p.m.

    Yes yes yes yes yes YES All I have to say? :D
  • HappinessIsaWarmGun - October 25, 2009 11:31 a.m.

    I doubt a modern day Assassin's Creed would work. But so what? It sure works in historical settings, and such settings are certainly one of the beauties of this game. I'm a fan and am really looking forward to enjoying all the improvements that appear to make AC2 a significantly "fuller and better" game than its initial variation.
  • thecakeisapie - October 24, 2009 9:17 p.m.

    forgot to put that both previews have different infor. OXM has something about the Animus 2.0 which lets Desmond retain the skills he learns as Ezio
  • thecakeisapie - October 24, 2009 9:11 p.m.

    this and the OXM preview both have exciting info. If u want to get the most on the inside you should read this and the OXM preview
  • lovinmyps3 - October 24, 2009 7:29 a.m.

    I fully agree with the 10 the original got and I can't wait for this to come out! This and Modern Warfare 2 are the holiday games I HAVE to get this year. The two sequels to my first two PS3 games.
  • speno93 - October 24, 2009 3:53 a.m.

    im really pissed, as a pc owner i have to wait several more damn months to get this game!.
  • michaelmcc827 - October 23, 2009 11:14 p.m.

    great preview, just hyped me up a lot. hope you enjoyed your trip lol.
  • michaelmcc827 - October 23, 2009 11:06 p.m.

    holy shit guis! look at the 5th to last screenshot on the second page. It's Ezio with scyscrapers in the background o.0
  • terdferguson - October 23, 2009 10:42 p.m.

    can't wait love the first this ones gonna be the best ever.
  • F1REST0RM - October 23, 2009 9:41 p.m.

    I agree with garnsr. While I didn't hate the game, my objections with it had really nothing to do with what the article mentioned. It wasn't a lack of stuff to do so much as a lack of interesting stuff to do. The actual assassinations were great but the stuff in between was largely a slog. Plus the AI just sucked at times, both with stealth and with combat. I don't feel like a badass when I'm only actually taking on one enemy at a time. I don't know, maybe the other enemies are too taken aback by my dashing good looks to pitch in and help their buddies, but for whatever reason combat for much of the game was dull and unexciting despite the somewhat flashy kill moves. Anyway, like I said, I didn't hate the game, because I could appreciate all the stuff that its lovers praised about it. I'm looking forward to this second game. It looks like some if not all of the issues with the first game will probably be addressed, so that satisfies me. Plus Italy is more interesting to me visually than Jerusalem, so that's a plus.
  • lorchan - October 23, 2009 9:10 p.m.

    CAN'T WAIT. I was nervous, at first, that Ubisoft would take out some of the things that made the first game great, but I think it'll all be okay, now :) Sadly I won't be able to play it right away when it comes out. Ironically, though, I'll be on vacation in Italy. Chao!
  • undeadleader - October 23, 2009 7:52 p.m.

    reading this while play Assassin's Creed 1, lol. this game (plus L4D2) will be AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • TestDDs - October 23, 2009 7:33 p.m.

    I hope when you start levels you can skip the old man talking and talking parts. there should be skip button. so i don't watch the same thing over and over again.
  • Red - October 23, 2009 6:21 p.m.

    Thanks for the article GR. This is exactly the kind of thing I want to read about.

Showing 1-20 of 41 comments

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