Assassin’s Creed was not well received when released back in november 2007, gamers complained about the Sci-Fi plot, repetitive gameplay and clunky controls among other things. That’s not to say the first AC was a bad game, it just wasn’t a classic. So 2 years later on, can Ubisoft correct their errors and deliver a true classic?
The start of AC II is confusing at best, having not played the first title myself you are not offered any backstory to help you understand what will follow. I was completely lost when I found myself breaking out of the Abstergo facility because I was being used for my memories to only be strapped into another similar machine by another set of people. Either way the basic plot is you are
Nathan Drake Desmond Miles who is caught in an ongoing struggle between the Templar Knights and the Assassins. They are fighting for powerful objects from the past called the Pieces of Eden. My main gripes with the story is that it is overly complicated (definitely not helped by the ending) and the main character is voiced by Nolan North in exactly the same way as Nathan drake. fortunately you don’t spend much time in the present day (well 2012) and most of the game is spent in 15th century Italy as Ezio Auditore. This is a fantastic setting for a game, one that I have not visited before and enjoyed observing the Rialto Bridge still only made of wood, the Towers of Tuscany and operating Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions.
Unfortunately ACII contains the worst character in a video game since Zeke from inFamous in Shaun Hastings. There is no need for this character to exist. Really. He is there to explain the relevance of historical buildings, areas and artefacts but also has the worst attitude ever. Every time you leave the Animus to come back to real world I would be dreading having to hear him speak again. At a couple of points you are forced to talk to him which was painful at best, fortunately he is not in the game often.
Of course, the main feature of the game is assassinating people and whilst it does take a while for the game to get going to allow you to, once it does, its a treat. Ezio’s story is fascinating involving intrigue, trauma and vengeance (there is even a plot point for collecting all the hidden packages). Assassinating is a joy though and there is plenty of it to do, no two missions are ever the same either which just adds to the enjoyment. Some require you to listen to conversations as they are moving without being spotted, some require you to not be detected at all and some end up being one big long brawl with many comrades in arms. Its a joy going to each mission not knowing what to expect.
The controls are fluent but after the long playtime of well over 20 hours I still don’t have perfect control over Ezio. After playing inFamous and Uncharted 2 I must say the advent of a jump button seems silly. You hold down R1 to enter parkours/free-running mode which makes you climb any objects you run into, you then also hold X to run and jump. Mostly it does work but when you compare it to Uncharted 2’s nigh on perfect control scheme it can result in some mistakes. I also had a big gripe with Ezio’s turning circle, its massive like a truck. In Arkham Asylum it made sense when batman didn’t turn quickly because he was built like a tank, it felt right but as free-running nimble Ezio is just feels wrong and made quick escapes and manoeuvres more difficult that they should be.
The combat is satisfying, one hit assassinations are the headshot equivalent and they always feel rewarding when performed. The sword based fighting is satisfying with a lock on system but the counter-hit is far too easy to perform as you can just hold R1 to block and mash square until they attack. Fortunately the game stops you from getting away with this by introducing enemies which are unblock-able forcing you to adapt new tactics.
One of the biggest problems for ACII is that it was released after Uncharted 2. When it doesn’t control as fluently and the cut scenes are not as well acted and the general polish is missing you tend to just think it could of been so much better. Not every game can be a masterpiece like U2 but I just couldn’t help feel it could of been that bit better. The thing is ACII is not a bad game by any stretch, in fact its a very good game which feels fresh and original with its Renaissance period Italy. Its just not perfect but don’t let this put you off as Assassin’s Creed II is a killer game and well worth investing your time in.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Assassin’s Creed II provided by Ubisoft.
Written by: Trev
- Contributing Editor