Review by Suprak the Stud

"A Creed Worth Following"

The first Assassin's Creed game felt a little like taking a Ferrari out for ride through a Wal-Mart parking lot. The engine was there for something great, but the game didn't really seem to know what to do with it and it just ended up with a lot of wasted potential. Assassin's Creed II is more like taking out that same Ferrari for a ride down the highway and then leaping off a ramp through a ring of fire. The same basics are there, but this time they actually used them to do something more interesting than having Altair collect flags and doing the same three missions repeatedly until you complete the game or Altair dies of boredom. Essentially, Assassin's Creed II is just the first game, but with all the boredom that was wedged in between the interesting bits carefully extracted and eviscerated in a furnace of fun. The game is fun to play, with so much content bulging out in every direction that if the first game stood next to it, it would begin to blush due to its inadequacy. Assassin's Creed II is one of those games I can recommend to anyone without any sort of qualifiers, because if you like videogames and fun it is worth your time to check out.

In Assassin's Creed II you play the role of Ezio Auditore, a man living in Renaissance Italy who loves punching jerks and sexing ladies. Well, that really isn't quite true. You play the role of Desmond Miles, who plays the role of Ezio in a machine that lets him access the memory of his ancestors using his DNA because a story only about an assassin living in Renaissance Italy didn't test well enough in their focus group comprised of crazy people and drug abusers. Desmond provides the same role he did in the first game, where he serves as a conduit and a framing device for the much more entertaining portion of the story and pops up throughout the game just in case things in Italy start getting too interesting. The core of the story is one about maturation and vengeance, and following Ezio during his quest for revenge against those who wronged him and his family addresses some fairly interesting issues and somewhat complex themes. In fact, if the game could just focus on Ezio as he grows and discovers the philosophy behind his fellow assassins and his enemies, I would say that I actually enjoyed the story. The cohesiveness of the narrative is a bit jumbled at times, and it does feel like we are missing some fairly important things when the game jumps around a bit in time while Ezio closes in on his next target. Still, the portions focusing on Ezio actually develop a fairly intriguing narrative, and it is a shame they mucked up parts of it with some inane crazy babble.

See, beyond Ezio's story is a far more complex tale involving nearly every famous person that ever did anything important in the history of ever. Digging deeper into the mythos through some sidequests or through breaks in Ezio's tale that come in the form of Desmond and his pals literally interrupting the narrative reveals a bizarre overarching story and the fact that at least one of the writers has stopped taking his lithium tablets. The story goes out of the way to connect nearly any important person from the last couple of centuries to either the Templars or the Assassin's Guild in something that reeks of bad conspiracy theories that populate weird parts of the Internet. Desmond himself seems to be in some sort of dystopian future, where the Templars control most of the major industries and are close to consolidating power on the entire world. I don't know what the exact purpose of this framing device is other than to possibly connect all of the games in the series, but there seems to be some effort focused on this to perhaps impart a sense of grandness to the story and make it so that it isn't just a game about an assassin from the Renaissance out for revenge. Unfortunately, even though the game is trying its hardest to create some sort of intrigue, I never really found it that interesting or compelling, and whenever the game started babbling on about how another historical figure was a Templar and mumbling about secret codes and organization, I just sort of sat their patiently nodding my head, the same way you do when you are cornered by an elderly relative who is trying to tell you about how the government is poisoning the water supply. Some people might find the complicated narrative about secret Templars and assassins through time interesting, but I found it took away from the actual plot in the game, interrupting the interesting bits so it could come out and scream that the government wouldn't be stealing its thoughts today.

However, if you can ignore the sporadic bouts of temporary insanity, Assassin's Creed II does have a fairly interesting narrative to tell you. The characters are all well written and nicely developed, and Ezio is a far superior lead than Altair in the first game. Ezio is actually a fully actualized character, with fears and faults, and he develops into a stealthy, talented assassin only through much training and many years of work. It is actually interesting to watch him develop from a brash, immature young man in the early portions of the game to a confident, focused (and still somewhat immature) individual by the time the game concludes. I would say he is a significantly more interesting character than Altair, but the game does a great job characterizing Altair as well. Through a series of letters you find throughout the game, you get a far greater insight into the character of Altair, and this game does a better job developing Altair through these letters than the first game did throughout the course of the entire game.

