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Assassin’s Creed II

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Assassin’s Creed 2 is the follow up the title that became the fastest-selling new IP in video game history. The highly anticipated title features a new hero, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, a young Italian noble, and a new era, the Renaissance.Assassin’s Creed 2 retains the core game play experience that made the first opus a resounding success and features new experiences that will surprise and challenge players.Assassin’s Creed 2 is an epic story of family, vengeance and conspiracy set in the pristine, yet brutal, backdrop of a renaissance Italy. Ezio befriends Leonardo da Vinci, takes on Florence’s most powerful families and ventures throughout the canals of Venice where he learns to become a master assassin.Both fans and detractors of Assassin’s Creed will be pleased to know that the sequel fully addresses and ties up many of the loose ends from the last game. It picks up exactly where we left off, with the kidnapped bartender Desmond locked in his cell at Abstergo. This corporation is the modern-day face of the Templars and they’re after Desmond’s valuable genetic memories. The magic of modern technology allows Desmond to relive the exploits of his Assassin ancestors. His genealogy puts him at the center of a war between the Templars and Assassins.Assassin’s Creed’s Altair was an interesting character, but only for the stealthy order he represented, not because you ever got to know the man under the white hood. Ezio is far more appealing, for he’s not just quick with a secret blade, but he’s a fully realized protagonist. He isn’t at the mercy of the plot, but rather, the narrative evolves from his need to uncover the truth behind his sorrows. It’s the personal nature of the narrative that makes Assassin’s Creed II’s story more compelling than its predecessor’s. The few modern-day segments featuring Desmond pack a lot more punch this time around as well, and the conspiracies driving that story arc become a lot clearer and, as a result, more provocative. While the original ended on a vague and unsatisfying note, the latest chapter’s climax is downright electrifying.The Italy he inhabits is a character in and of itself, filled with visual and sonic details that infuse the world with life and elegance. The cities you explore–Florence, Venice, and more–are larger and more detailed than the environs of the first game. Citizens go about their daily lives, and they look authentic doing so. Merchants sweep the street in front of their shops; small groups stroll along, making conversation with each other; and courtesans smirk and cajole as you pass by. These folks aren’t cookie-cutter character models. They are dressed differently enough from each other and are animated so expressively that it’s as if the population would go about its business with or without your presence. More impressive are the cityscapes themselves as they unfold in front of you, inviting you to take in their splendor. This is an incredibly good-looking game: the lighting is sumptuous, the draw distance is vast, and textures are crisp. The PlayStation 3 version does suffer from some frame rate jitters, more frequent texture fade-in, and lesser color saturation. Both versions are still attractive, however, and apart from a few small flaws, you rarely get the feeling that visual compromises were made to make the game’s open world run smoothly.For better or for worse “stealth” games are defined by the Metal Gear series. Hideo Kojima’s vision of tactical espionage has extremely rigid rules about when a player is hidden and when they are plainly visible. Assassin’s Creed II breaks this convention, adhering more to the rules of a Jason Bourne movie, where quick actions and a dense crowd are the tools of escape. I find this version of stealth refreshing, more realistic, and ultimately a success due to the numerous options players have when navigating the city streets. The greatest beauty of Assassin’s Creed II’s exquisitely detailed environments is that you can run and jump across the rooftops with ease and climb the tallest towers to get a bird’s-eye view of the game’s glorious vistas. You control Ezio much as you did Altair, though movement feels a bit tighter and even more fluid than before. The game strikes an excellent middle ground between responding to player input and automating actions like leaping from one surface to the next, so it’s simple to leap about the city smoothly without worrying that you’re going to plummet to your death on the next hop. You’ll still encounter a few awkward moments here and there: simply walking off a ledge onto a rooftop a few feet below can still be bit clumsy, for example. But these moments are few, and in fact, you’ll pull off some awesome-looking moves without even trying. One of the many wonders of Assassin’s Creed II is that the cities look so natural that they don’t seem as if they were created for you to jump around in. Yet you might leap onto a wooden outcropping and find yourself skipping across a series of them, swinging and jumping with fluidity and style. Not only are there more opportunities for organic platforming sequences like these than in the original, but there are entire closed environments called tombs tailored to this kind of jumping.There are still hiding places like bales of hay and roof gardens in Assassin’s Creed II. They act as sort of “safe zones” that break a pursuers line of site. Ezio can even dive underwater for a limited time to hide from his enemies. But a more satisfying approach to dealing with foes is to divert them with hired help. Thieves, mercenaries and whores can be hired for a fee and directed at targets as living tools of distraction. Players can also toss money into a crowd to cause a small riot amongst the peasantry. This sandbox approach to stealth requires a bit of practice and it won’t always result in success, but when it does come together, it’s very rewarding. Blacksmiths aren’t the only vendors willing to take your cash. Assassin’s Creed II sports an entire economy. You earn florins by completing missions, looting treasure chests, pickpocketing strangers, or stealing from dead bodies and covered Venetian gondolas. Your main source of income, however, will likely be your uncle’s villa, which serves as your base of operations and is a tourist destination. The adage “You have to spend money to make money” is true. You can spend florins on villa upgrades, such as purchasing a brothel or a church, and in turn, the villa will earn more florins from tourists, and you can take the profits from a chest inside the living quarters. You can then use your florins to dye your garb, purchase treasure maps to point out the locations of all those glowing chests, or buy a new pouch to hold more throwing knives. Most importantly, you’ll want to visit a doctor, who not only will inform you that a weekly bleeding is part of a healthy lifestyle , but will keep you stocked in health packs. That’s right: Your health does not replenish on its own any longer, so you’ll need to make occasional visits to the doctor to replenish your inventory.It’s difficult to nail down parts of Assassin’s Creed II that aren’t satisfying. Sections that border on frustrating are either fleeting or optional and some of this “extra” content is downright excellent. For example, Prince of Persia fans will revel in the hidden tombs that require dexterity, patience, and expert timing. It’s rare to find a sequel to an ambitious but flawed title up the ante the way that Assassin’s Creed II does. Ubisoft Montreal has successfully addressed the failings of the first game while simultaneously raising the bar even further for itself. The end result is a game that takes the free-running and huge cityscapes of its predecessor, then adds in a host of action/RPG elements that combine to form a much deeper and more satisfying game, and a surprise frontrunner for the best of 2009.

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Written by youngmanmaster

November 19, 2009 at 11:52 am

Posted in Games

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