Game Review: Assassin's Creed II (Xbox 360)
Along with many gameplay and style tweaks, Assassin's Creed II brings to it's self-created genre many new tweaks, like slicker free running and two hidden blades instead of one, but are these changes enough to keep fans of the series and newcomers happy? Read on to find out.
So, what is new? Plenty. For one, combat with Assassin Ezio Auditore de Firenze is a better experience when compared to the first game, even if it still is a bit awkward. The combat itself looks great, and again it is very satisfying to perform a kill in complete anonymity with nary a look from bystanders going about their day. However, when facing multiple enemies, the fighting combos felt disconnected and unnatural and downright slow. Think Batman: Arkham Asylum's fighting style with less refinement. Again, overall the experience is more pleasing than its predecessor but it does get repetitive. Although, much like a hidden blade, that's where Assassin Creed's upgrade system comes into play and stabs into your body when you least expect it.
Keeping things fresh, you can buy different swords, knives, upgrade Ezio's armor and you can even change the color of his fancy pants outfit. When I first encountered this system in the game, I let out a long groan as I prepared for the game to focus heavily on getting the latest unlocks, as opposed to a focus on enjoying whatever weapon that I found badass at the moment. Thankfully, this isn't the case. Sure the later unlocks do have beast stats, but you won't have any problem completing the game with any combination of weapons, even if their stats are low. You want to use that stiletto knife as opposed to the Sultan's Knife because you think it looks cooler to stab someone in eyeballs with it? Go right on ahead, the game won't punish you for your decision. Assassin's Creed II is cool like that.
Also refreshingly new is a better variety of side missions. Granted, most of them involve stabbing someone in the eye socket, but the premise behind each mission varies differently and will have you perform different tasks. There are several, option jumping puzzles to complete, too, which I think adds a nice touch to the conspiracy ambiance of the game.
I really love the above image as it perfectly depicts one of my favorite changes made to the Assassin's Creed series: the visuals. The first game have some beautiful vistas, but it was only available in shades oh despair and yellow. That's all gone, replaced with retina pleasing colors and awe inspiring lands to explore like Renaissance Venice, Florence, and Tuscany.*
So is this the perfect sequel? No. The controls could use more polish and Ubisoft Montreal needs to get the memo that we gamers know how to use the in-game camera. There are options to change how intrusiveness of the AI camera, but it cannot be completely disabled. I've failed puzzles too many times because of this unintentional, fake difficulty and it's frustrating.
In the end, Assassin's Creed II is yet another masterpiece by the awesome guys and gals at Ubisoft Montreal that engrosses you in it's thought provoking story, has addicting and fun gameplay and makes you gawk at every detailed environment, even if you are busy stabbing guards in the eye sockets. I just can not get over that, it truly is disgustingly awesome. So do you think Assassin's Creed II is any better than the first game? Let me know in the comments section below!
*That shadowy place? That's Florin. You must never go there. It's a very dreary place and when compared to the other cities, it's quite dull.