It isn't just the main characters that are well designed, as the entire cast stands out compared to the somewhat generic fare that crops up in a lot of games. The supporting cast does have a somewhat annoying habit of disappearing after the chapter they are featured in, and while there are a large number of decent supporting characters, none of them really gets much characterization beyond the couple of missions they are featured in. Still, the dialogue is well written and even the minor characters tend to be fairly well actualized with discernible personality. The writers actually did a decent job incorporating historical figures into the story in a way that actually makes sense and doesn't feel like they were shoehorned in to prove to their fifth grade history teachers they were paying attention. Leonardo Da Vinci actually does more than show up and make references to accomplishments you could verify on Wikipedia, and he is an actual character with unique quirks and personality facets. The cast as a whole is fairly strong, even if there are a couple of characters I couldn't pick out of a line up when trying to identify which insignificant character made me do one specific mission.

The villains are interesting again this time around, but actually aren't quite as captivating as the cast from the first game. The first game did a good job building up each of the characters before their assassinations and giving them little monologues after their death scenes to expand upon their motives and ideas, but far too many of the villains this time around just seem to do stuff because they are evil. The main villain is particularly guilty of this, and he just seems to scowl and mutter typical evil guys things in his quest for money, power, and a large enough woodchipper to fit all the kittens he has taken from the houses of orphans into. In fact, almost all of the later villains are just sort of generic filler that seem to have been put into the game just to give you more targets to go after. The early batch are not only better developed, but have actually wronged Ezio in some major way that needs avenging with extreme prejudice. While the other guys are part of the same evil group and are undoubtedly doing evil things, you only hear about these things second hand by one of the nerd guys on your team that is always giving Desmond bits of history whenever things start getting too interesting. It is sort of interesting hearing their backstory, but typically by the time you hear it you are already on your way to murder them which really doesn't give the game very much time to characterize them as anything other than a corpse. Still, even though their individual histories might feel a bit rushed and for a couple the writers thought "he is evil" is enough of a motivation for him to do stuff, it is at least an interesting group of villains with a couple of fairly memorable baddies.

The core of the gameplay is essentially unchanged from the first game, with runny sneaky stabbiness comprising the majority of the game. The game is broken up into chapters, and the main focus of each chapter is typically assassinating one or more unlucky blokes who have happened to make the mistake of wronging a man who kills people for a living. The actual assassination is usually only one part of the chapter, with the remaining portions revolving around finding your target and taking the necessary preparations to ensure that the assassination goes smoothly and you don't end up jumping out to attack some poor shrubbery by mistake. The first game made the mistake of every assassination unfolding the same way, with the same three or four missions always preceding the assassination itself, and the whole thing ran at such regular intervals that I could set my watch by it. The variety is significantly improved this time around, and the action unfolds in such a way that it isn't just the assassination missions and a bunch of dull filler. The surrounding missions are at the very least entertaining, even if it is still the actual assassinations that steal the show. This time around though, they feel like a suitable opening act for the assassinations, while last time they felt like Katy Perry had decided to open her concert with a fifth grader playing hot cross buns on the recorder. There is just an undeniable amount of fun to be had in sneaking around on your target, unseen, leaping out and taking him down before he can even scream "not my good throat!" and making off before any of the guards can even pick up their weapons. The essentials of the gameplay here are just incredibly solid and undeniably fun, and if you enjoy the sneaky stealth that has been featured in numerous other games, Assassin's Creed II is definitely worth checking out as it polishes it beyond anything featured in most games.

Again, what makes the game so fun to play and the gameplay so effective is how well everything controls. Ezio employs the same freestyle running featured in the first game, and having Ezio run up the side of a building, jump off into a pile of hay, and then scamper off down a side street to escape the sight of the guards is easy to perform and entertaining to control. Everything is fairly intuitive, and moments after the tutorial explains the controls to you, you should have a full grasp of how to scale even the tallest buildings. And unlike some videogame protagonists, Ezio isn't particularly picky on what to climb. The levels seem to have been designed with Ezio's skill set in mind, meaning that every ledge, pole, potted plant, and slow moving old person can be scaled and scampered across in order for Ezio to reach higher ground. The levels complement the gameplay perfectly, and getting from place to place is both enjoyable and straightforward. There are a couple of new moves thrown into Ezio repertoire this time around, including quickly running up a wall and then jumping to the side for more distance and a leaping climb to allow Ezio to get to hard to reach ledges or well hidden Christmas presents on the top shelf. Neither move plays a particularly vital role in your exploration, but they still do help fill some holes in the moveset that were missing last time around. The control scheme is just as good if not better than the one featured in the first game, which was already pretty solid.

