Sunday, January 31, 2010

Video Game Review: Assassin's Creed 2

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Third person action adventure
ESRB: M - Mature
System Played on: Xbox 360

Be warned, thar be spoilers ahead...

Assassin's Creed 2 starts off right where the first game left off, with Desmond Miles held captive by Abstergo Industries who are using his DNA memory to learn where his ancestors have hidden mysterious artifacts known as Pieces of Eden. Abstergo plans to use the power of these artifacts to save humanity, by enslaving the entire planet. After being rescued, by undercover assassin Lucy, Desmond joins a small group of assassins who plan to use the Absergo Animus, the device that allows Desmond to relive the memories of his ancestors, to train Desmond in the deadly arts of the assassin. During his training Desmond learns more about the Pieces of Eden, the ancient feud between the Assassins and Templars, and ultimately of an event that is an even greater threat to mankind, one in which he is destined to play a pivotal role...

The second installment of Assassin's Creed is improved in every way from the original; whereas in AC the game play became tediously repetitive and boring, AC2 has greatly increased the variety of missions, weapons, tactics, enemies, and goals. AC2 thankfully also removed the pointless "find the 500 hidden flags" side quest and instead had several smaller collections to find, each with a reward that is actually useful in the game. The storyline feels much less contrived this time around with a main character, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, on a good old fashioned blood vendetta to even the score with the men who killed his father and brothers. The big reveal at the end is a bit "out there," but I still cannot wait for the third installment to wrap everything up.

Game play is solid and smooth, and there is enough variety of scenery and environments to keep me entertained throughout. However, they could have cut down on the number of missions in each town just a little; by the last three or four side quests in each section of the cities I had become bored and was "just trying to finish." I was very thankful that Ubisoft avoided the mistake of forcing the player to start over from scratch with the character. Immediately upon starting the game you are climbing buildings and fighting street thugs with the same techniques you spent the entire game of AC to learn. The game definitely earns the M rating with foul language, spurting blood, and graphic fighting (although, pulling out the warhammer and bashing in a few heads is quite satisfying.) My only quibble is with the camera angles in several of the interior locations; usually you have control over the free flying camera, but in several locations the camera will suddenly snap to a fixed location, often during one of the timed Parkour runs. This lead the character control to suddenly change orientation and was very frustrating when trying to make difficult jumps. This was the only time I would lose my immersion in the AC world, thankfully it was rare. I would also have liked the ability to change the button layout; I really wanted to move the 'free-run' button to one of the front bumpers as it was difficult to manipulate the camera and hold the A button at the same time.

The bottom line: I highly recommend this game; I was captivated from the start and had to be forced to put down the controller each night and I couldn't wait for the kids to go to bed to start again the next. While playing the original Assassin's Creed is strictly not necessary, it really helps to understand much of the story and gives the player a head start on the controls.

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