Review by Star_Sage
There is no Truth, Anything is Permissable, Except Scavenger Hunts
Okay, let's get this out of the way first, despite all the muck I'm probably going to rake up, I will say, play this game. The story is engaging in a way that is becoming rarer and rarer these days. Yes, you don't give to drens about the NPCs you're supposed to, mostly because you can't interact with them outside of the main story, but at least you can feel for the new lead, Ezio, even more so than you could for Altier. After all, you get to see him born, that's a major plus, if somewhat gross. Now, just like everyone else, let's divide up the review into sections, as I'm always willing to follow along behind the crowd.
Now then, I'm one of those guys who will always say, graphics don't matter. I can go back to any previous generation and say, damn that looks cool, if it does, even if it's not full 3D textures and stuff. Yet, in some cases, the graphics do draw you into the experience of the game, and AC2 is a good example. Honestly, this type of cinematic game just wouldn't have worked more than 3 years ago, when the 7th gen systems came out. The way the characters move, the subtle things like the changing of a walking stance, the expression of surprise on a guard's face as you jam your blade through his chest. All in all, the graphics here are done well. A few things do niggle around a bit and keep it from being perfect. For one thing, the faces of the people have some real oddities to them, and some dead pan moments when you know they're supposed to be humanizing them, but really, they feel wooden and shallow. Still, with blood coming out of woods well, and some very nice variety to even NPC models, this is probably one of the best looking games in a while.
Everything, from the sound of the water, to the cries of the people is just perfect. They spared no expense on anything here, and I loved every minute of it. Theres nothing here that doesnt sound exactly as its supposed to, and theres not a lot of music in the background to make it feel like youre playing a game. Instead, only music of minstrels in the world intrudes on your ears, and otherwise they captured the feel of the old time cities well. And then theres the voice acting. I would take off a point here for the random Italian thrown in, that sometimes breaks the flow of the scene itself, but in the end, they use it pretty well, and the voices themselves fit whats going on. All in all, great stuff.
Story(Inside Animus 8/10:Outside Animus 5/10)
This is one of the few screw ups in the game, though thats probably going to be a matter of opinion with most people. In the end, one of the best things the first game had going for it was the Duel World story, with two going on at the same time. This one only really has one story, that inside the Animus, and the Real World with Desmond is kinda just hung there on that, with nothing really to do with it. That sucks in the end, as it means theres the sense hat what youre doing has no effect on anything, as the Animus story, while real, happened years ago, and thus, youre not really effecting anything, youre just watching something happen. Thats okay as far as it goes, and the Animus story is in and of itself, quite well done, with great characters, and some real fun missions, but I for one, would have liked to play with Desmond a bit more. As for the story of the Animus, you play Ezio, an Italian boy from a nice family, who goes through a great betrayal and aims to take revenge, and along the way stumbles into a great mystery. The characters this time around are more real world based, with some nice info about them in the database that you can view, or not at your choice, and though this one opts for only a minor twist at the end that you can see coming a mile away, its still put together well, with only a bit of discontinuity happening at times as the chapters this time happen over a period of years, which feels weird when Ezio acts like only weeks or even hours have passed since his last storyline kill. Still, clocking in at more than double the time of number 1s, this ones story is nothing to sneeze at, and the ending is suitably cryptic and epic at the same time.
This is where AC1 had the most problems. The combat was, being kind, rather unpolished. Being unkind, it was craptastic. Thats where this one polished itself the most, with a new counter-kill system, several styles of combat, and more than a bit of fun things to do. Sure, the scavenger hunts are kinda lame, but at least for all but one item type, you can see them on the map screen, making them way easier than in other games of this type. There are problems, of course, but then, there always are. In this case, its the platforming. One of the few fun moments, if frustrating, in number one was going around two leaping from roof to roof. Not only are the cities in two by far bigger, but theres also no running around a large map to get to the cities. Instead, they all connect together directly, making for some fun times, though sometimes the ways around town are frustrating and slow. The problem here comes from the auto lock on, which, when running about two, is easy to use, and far better than doing this type of thing manually. Yet, when, in a few of the puzzles, you want to do some percision stuff, you end up falling on your butt, because the computer wont let you leap in the right way. Luckily, it doesnt come up too often, and usually you recover to right before the platforming started, but its still frustrating. However! This is where the controls take a big dive, running requires you hold two buttons and push the analog stick. Not a major problem at first, but as you go on and on, it begins to wear on you, that they didnt just use one dash button, as one of the buttons is only really used to make you run fast, while the other speeds that up, or is used in context sensitive spots. Why the medium speed run? No idea, I never found it useful in the slightest, and hope they go back to a one button run system for the next game. Still, that loses them some major points right there.
A good game, and a nice waste of your time. This little thing will run you into 20 hours just going through the main story, with a bit tacked on for scavenger hunts and stuff. All in all, I say this is a good game to play, and highly encourage it.
Rent or Buy?
Rent it. Sadly, this game, despite showing you the chapters in order, in the DNA part of the menu, lacks a new game plus or story replay that would have made going through the game again fun. Having to start fresh every time, and with the story being merely kinda there, it doesnt beg for a replay, and thus, you only need to beat it once, though when AC3 comes out, youll probably need to rerent it, to remind yourself of the plot points.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Assassin's Creed II (US, 11/17/09)
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