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Saturday | December 10, 2016
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Assassins Creed II (X360 & PS3)

Assassins Creed II (X360 & PS3)

Assassins Creed II is the long awaited followup to the hugely successful 2007 Ubisoft romp which sold en masse and met with both critic and public approval. Sure, there were some issues but overall it was an entertaining and immersive game which ended up with a huge following. The sequel is set to address those issues while keeping the fantasy sci-fi stealth appeal which won over the hearts of many gamers.

The story of Assassin’s Creed takes elements from historical fiction, and films such as Equilibrium and combines them with a heady concoction of fantasy swashbuckling and spiderman structure scaling. The series has been created from the ground up by some wonderfully skilled minds within the game industry and it shows everywhere you cast your eyes. The animations, environmental detail and artwork are wonderfully crafted and the engine is also extremely impressive … there have in fact been some significant improvements throughout the whole development of this game.

Many people were left wondering what happened at the end of the first game and rightly so – the conclusion left people hanging in bewilderment and left more than a few loose ends to tie up. Assassins Creed II picks up exactly were it left with the kidnapped bartender Desmond locked in a cell in Abstergo. This twisted corporation is the future version of the Templars and they need to get inside Desmond’s head to get hold of his thoughts and visions. This technology allows Desmond to relive the lives of his ancestors and his family line puts him right in the middle of a war between the Assassins and the Templars. Oh what a tangled web we weave.

The game holds no punches, and right from the offset we are in the middle of a jailbreak and Desmond is introduced to the Assassins at their secret hideout. They have access to the same technology here that we experienced in the first game and once again Desmond goes for a trip down memory lane to relive past escapades. In the first game as some of you will remember Desmond was forced to relive memories and share them with the future Templars but in ACII he is in 15th century Italy by his own choosing to learn the ways of the Assassins through the life of Ezio Audituerre de Firenze.

The story is somewhat confusing, (just like the first) however you are just best going with the flow and enjoying the whole experience rather than sitting back and trying to analyse it. You are placed with Ezio at the very moment he was born which is a rather neat way for a little tutorial on movement. His life is shown in stages, from his years as a ladies man, a boxer cum street fighter and the son of a wealthy banker. Ezio to be fair is a bit of an ass and you never feel that attached to the guy but the game plays on a complex personality which develops later and he is just as appealing as he is repulsive.

Assassins Creed is in many ways a rather cleverly constructed bit of code as you are presented with little snippets of information from time to time which enhance your knowledge of the interface – its a much more ‘organic’ way of introducing game play elements to the audience, rather than forcing a 30 minute tutorial with some boring guy droning on in the background.

The free running system works fantastically as it allows the player to climb over almost every object in the game and you aren’t tied down with fiddly microsecond timings to make the most of it. The movement speed in ACII is significantly faster and gamers are able to reach their destinations much quicker than before. Obviously with a game based so strongly on motion and movement it is important that the animation quality is high enough and smooth enough to look realistic and this is where the developers really do need some acclaim. It really is quite stunning to see in the flesh and there are times you would actually be fooled into thinking that your white robed assassin was actually a real life entity, rather than a created motion captured graphical representation.

As before, darkness is not the only means of escape as you can mingle with crowds, hide in carts and use a wealth of movement abilities to escape your pursuers. The system is rather ‘loose’ by design which is part of the reason the game is so appealing – you aren’t constantly battling a silly light meter, you use your head to reach higher ground or lose line of sight to make your escape.

Organically, ACII is a complete success – even the most critical of gamers will appreciate the detail in the environments and how they all interact with the living breathing characters roaming the city walls. Ezio can now even hide under water to escape chase and you can even divert them with your hired help. Thieves, whores and mercenaries are available for hire and can be instructed to annoy, confuse and intercept people who are in the way of your objectives. If all else fails, tossing money into a crowd is a sure way to cause scenes of mayhem for an extra sneaky retreat towards the nearest building, to higher ground.

You are not a stereotypical weak assassin, you can in fact choose to fight if you wish and there are a plethora of options at hand with ACII. You have access to swords, smoke bombs, daggers, throwing knives, dual assassin blades (awesome) and a few others which might ruin the surprise if I go into detail. Your choice of weapon clearly depends on your current circumstance – if you are on a roof and need to quietly dispose of a guard from a distance, then the throwing knifes are always a firm favourite, you just need to be sure that his dead body won’t immediately raise suspicions of anyone in the vicinity. You can purchase new weapons from shops, or even steal from a foe in battle. Assassins Creed was a little weak in the combat section of the game before, but part 2 goes some way in addressing these shortcomings.

The user interface has a notoriety meter as well as enemy awareness indicators which help the players ascertain the situation they are facing, or due to face shortly. If you are caught or in danger of being overrun, you can lift up sand and throw it into enemies faces and you have other special combat moves to try and even the odds. People who love to learn all the moves will adore this game as there are a wealth of options for sneaky and full ‘ in your face’ attacks. Younger kids can just mash on a button and be relatively successful, but some situations later will prove very difficult – just the way it should be. The game rewards combat skill now, which is a great addition to see.

As well as the new combat moves and weapons there is also a currency within the game which adds another layer to the overall experience. As you complete specific quests or pickpocket people you get cash – and trust me you will need it. Eizo will get injured, and when he does, he doesn’t miraculously heal over time, those wounds will fester and need to be treated. You can buy remedies, armor, weapons and you can even upgrade your home – a lovely little villa in the countryside – when I plan on retiring to in later years. Inside the Villa you have access to a bunch of collectibles and secret items and you can also spend money enhancing the appearance which will reward you with bonuses. I would rather not detail it all, as I had huge enjoyment the first time I found all the little ‘extras’. Let me leave it by saying that if you love to tinker with items and unlock everything in a game, then this will keep you busy, outside the actual missions.

There are many missions in the game, and those important to story progression are marked with an ! mark – although you are never forced to take them on until you are ready. The design is great and you can happily play with ‘non critical’ secondary missions for hours, if you wish.

In regards to value for money, I would say this game is one of the best I have played in recent months, with the exception of Dragons Age: Origins. I completed Assassins Creed II in about 20 hours – the missions are for the most part, extremely entertaining, however there are a few which seemed more like filler content to me, perhaps I am being a little over critical however. I found that following a target, out of sight until he reached a specific location a little weary after a while and I longed for more of the action packed assassination missions. To be fair however, when I look back at the game as a collection whole, it would be rather hard to fault.

Assasins Creed II turns what was a very interesting but slightly boring first game into a fully fledged action game with enough variety to keep even the most attention deficit kids engrossed from start to finish. This game is at the same level I would class as the best Rockstar games which is the biggest compliment I can give it. As this is the second part of a trilogy I can only imagine what they have planned next – I can’t wait!

Gameplay
93

Huge variety on offer and enough to keep even the most easily bored people entertained.
Graphics
91
Almost faultless for both HD console platforms, however I long to see the PC version running on high end hardware.
Sound
94
The music is stellar – great voiceacting and score.
Value
90
Long single player campaign and a lot of side missions
Overall
94

One of the best games this year.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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