The controls for combat are far less enjoyable, if only for the fact that they aren't as entertaining or fluid as the ones for actually getting from place to place. The combat is highly reminiscent of the combat in the first game, in that hopefully you were able to sneak up on your target and stealth kill him otherwise things are about to get boring. The core of the combat focuses on countering your opponent's attacks, and walking into a crowd of guards and randomly slashing is a good way to get your body aerated by puncture wounds. Instead, if you just hold the block button down, fifty guards could be trying to stab you and you'd still manage to block all of their attacks and have enough time to yell rude things about their mothers. And by hitting the counter button while blocking during an opponents attack, you trigger an instant kill attack animation that is fun to watch as it is deadly. So battles tend to get pulled into these long, drawn out affairs as you whittle down the opponents by countering at the right moment and waiting for the last couple to realize they aren't getting paid enough for this and run away with their greaves soaked in urine. Because of this emphasis on defense and countering, the fights themselves can get a little boring and redundant, and later on in the game I found myself just running from the battles because they just aren't worth your time. Enemies eventually develop some resistance to the one hit kills which slows down combat even further as now you have to counter four or five times to get the guys to go down for good.

Still, while the combat is a bit mired in mediocrity, the series does make some notable improvements to make the combat at least a little more appealing. Ezio has more moves at his disposal, with different animations to accompany each one so you don't get too bored watching the same attack over and over. You can also grab and throw or disarm your enemy this time around; each method of attack has its utility and can help shorten the fight. As soon as the enemy is on the ground, you can instant kill him using one of your weapons and end the prolonged battle of Red Light, Stab Light that you had been taking part in. And by stealing their weapons, you can use their weapon if it is something useful, or you can drop it and attack with one of your better weapons now that they have been weakened somewhat. It still is sluggish compared to the way the rest of the game controls and the combat is a bit mired in tedium, but it is somewhat enjoyable in short doses and there is at least a bit more variety this time around.

The gameplay is actually even further improved from the last installation, in part due to the introduction of a bevy of new items and attacks. Altair from the first game controlled kind of like a near sighted man holding a machine gun, in that you had an incredible tool at your disposal but lacked the functionality to actually do anything with it. You had the hidden blade, but could only use it when you were standing, right next to your target, and had filled out the appropriate paperwork at the Department of Assassination and Political Murder. Ezio is far less particular about when he can use his hidden blade, and the times that work best are NOW and PLEASE LET ME DO IT AGAIN. Due to some tweaks, you can now hide below your target and use your blade to pull them over the ledge, hide in a bale of hay and wait for your target to walk by so you can stab him and pull him in, or use a death from above attack where you leap out and land on your unaware target blades first. These might sound like minor tweaks, but they greatly improve the overall quality of the gameplay, giving Ezio many different ways to go about killing things. They also do a great deal to make Ezio feel more like a master assassin, and hiding in a bale of hay for a soldier to walk by before deftly snatching him unseen and pulling him into the cart with you never gets old. These additions makes everything feel more fluid, and there is no longer that awkward transition moment where you have to pop out of your hiding spot to get your target, giving him time to make eye contact with you, wet his pants, and yell.

Ezio also has a lot more tools at his disposal to complete his missions. You can use smoke bombs to temporarily blind the guards, or throw money on the ground to create a distraction. The money throwing also acts as a tremendously effective "leave me the hell alone" button to get rid of the annoying minstrels that follow you around wailing and playing awful music like the Renaissance equivalent of Nickleback. Ezio's hidden blade also is modified to allow him to deliver poison to his targets when he is in close range, causing them to go into immediate fits of random sword flailing, hitting all the other guards around him as a result of the game programmers having no idea how poison actually works. While this might sound useless, because why stab someone a little bit and let them die a minute later when you can stab the same person a lot a bit and just have them dead now, it does provide a really useful distraction and can allow you to sneak into buildings unseen while the other guards try to figure out what is going on and why their friend is suddenly attacking invisible demons. Even blending is improved, and you can hide out in groups of people and then jump out when ready to strike. You are even allowed to hire different groups of people, using prostitutes to distract the guards or hiring mercenaries to do the fighting for you. All of these new items, combined with a greater variety in weaponry available, creates for far more interesting gameplay that the last game, which basically was just parry and counter until everyone around you was dead or your thumbs started to cramp. There is more depth to combat this time around, and leaping from above to kill your target and then throwing down cash to create a crowd to slow the guards' pursuit is tremendously satisfying no matter how many times you do it. The variety also prevents the game from becoming too routine, as you are always learning new attacks or techniques to keep the frequent assassination mission fresh.

