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Assassin's Creed II

AT A GLANCE
  • Huge, brilliantly realized world
  • Lots of new ways to kill horrible people
  • Buildings are beautifully rendered, fully climbable
  • Scanlines and pop-in mar the visuals
  • Faces look kind of dated (think GTA IV)
  • Accents can get a leetel-a seelly

It’s no secret we loved the first Assassin’s Creed – maybe even a little too much. Climbing up impossibly tall structures and stealthily murdering Templar knights during the sharply realized Crusades was so much fun, we accepted certain flaws – like the repetitive side-tasks you had to undertake before each assassination mission could be unlocked, or the way the game sent you back to your home fortress after each successful takedown – as minor irritations. But as it turned out, a lot of other players didn’t. Neither, it seems, did the developers of Assassin’s Creed II.

With the bigger, bloodier and hugely improved sequel, most of the complaints that made the first AC so divisive are gone. Side tasks? Sidelined to strictly optional status; the focus is now firmly on making your enemies’ lives miserable before you kill them. Sidelined to strictly optional status; the focus is now firmly on making your enemies’ lives miserable before you kill them.


Above: Welcome to the Renaissance, bitches 

Walking around reading emails in the near future? Not even for one second. Riding horses across miles of samey wilderness? Convenient fast-travel stations now enable you to cover huge distances in seconds (although horses are still useful). Annoying beggars? Replaced by less-annoying minstrels who can be distracted with thrown coins. Awkward fights? Well, those still look pretty similar, but they’ve been retooled to be faster, much more varied and easier to understand.


Above: Check out the above video for a taste of the free-running action

What makes Assassin’s Creed II great isn’t just that it fixes most of what was wrong with the first game, though. It’s that it takes what the first game started and uses it to build something much bigger, much more involving and much more fun. The open-world action is similar – you’ll still spend a lot of time free-running across rooftops and obstacles (which is a blast), climbing up the sides of gargantuan buildings, assassinating unwitting enemies and getting into seemingly endless swordfights with guards – but the sequel expands on the original formula so much, and so well, that Assassin’s Creed feels like a training run by comparison.

This is partly because the world you’ll explore – which this time consists of five cities set during the Italian Renaissance – feels much more fleshed out and believable than the original, even coming complete with a historical database you can access every time you come across a notable person or landmark. It’s also partly because the new hero, cocky young nobleman-turned-assassin Ezio Auditore, has a much livelier, more charming personality than his cold, collected ancestor Altair, and comes off as more of an ass-kicking, morally ambiguous superhero than a merciless killer. It also doesn’t hurt that his adventure – which begins in 1476 and ends in 1499 – has a much more epic, personal feel than the first game did, as you see Ezio slowly evolve from a scared teenager, desperate for vengeance after his father and brothers are executed, to a near-invincible badass in pursuit of the conspiracy that killed them.


Above: You even get to see his face once in a while, too 

He’s not a lone wolf, either, and the cast of characters who come together to help him are more believable, more actively helpful and much easier to care about than any of the first Creed’s supporting assassins. They also represent a good mix of fictional characters – like Ezio’s family and his acrobatic thief allies – and actual historical figures, including the great Lorenzo di Medici and Leonardo da Vinci, who as Ezio’s closest friend plays a major role in the story.

Mostly, though, ACII is a huge improvement because there’s tons more to do this time around. In addition to Ezio’s central story missions – which will take around 15-20 hours to complete if you blast straight through – there’s a lot of optional stuff that it’s in your interest to uncover. Aside from the side missions – which consist largely of beating up faithless husbands, racing thieves across rooftops, and killing targets for money – you’ll be able to ferret out hundreds of treasure chests, eagle feathers, semi-mystical glyphs and statuettes hidden throughout the world, gaining rewards for finding them all.


Above: Also, you can stab guards in the head with dual hidden blades, which is awesome 

There are also squads of thieves, mercenaries and prostitutes to command, who are useful for luring, fighting and distracting guards, respectively. There’s a failing town you can rebuild and invest in, and it’ll reward you with a safehouse and regular cash payments. There are new vehicles to pilot, not the least of which is one of Leonardo da Vinci’s legendary flying machines. There are also six semi-hidden Assassin tombs for you to explore, which take the form of vast, Prince of Persia-style environmental-puzzle dungeons that can eventually net you a near-invincible suit of armor.

Or, to put it another way:

 

So that’s all fine and good, but it leaves one question for disgruntled would-be fans of the first game: What about Desmond?

