Review by antHraxz
"Can Someone Please Show Ubisoft How to Make Natural Looking Eyes?"
Assassin's Creed was a divisive game. You either loved it or you were pleasantly disappointed. I belonged to the latter group. While the game did a great job of recreating a highly believable rendition of 12th century Holy Land cities such as Jerusalem, Acre, and Damascus, I felt that it did not fully capitalize on it. The problem was that while the cities were great and the story was interesting, the main game was often boring with very repetitive gameplay and frustrating fighting mechanics. Fast forward two years and now we have Assassin's Creed 2. Did Ubisoft right most of the wrongs of the first game? Yes they did! Do all of the characters still have weird looking eyes? You bet!
This is one thing that the first Assassin's Creed excelled at, and that pedigree has not dipped one bit. The game picks up right after the end of Assassin's Creed as you are once again thrust into the shoes of Desmond Miles as he tries to unravel the mysterious history of the assassins through the memories of his ancestors. If you haven't played the first Assassin's Creed, you may be a little confused as to what is going on so either buy it for cheap or read up on the plot on Wikipedia.
When it comes to the setting of the game, Renaissance Italy is just more interesting of a place than Crusades-era Holy Land was. The biggest reason is simply that I've at least heard of most of the peripheral characters and landmarks that are featured in Assassin's Creed 2 as compared to those that are in the first game. I, and almost everyone else I assume, has heard of Leonardo da Vinci and what he contributed to the Renaissance. However, I also know about the Medici family, the Pazzi conspiracy to murder the Medici family, as well as most of the buildings and landmarks in the game. By possessing even a faint knowledge of most of the historical figures and sights in the game, I found that I was drawn in more by Assassin's Creed 2 than I was by the first installment. This point is purely based on your own knowledge. Someone that may be more knowledgeable about the Crusades and less so about Renaissance Italy may find him or herself having exactly the opposite opinion. No biggie. Speaking as a Westerner, I assume (when you assume you make an ass out of u and me) if you asked a normal American about the Renaissance, he will at least mention Leonardo. However, if you were to ask him about the Holy Land during the Third Crusade, you'll probably be hearing crickets.
No one can argue that the first game was a graphical marvel when it was first released. Though it did have a rather clumsy frame rate, it was still a really pretty game to look at exhibited great artistic style. Assassin's Creed 2 is no different. The cities are absolutely wonderfully rendered and the artistic direction is authentic to the architectural style of Renaissance Italy. The frame rate still seems kind of sluggish to me at times but I'm not a frames per second professional so I could very well have no idea what the heck I am talking about. Even if the frame rate does seem to be somewhat lethargic, it is completely acceptable considering the scope of the game. The draw distance is ridiculous so f you get onto a high tower and swing the camera around, you can see the entirety of a city from end to end and even see eagles flying in the background. It is absolutely breathtaking.
Up close, the characters are also nicely detailed. The clothes of the wealthy during the Renaissance are often intricate and finely detailed and these intricacies are recreated nicely even if there may be some little exaggerations here and there. Lastly, I must bring this up since this review's title mentions it. The eyes of some of the characters still look to be a little off. Take Desmond for example. He still seems to have eyeballs that stare in different directions. It's creepy. Minor gripe, but is it that hard to straighten his eyes out?
Not only does Assassin's Creed 2 look amazing, it sounds just as good. While there isn't much music to be heard, it isn't necessarily a bad thing. Having music would probably ruin the atmosphere of the game as you are sneaking up on someone you are going to killing. The sound effects and voice acting are what takes the cake here. Everything sound effect just sound like what you would expect they would. Sword fights sound realistic as metal clash with metal and your footsteps sound authentic as you scurry along on tiled rooftops. Everything is very nicely done.
Voice acting is also top notch. You can set the voice acting to four different languages including Italian so if you want an even more authentic experience you can play through the whole game in Italian. Luckily, English subtitles are available. When played with English voice acting, the characters use a mixture of Italian and English with an Italian accent. It all sounds nice and there are specks of humor sprinkled in.
Unlike the first game, Assassin's Creed 2 does not have any of those repetitive spying missions. Whereas most of the missions in the first game involved simply tailing a mark, waiting a bit by sitting on a nearby bench, then sneak up from behind and stabbing him in the back, the missions in this iteration are a lot more varied. It makes the game a heck of a lot less repetitive and it helps to draw the player into the game more. The variety of missions also means more incentive to use the verticality of the level design to your advantage as you can either take the direct ground route or take to the rooftops and complete your objectives like a real assassin would.
New additions include the ability to purchase armor and weapons as well as attaining a villa where you can earn money and store your purchased goods. It gives the game a nice RPG element though it sucks that you can't change weapons and armor on the fly and can only do so by revisiting your villa. It's realistic I guess.
The controls are exactly like they were in the first game so it could take some time to get a hang of the contextual nature of it. Once you get used to it becomes second nature. Combat and counters are much easier to perform this time around. You no longer need pinpoint timing in order to pull off a counter. It's great because you can now defend yourself from enemies instead of having to hightail it and hide in plain sight by sitting on a bench. The only complaints that I have against the gameplay is that sometimes it still feels unresponsive. It may be caused by the occasionally sluggish frame rate but it isn't enough to dampen the fun of the game.
Assassin's Creed 2 is a major improvement over the first game. This is how a sequel should be done. Realize what the faults of your first game were and correct those wrongs while refining what worked well. It is a lengthy game with a beefy story as well as countless distractions such as treasure boxes to loot, perch points to synchronize, and feathers to find. Fifty-one trophies will also give trophy hunters incentive to do everything there is to do in the game.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/19/10, Updated 04/19/10
Game Release: Assassin's Creed II (US, 11/17/09)
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