In fact, perhaps the game goes too far in supplying Ezio with cool new toys, because there are actually too many tools at Ezio's disposal this time around. At one point, you end up acquiring a gun, which really sort of defeats the purpose of the fun sneaky stabbiness the game is built around. Once you can just start shooting guys, the role of assassin just seems to be undermined a bit because now years of training and exercise can be replaced by any putz who has two eyes and a trigger finger. The gun works well enough, but you have to hold down to charge it and standing around with a gun pointed at people in a crowd is a good way to attract the attention of every guard on every gondola in Venice. The gun just feels awkward to use and completely out of place with the rest of the game, and as a result you'll most likely use it for the one mission your are forced to and then switch to the better weapons from there on out. It isn't just the gun that has this problem, as there are a handful of weapon types that are either almost entirely ignored by the game or redundant to other weapons with only different attack animations. You can get trained on poleaxes and clubs, but you really only can steal those from the guards and by that point you might as well just stab them with one of the many weapons you already have at your disposal. Having Ezio steal a spear from the guard is a lot like having a fireman steal a watering can from an elderly woman, because Ezio already has superior weapons at his disposal. All this added variety isn't a bad thing by any stretch, but with so many weapons integrated into this game it feels like some of them did not get fully developed and were only thrown in to add even more content.

Which in and of itself is bizarre, because it wasn't even like the game needed more content added. Assassin's Creed II is stuffed to the bursting point with content, and it is like someone trying to close their wallet after they've shoved fifty hundred dollar bills in it because they thought all of their twenties were getting lonely. The first Assassin's Creed felt almost empty beyond the story missions and it must have been because Assassin's Creed II snuck into its house and stole all of its minigames and additional content. This time around you have an entire city to manage and build up which improves each time you sink more money into development. Your town will go from a derelict, abandoned ghost town occupied only by drifters, drunkards, and people who found Detroit too crowded and clean to a thriving city filled with commerce. You improve the city by sinking more money into it, and you can build up shops to give you greater deals on the merchandise or various other building likes churches and barracks that don't do anything but increase the value of the city. You can also improve your base mansion either by buying additional weapons and armor to display or by buying different paintings that you can hang upstairs in the hallway or gallery. There is something innately satisfying about improving and building up your base of operations in a game, and while Assassin's Creed II takes a minimalist approach to the subject it is still fairly entertaining while it lasts. Unfortunately, while building up your city is fun from at least an aesthetic standpoint, it doesn't really do much. You put more money into the city and as a result, it gives you more money back, so in turn you can put more money into the city. It is a nice little distraction, but it really doesn't have much depth to it.

Beyond simple city building, however, Assassin's Creed II has copious amounts of other content actually related to the gameplay itself. Beyond the story missions, you are treated to a bevy of side missions that themselves dwarf the content in the first game alone. These vary in entertainment and significance to the plot, with mission themselves altering between minor assassination contracts to further weaker the Templars and beating up unfaithful husbands because apparently you have nothing better to do. I don't know why the spousal abuse minigame was included, since you have plenty of actual targets to find and kill, but there are like five or six missions where you need to go find some woman's unfaithful husband and knock in their teeth in front of a crowd. Towards the end I got really bored with these missions, and I would just assassinate the husband right after the beat up mission was completed. While the game would yell at me, I feel like this was more the wife's fault, because you honestly shouldn't be hiring assassins for missions where you don't want the target dead. It would be like hiring a taxidermist to watch your pets, and then being surprised when you returned home and found Spot's head adorning your mantel. The wife just went and hired the most notable assassin in all of Italy to go and teach her husband a lesson, so she honestly shouldn't be surprised when he shows up to the house in more pieces than he left in.

