Review: Assassin’s Creed II

There’s a lot to like about Assassin’s Creed II, even if there is a minor hiccup or two…

Title: Assassin’s Creed II
Publisher: Ubisoft

By Mike Wheeler

I’d been looking forward to this game for a couple of weeks now, and was hoping that the publishers had taken onboard some of the criticisms of the original. Would I be disappointed? Read on…

The story itself is more intriguing than the first and leaves off where the last one finished, with present day Desmond and Lucy escape from the Abstergo Laboratory to a safe house where some of Lucy’s fellow Brotherhood members have got their own version of an underground conspiracy organistation happening. This time when Desmond is connected up to the animus he is headed for Renaissance Italy – and plays Ezio, the son of a banker and former assassin. There is trouble and intrigue brewing in the city of Florence, and Ezio sees his brothers and father executed, sets out to right the wrong and find out what’s behind his family’s demise.

Having recently completed the original game just three days ago, it was quite interesting to do the comparisons, and see what had changed and what hadn’t, and what worked and what didn’t.

First of all the good. Again, Ubisoft Montreal’s graphics are outstanding. Even better than the first game – a lot more detail has gone into the backgrounds, as well as the main characters. But the colouring and all around feel, has been superbly executed.

The thing I really liked was that you got straight into it. I felt with ACI, it seemed to take an age before any action started. With ACII, from the moment you escape from the lab, you’re up and running.

Being set in Renaissance Italy opens up a whole new treasure trove of historical events and elements that can be, and are, tapped by Ubisoft. The (in)famous Medici clan are well represented, as is Leonardo Di Vinci, and some minor nobility are also mentioned, but they are peripheral to the whole shebang. This is Ezio’s story and what a story it is. You go from several Italian city/states trying unlock the pieces to the puzzle, which include betrayals, the Templar Knight fraternity, as well as street thugs and courtesans.

When it comes to the action, there are a couple of additions that I really liked. For a start, there’s a little map at the bottom right-hand corner that tells you where you are, where you enemies are in the form or a red dot, and where you can hide. This map is a lot more user friendly. Peripheral indicators are also a great addition – when you fight the bad guys, they have a red indicator above their head that shows you how much health they have when fighting them. Then there is the notorious rating that Ezio is given – the higher the rating, the more susceptible you are to being attacked. And trust me, the first time it happened, I was immediately attacked. You get a lot more gear to fight with, and you can also swim, which is a bonus when the trail leads you to Venice.

Finally, and probably the biggest whine I had from the first game, is gone. Repeatability – there is none! Well, none that mattered anyway.

There are a couple of minor problems that I found annoying. When moving Ezio around, especially on some of the rooftops, the controller moves him in directions unintentionally quick, which can put you off your stride when trying to escape a guard, or climb a roof. Having just played the first game, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the controller that was the problem.

Also, and I know I sound like a prude, but there was some unnecessary cursing at the beginning of the game when Desmond and Lucy are escaping – I’d even go so far to say it;s gratuitous.

But these are just minor complaints, and the overall experience leaves me to say this is one of the best, if not the best, game for 2009.

Rating: 5 out of 5

NB: During the game I had some help from the Complete Official Guide, where you can see a review of it here.