Assassin's Creed II: Hands-on


We know we don’t need to convince you guys of the joys buried with Assassin’s Creed II. You already appreciate the exquisite design of the in-game architecture, a genuine historical setting where static buildings can encompass an entire level’s worth of legwork, and a player-to-environment interaction that makes for one of, if not the most enjoyable platforming experiences of the current console generation. But you guys still have some goodies to look forward to.

Animus 2.0

The game begins the very moment the last game ends, with Desmond staring into cryptic glyphs appearing on his wall. But there’s no time to reflect, since within seconds, Lucy (voiced once again by the adorable Kristen Bell) runs in, covered in blood, and helps him escape the frighteningly futuristic Abstergo headquarters. And if the physical prowess he shows in fleeing a heavily guarded facility, seemingly built for the sole purpose of kidnapping unaware assassins, weren’t enough to get you excited about Desmond’s unique heritage… the dude can see fingerprints now!

Above: Yay, horseys are back!

Enticing for sure, however, we’re told there are only a scant handful of Desmond levels, and he’s quickly whisked into an enhanced Animus, piloted by a new crew of renegade scientists whose motivation runs counter to that of the folks you met in the previous game. Enter Ezio Auditore da Firenze…

Beautiful New Setting

You say you left your heart in Damascus? Well, if the classical architecture of Renaissance Italy weren’t a breathtaking sight to behold, it probably wouldn’t still be generating billions of dollars in tourist revenue each and every year. And now we get to play in it! It’s more colorful and more alive than in the previous game, plus most of you have some frame of reference for the architecture painstakingly recreated in ACII because the buildings are still standing today.

Above: That white bar in the middle represents six centuries

Even though certain places have been removed at the behest of a smoother player experience, you’re still looking at a remarkable design feat that’s above and beyond what most historical games (not set in World War II) ever even bother to attempt. Period-perfect cities like Florence, Venice, and San Gimignano are the product of several years of development, thousands of photographed textures, and the consultation of historians. Thus, the dedication and care invested in recreating these timeless landmarks is impressive to say the least.

Perhaps it does take an older gamer to appreciate the level of detail found in environments that don’t take place on other planets, but it’s still undeniably cool that the ability of history buffs to visually fact check ACII’s landmarks is just a Google image search away.

Above: Pretty, no?

New People

Although Ubi is playing coy about any appearance from Altair, there’s still some assurance that his legacy will be acknowledged somehow, somewhere, in Assassin’s Creed II. But he’s off on his own PSP adventure, and it’s all about Ezio, who’s actually a much more interesting character, if only because his motivation for murder is more personal, and not entirely based on orders from a shadowy organization. However, it’s the people and things that surround him that will catch the attention of anyone who stayed awake during Humanities 101.

Above: Meet the cast of your new favorite game!

Ezio’s family has been created for the game out of respect for history, but the events and people that surround them are very real. You begin the game in Florence during the time of an actual conspiracy involving the Medici and Pazzi family that went as high as the Pope. History isn’t being rewritten, it’s just that Ezio is now an involved silent figure and you get to fill in the gaps. We’ll leave the historians to speculate as to how Lorenzo de’ Medici escaped his assassination attempt - gamers will know it was Ezio.

Best of all, the man you’ve all read about, Leonardo Da Vinci, plays a crucial role in the game and it’s nowhere near as stuffy and bearded as you’d expect. You meet Da Vinci at the age of 25, and he’s characterized as an exuberant, mad genius or sorts, filled with humor, ideas and a zest for helping Ezio. You’ll find plans, bring ‘em back to Leo, and he’ll whip up new weapons and equipment for you. And yes, even his prototype Flying Machine is yours to use… Or crash.

New Tools of the Trade

Hell yes, you get to fly the most unwieldy of batwings, kicking guards in the face all the while. But it’s the dual hidden blades that proved to be every bit as wonderful as we’d anticipated. Need to stealthily take out two guards in your way. Walkup between them and show them your best Jesus Christ pose:

Above: Schnikt!

And that’s to say nothing of delivering a series of spiked Bruce Lee Dragon Punches to the sternum. In case you’re bored by the historical nods, know that this is where the game’s “Mature” label takes on the most contemporary of meanings: Gore by the bucketful. There’s also some new targeting in the mix as well. And it’s pretty similar to the kickass stuff we’ve seen from Splinter Cell: Conviction thus far. Target a dude from jumping distance, wait until the most opportune moment, then POUNCE! Seriously, cool shit.

And what’s this? A gun! Sort of, but you don’t have to worry about firearms pushing aside AC’s stabtacular blade work. It’s exactly what it sounds like: A Hand Cannon, a focused explosion fired from the wrist. It’s great for a one-off long shot, but this thing is loud and reloads are a bitch! So yeah, you may want to use it sparingly.

Above: The Renaissance’s version of The Force

What’s Yours is Yours

It’s not just you: Assassin’s Creed II really is starting to share more similarities with open-world games like GTA. With ACII’s in-game economy comes the ability to, duh, own stuff. Take a break from city life and head to the Villa Auditore, a Monteriggoni getaway left to Ezio by his grandfather. This is where you can showcase your arsenal, train to increase skills, and hang purchased paintings to brighten up your surroundings.

Above: To the Villa!

It’s not just about accumulating stuff. Ezio can apparently invest in renovations to restore the area to the city it once was. We didn’t have the time to see it in action, but we’re told the player’s contributions can increase the Villa’s value, population, and reveal more than its share of secrets.

Above: Just beyond the killing is some really gorgeous fresco work

By now you should know where we stand on Assassin’s Creed II. We received an uncharacteristically lengthy demo with the game, yet we’ve barely scratched the surface and we’re still hungry for more. Assassin’s Creed II drops in a few weeks, so if you’re like us, you’re going to want to hurry and clear out your gaming backlog in time for November 17th.

Oct 22, 2009

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  • 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.

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