Beyond these minor quibbles though, the side missions are enjoyable and help flesh out Assassin's Creed II in a way that the first game didn't even come close to. There are races, assassinations, beat up events, and deliveries to add in some distractions between the story missions. I felt that the first game desperately needed some added content, and I would have been satisfied with more assassination missions to help round out the game, and their inclusion helps the depth of the game immensely. You still have the runny stabby sneaky fun offered in the main assassination missions, but this time around you have around fifty other minor targets to go and kill at your leisure. Sure, they might not be contributing to the downfall of society like the main targets, but these guys are typically still doing something bad or at the very least have an unreasonable amount of overdue fines on their library card. The races and stuff are nice as well, and while they are somewhat simplistic, they utilize the controls nicely and help provide a nice change of pace from all the throat slicing you've been partaking in all game. If I did have a complaint, it would be that a lot of these missions feel fairly redundant. If you've beaten up one unfaithful husband, you've really beaten them all and punching a guy in a green shirt has the same amount of satisfaction of punching the guy in the red shirt during the next missions. Even the assassination missions start to drag a little bit, and these minor ones just are not as well choreographed as their story based counterparts. That isn't to say that they aren't fun, and many of them at least have a fairly unique or novel approach that can be taken to get to your target. However, a lot of them end up sort of blending together and they really fail to provide the same smug sense of satisfaction you get after stalking one of the bigger targets and leaping out at just the right moment for a kill.

In addition to the multitude of content this time around, the game also refines some of the other hiccups that popped up in the game, and for the most part these changes improve the overall quality of the game. Perhaps the most significant improvement is the fact that guards are not on instant high alert unless you give them reason to be and you can move around the cities at a reasonable pace without drawing the attention of every guard and his dog and his dog's fleas to you immediately. Now the system has been tweaked so guards only get suspicious if your notoriety gets too high. Small crimes and murders and various things that society typically frowns upon can increase your notoriety, but doing things like paying off town criers or ripping down wanted posters can lower it. It isn't a significant change from the last game, but does make movement through cities far less cumbersome as you can actually move at a decent pace without violating the very strict no running rule all the guards adhere to. There is also a much improved travel system that allows you to get from place to place in city to city far more efficiently, and by going to any of the travel stations in the game you can get to any other for a minor price. Additionally, the main character is no longer water soluble, and unlike Altair, if Ezio gets into water he decides that swimming is a more viable alternative than immediately drowning. These sorts of minor changes just make the game even more accessible than it already was, and getting to where you need to be is no longer a burden. The game also does a better job bringing the cities to life by including more significant landmarks and including a feature where someone outside the Animus provides you additional information on people or places. It helps give greater context to some of what is occurring if you do happen to be an expert on European history.

While I've spent this entire review so far mostly throwing roses at the game's feet and proclaiming it the Face Rocking Champion of whatever year it was released, I wouldn't be doing my due diligence if I didn't take some time off from rose throwing to heave a few bricks in its direction. The game is mostly great, but it does suffer from a few notable flaws that drag it off of Da Vinci's flying machine and back down to Earth. One of the main complaints I have is that this time around the assassination missions in the main story take several steps back from those in the first game. This might sound like a minor issue, but when your entire game is based around assassinations it become a fairly big problem. The first game set out missions to force you to gather intel and plot out the best path of attack and retreat for each of the assassination missions, and while it did get repetitive after a while it managed to make each of the actual assassinations even more enjoyable. Studying the map to find out what path to take because one of your contacts had told you a couple of guards in that area had a particularly bad case of depression and would be crying and cursing their loneliness made you feel that much smarter when that route paid off and you managed to off your target, paint your name in his blood, and run out before the guards even realized how poorly their quarterly evaluation would be affected by what just happened. This time around, too many of the assassinations are a complete joke, and the extent of the planning seems to be, "hey, just go stab that guy." There are a couple of mission where they don't even allow you to get a jump on the target and force you into some combat, which is like a MENSA representative insisting that he doesn't want to compete in a battle of wits and would prefer if it was altered to arm wrestling. And then you have a couple of targets that you need to only chase down to kill, which is beyond disappointing because they are both like fifty and about one bad fall from needing a hip replacement anyway. There is one target that you literally walk out in the open and shoot, which almost feels like cheating. Sure, a tactical nuclear strike might have been the easiest means to kill this guy, but it is far less satisfying than actually using your assassination skills to go and get him. There are still a couple of really nicely designed missions, like the one where you invade a supposedly impenetrable fortress surrounded by guards and off the guy as he is trying to go through his dresser to get his underwear because he knows you are coming, but these bits are unfortunately in the minority and too many of the missions are just too basic or simplistic to be rewarding.