More Info

Release date: Nov 17 2009 - Xbox 360, PS3
Mar 09 2010 - PC (US)
Nov 20 2009 - Xbox 360, PS3
Mar 09 2010 - PC (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Genre: Action
Published by: Ubisoft
Developed by: Ubisoft Montreal
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content
PEGI Rating:
18+
Mikel Reparaz
GamesRadar

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.

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  • Blackhelm - July 25, 2010 9:41 p.m.

    Excellent game. Only one thing annoying me at the mo, is it possible to revisit the assassins tomb missions to try to get into the secret locations within these areas. There are three that I missed as I was doing the scenarios and I was assured by someone that I would be able to revisit once I had completed the game, but so far they wont let me back in. Has anyone done this, how is it done, please?
  • pakk99 - May 31, 2010 2:33 p.m.

    AC2 does what GTA4, MW2, and Halo 3 couldn't do: significantly improve an already great game without breaking anything. The other titles didn't even bother trying.
  • gavinhamm - April 21, 2010 4:52 p.m.

    OMG this is the best game i've ever played!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • jaredmaracano - April 11, 2010 9:52 p.m.

    best game owwwww this games fire
  • BeingShifty - February 20, 2010 10:25 a.m.

    This is the best game ever!!! I have completed it and only have 2 achievments to do, i think they are hard as hell to get, collect every feather and where the cape in every city. :@ it makes me angry that you have to collect every feather to get the cape!! lol anyway AWSOME GAME!!
  • BertTheTurtle - January 3, 2010 4:30 a.m.

    When Uncle Mario came in and said "It's a-me, Mario!" I couldn't stop laughing.
  • Benji - December 10, 2009 6:53 a.m.

    Best Game Ever....!!!
  • XBLsponge - November 24, 2009 9:27 p.m.

    cool, can't wait to get it! sadly i will have to wait till christmas due to low gaming funds.if you have it in your heart to get this game early please send a donation to po box:assasinscreed2isawsome,united kigdom, london.thank you. (joke)
  • Makk_Mizzy - November 21, 2009 11:34 a.m.

    I must admit this game I knew wouldn't let me down but, it is amazing at how repititous it isn't with all the new quirks, gadgets, assassination options, puzzles, landmarks, being able to make it rain with only 10 florins and watch the people of their cities go crazy just for a few florins and while they scavenge for the florins I simply walk thru the crowds and pickpocket everyone that is unaware of the diversion and loot them all blindly! I also love the chokeslam, OMG! This time around the game is far more compelling and creative. I was blown away by the intro, with Ezio and his family being framed and his father and two brothers were lynched for a falsely committed crime. Also im playing Left4Dead2 so I can't beat this game as fast as I normally would if I didn't have a girlfriend that lives with me, a full-time working job, and a social life like others that do not have these three key things to optimize ones GAME-TIME!!!!
  • Greed - November 18, 2009 6:45 p.m.

    I beat the game before Mikel, and I liked it very very much. In fact, I had all but five achievements before the game even came out. However, the achievements that are left seem very very hard. Throw sand in the faces of 4 guards? They hit you while you collect it! Sweep four guards with a long weapon? All I can do with a spear is stab! Help me, Mikel!
  • lnksmartt - November 18, 2009 1:21 p.m.

    This game really is fun, and its actually harder to stay alive now with the health system the way it is
  • speno93 - November 18, 2009 5:11 a.m.

    wonderful, i expected nothing less for this fantastic game i really want it now.
  • n00b - November 18, 2009 4:09 a.m.

    ...must resist... aww hell *first* anyway, seems this one came out a lot better than the last one. good to know the developers knew what was wrong with the first one might just pick it up
  • Japanjack - November 18, 2009 3:55 a.m.

    Very well written review! I wasn't sure if I wanted to just rent this and now I shall buy it (eventually). Thanks Mikel!
  • Ricochet3438 - November 18, 2009 1:45 a.m.

    ya and i hope they rly did eliminate the repetitiveness. Once in AC1, i searched for like 4 hours strait jst to find one side mission tht i needed 2 complete the assassination!
  • zombiekiller27 - November 18, 2009 1:12 a.m.

    this game is going to be awesome!hope they made missions funner?great review!!!
  • TheIronMaiden - November 17, 2009 10:02 p.m.

    Just bought the game last night. Quite the number of improvements from the first title. Great review, great game.

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