Assassin's Creed II
Review by Exodist
"Better than the original but still not that great."
Assassin's Creed was a game that looked good from the initial trailer and announcement, and unfortunately fell flat on its face. Whilst not necessarily a terrible game it was incredibly repetitive and had quite a few niggling problems about it stopping it from being a great game. Taking these criticisms into account for Assassin's Creed II, Ubisoft have undoubtedly made a game better than the original.
The storyline has a somewhat better attempt to it. The game is largely told through the animus. The game starts with you assuming Desmond, and eventually you end up in the Animus 2.0, controlling Ezio, from Italy in around 1480. The actual dates are kind of hard to keep track of. The date comes up at the start of each sequence (more or less the games different stages, there are 14 but 2 are actually missing, later appearing as DLC) but it's not entirely recognisable. The game actually features plenty of time skips, and I only realised this right near the end of the game when Ezio said it was ten years since... referring to events from a much earlier sequence. For the last sequence he also grows a beard, giving us a more visual time skip, although of course no one else ages at all. At any rate, the storyline within the animus isn't too bad. They gave our hero some personality, and it's definitely a better attempt than the last game. The game actually focuses on Ezio a lot more than Desmond, with only a few sections in the entire game being devoted to him. That said, from revelation at the end of the game, the story advances a little bit, making me interested in what will happen for the next game. By no means is the story a driving force of the game, but the story is still a better attempt than the first.
The gameplay has mostly stayed the same. There are a few additions and some changes, but it largely stays the same. They merely made the game less repetitive. The side-missions that you were forced to do in the original in order to assassinate your target is merely that: side-missions. These give you money, a new addition to the game. Money is simply used to buy medicine, equipment, repair your equipment, and renovate your villa. Instead, you merely follow story missions, exactly like Grand Theft Auto, in sequences. This makes the game a lot more enjoyable since, as mentioned, it is fairly varied. However, I didn't particularly enjoy these still. It wasn't repetitive, but I found some of the missions a little tedious and some were just boring, at worst they felt like a chore to complete. I just didn't enjoy a few of the missions and felt this really let the game down. That said, I still enjoyed the first half and it was only a few parts in the second half that I found boring and tedious.
My other main problem with the game is the awful combat. The game emphasises stealth over anything mostly, however there are plenty of points in the game where you're forced to fight. The problem is fights take an absolute age to do. You're usually put up against five or more guards at a time, and they just block or dodge your every attack. The game boasts different weapons to use, I chose the Mace. Maybe it was a little more powerful, but I honestly noticed little difference between that and the sword. Combat is simple: you stand in the middle whilst your enemies usually surround you and just sort of stand there. Eventually one of them will try and attack if, you can counter (only works when their health is really low), dodge or strafe etc, dodging usually being your best bit since you can usually get a hit in. If you just go ahead and attack them, they just block your hits, sometimes you'll be getting plenty of hits on them, but they still take a while to kill. It doesn't help when the combat system is so boring; I just avoided every fight I could because I just couldn't bear the system. This really stings later on when you're more or less forced to fight in a lot of situations.
This game is also one of the few to actually make me laugh out at the graphics. They're absolutely rubbish, from memory they're basically the exact same as the original. A few of the character models aren't too bad; Ezio's clothes look quite nice for example. However I personally felt a lot of the environments were really boring. The cities to me were fairly bland and apart from Venice nothing much really distinguished them, plus the lighting used in the game always seemed to favour a dark mood, whereas I remember a lot of bright lighting used in the first game (I generally prefer brighter graphics). The animation is what did it for me though. Near the start of the game you meet Leonardo and some guards take him outside for some questioning. They then throw him on the floor which was bad enough (it was totally unconvincing), but then we're lead to believe the guards were kicking him. The sound effects aren't used in a convincing manner at all and the actual animation is completely off, making me laugh. At a later stage you enter this sort of town square area and a man attempts assassination on a target. What you then see is more bad animation, a knife go into a guys neck, to which red promptly appears on his face. Yes, it just suddenly appears all over him, the whole fight was done poorly. At times you won't notice it, but largely in cut-scenes the animation is really poor and makes for some funny situations. I'm not quite sure if that's bad or not though.
I enjoyed Assassin's Creed II a lot for the first half of the game. There is a fair bit of variation but only with a larger number of mission types than before; toward the end of the game that variety runs out and you start doing very similar missions to what you've already done. The graphics are pretty terrible as is the combat system. However, it's still fun to just run around the rooftops and do some stuff. It's a fun game at times, but still flawed. It's definitely a better attempt than the original, but there is still some work to be done for the next game.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 07/06/10
Game Release: Assassin's Creed II (EU, 11/20/09)
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