This sort of feeds into a broader issue the game has, in that it is just too easy to get through the game and there is no real impediment to your process. Ezio feels like a racehorse people entered into a race with a bunch of donkeys, and he completely overwhelms the competition in this game. This first game suffered from a similar problem, but in plotting your various assassinations you at least felt like you were combating a force more powerful than you. This time around, most of the assassination missions are fairly straightforward that don't require too much planning or execution, and the combat is basically just waiting around and countering when the attacks occur. Even the final mission fails spectacularly to provide any real challenge, and the final fight is hilariously one sided. I don't want to get into specifics, but it would be like if Halo ended with Master Chief getting into a wrestling match with a geriatric fat guy. The A.I. is improved somewhat and the guards aren't complete morons this time around that can be tricked by you bowing your head and holding your hands together, but they still are extremely easy to escape, hide from, or just sneak up and kill if you are in a particularly devious mood. Obviously, the mechanics in this game are geared towards accessibility and it is sort of hard to build challenge into combat when your character has a one hit kill button. Still, if the layout of some of the missions or the specifics of some of the assassination missions were altered, there would have been ways to implement challenge differently that accounts for the gameplay mechanics. The lack of challenge doesn't affect Assassin's Creed II as much as other titles due to the way the game is built, but it is still disappointing to get through the entire game without so much as a Band-Aid needed.

From an aesthetic standpoint, the game looks and sounds pretty good. The visuals are nice, although close ups on some of the faces reveal that some of the characters might have had a stroke and a bit more work could have gone into character animation. The environments, however, are well detailed and they not only serve a functional purpose as a means for Ezio to get around the city, as they are nice to look at as well. A lot of work has gone into detailing some of the buildings and recreating Renaissance Italy and it shows. The voice acting is also fairly well done and the whole cast does a fairly nice job in bringing the scenes to life. Usually I take the time to point out a couple of laughable performances here, but Assassin's Creed II really doesn't have any. It isn't the pinnacle of voice acting by any means, but all the performances are in the average to above average range and it adds some nice drama to some of the scenes. Additionally, all the sound effects and music work well for the tone and theme of the game. The various bells and whistles are all well done and help give the game a cohesive feeling and contribute to the fact that the game just feels well polished.

This review ended up being longer than I initially intended, but that is only because there is so much worth commenting on. There is enough game here for it to usually be divided into two separate games, and the breadth of options you have at your disposal is impressive. Despite the numerous toys and tools you have at your disposal, the game controls beautifully and runny sneaky stabby fun is just as good as it was in the first game. And Assassin's Creed II remedies the problem the first game had of not having anything to do in the huge sandbox world it provided you by giving you all the pails, shovels, and swords you could possibly want to make a sandbox fun. This is pretty much a much more polished, enjoyable version of the first game in the series which was already pretty enjoyable to begin with. Still, it isn't perfect and there are a couple of notable problems, including much weaker assassination missions, somewhat dull and repetitive combat, and a difficulty that never bothers to show up. The frame story is still that weird blend of silly and stupid that even goes beyond the silliness and stupidness of most videogame plots. Still, despite all of these issues, Assassin's Creed II is still genuinely fun to play and one of the titles of this most recent console generation that I would have to classify as a must experience for just about anyone. Perhaps if further sequels spend some time refining what is already here it might be one of the all time greats, because while the first game felt like taking a Ferrari out on an empty parking lot, this game is getting close to taking a Ferrari out on a highway so cluttered with toys that it is getting hard to move.

Assassins (THE GOOD):
+Fun, unique gameplay with an emphasis on stealth
+Everything controls fantastically; easy and enjoyable to get Ezio from place to place
+Lots of different tools at your disposal to carry out your assassination
+Added variety in stealth kills and gameplay options prevents game from becoming routine
+Copious amounts of sidequests with no shortage of enjoyable things to do
+Interesting story with well developed characters
+Cities are well designed from a functional and aesthetic standpoint
+Smoothes out a lot of the minor issues from the first game to make the experience even more enjoyable

Templars (THE BAD):
-Main assassinations are not as well choreographed as the first game; too many are either too easy or not well executed
-Combat, while improved, still feels a bit clunky and relies to heavily on counters
-Not much difficulty at any portion in the game
-Some of the side missions can get redundant
-Framing device is still poorly written and kind of silly

Minstrels (THE UGLY): The stupid minstrels always seem to show up when you're trying to do something, and appear to have started hunting in packs. There were times when three or four would all surround me and start singing things offkey, like the Renaissance version of boy bands. If you bump into one you can knock their instrument out of their hands, but unfortunately there is no button prompt to take it from them, smash it against the ground, and tell them to shut the hell up. Maybe in the next game.

THE VERDICT: 8.00/10.00

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 06/13/12

Game Release: Assassin's Creed II (US, 11/17/09)

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