While looking through some old gaming articles of my own, I found this old review, one of the larger cornerstones of my youth in this field. I decided I would post this today, and let you guys seen into my mind through the ages. Enjoy!
Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls gather ‘round for the main event of today’s show. Murder, Deception, and high flying acrobatics are all elements you shall see just behind this hard plastic green case.
We re-enter the world of Desmond Miles, a mild mannered bartender we met in the first installment of the Assassin’s Creed series. Having been kidnapped by the baddies at the evil conglomerate Abstergo, he was originally being forced to relive his ancestors’ memories to find mythical items called the Pieces of Eden. Said to have untold powers, the company was searching for these items in an attempt to gain power over the masses.
After finding what they were looking for with Desmond, they leave him locked in the same place he originally awoke in and is still in that room attempting to escape. That is where we rejoin him as Assassin’s Creed 2 begins. Picking up shortly after the first game ended, we are given a quick verbal recap from Desmond about the last game and the moments after we saw him last. Not long after his recap, he is whisked away by a familiar face from the first game, Lucy who ran the machine in which you could view your ancestors’ memories, the Animus. Once in a safe position, you are told that to be able to keep going on with the mission at hand to fight the bad guys, you have to once again jump into the past and see the world from your ancestor’s eyes.
This time you enter the thoughts of one Ezio Auditore, coming from a wealthy Italian family during the Renaissance period in Italy. This time around, you are introduced to Ezio from an early age. The infant stage to be exact, in which seeing your character born you then participate in a tutorial of the buttons but from what the child would do not the grown up character. It seemed pointless to have us walked through that step too early on. Flash forward to teenaged Ezio, where we then get to participate in an better utilized fight tutorial, also giving us our first look at the monetary system and doctors that are new to the series.
This monetary system is something that proved to be interesting, giving us a chance to buy a cavalcade of items that we would get to use over time. From new weapons, upgraded armor, throwing knives, to paintings and poisons, anything could be bought within the crowded city streets. You are even able to buy colors for your armor, which have no true effect on the games direction but seem to be popping up everywhere in gaming now days. Another addition to this assassin’s wardrobe, however, can affect certain aspects of the inner game.
Capes you acquire along the way flashing certain crests or colors can affect how guards react or follow you around the city. Depending on which epic city you happen to be in, certain capes will keep guards off your back more than normal while others will make you an enemy as soon as you walk through the gates. This leads to some pretty embarrassing moments in which you forget the cape you have on is fine in one town but the next one hates it so you start getting attacked without any warning.
The guards new AI seems to be a big improvement from the last one, watchful but not as quick to kill as they once were. Then again they did seem to gain a new power which allowed them to see through walls when I was trying to sneak around them, which caused some rather frustrating moments making me wish I hadn’t ran out of smoke bombs the fight before last. They did, however, prove to be much more of a challenge to take on than in the first game. This is due to the new rank system they have, slow and strong- fast but unprotected in most regions. Working together they can corner you and use all their strengths against you in perfectly timed movements.
These new challenging guards give you a chance to test out new skills you have as well. If you time your dodge right and have learned to do so, you can pull your enemies weapon from their hands and take their life in the same moment. Other times you can just steal the weapon from them and leave them defenseless, for the time being. If an enemy you have already slain dropped a weapon close by, the one still standing and weaponless can just as easily pick it up and jump right back in the fight.
The kills and parry kills are just as gory as they were in the first one, integrating what worked in the first during fights while taking away the parts that just made us scream and throw our controllers “What the hell was that?!”. With the addition of new combat styles, certain weapons have more powerful attacks, sending enemies to their death without so much as blinking. Just another perk of being an assassin, we always find new ways to kill someone no matter the weapon.
The story of the game is a deeply dramatic tale of a constant struggle against you and the world around you, forcing you into seclusion but never truly giving up. The developers gave us a fresh look into how an assassin comes about, which we see the birth and the full transformation of one in Ezio. The story just draws you in, making you feel his pain, wanting his personal vengeance, just keeping you on the edge of your seat all the while. The time period was the perfect choice for this story, filled with high amounts of culture, diversity, and corruption all around. To match the story, the developers studied this era, down to the architecture and the specific art that existed at that point in time.
The graphics were met with mixed emotions, however. The cities and the buildings within that we get to climb upon all have a vibrant and breathtaking feeling that just emanates off of them. Counting in the sheer size of some, right down to the distinct craftsmanship of every nook and cranny, we see just how much effort went into designing each city. Even as you go about rebuilding your safe house/personal city, you watch as they change from beaten down caved in buildings to beautifully designed visions of a most celebrated past. Now as you travel beyond the walls of these cities to the rural areas, we begin to see a decline in effort when it came to looks. It looked realistic in its own way, don’t get me wrong but in my eyes it seems like they became sloppy after they worked on the buildings. Listing the graphics all over, Nature comes in second to last, just below costumes design.
The truly sad graphical error in this game is the character models. From Desmond to Ezio, facial expressions and just the body in general looks misshapen or just not right in the least. The characters look just like if a 4 year old with add designed a custom face model in a game such as Mass Effect or Fallout 3, it just looks plain wrong. Within the first 10 minutes of the game the lips were not even in sync with what the voice actor was saying. The models in the next installment, if they plan to do one at this point, should take a better look at how they do their own characters. If they keep this up, I’ll be wishing everyone put a hood over their face like Ezio and the other assassins do.
Within the game’s world are a small list of collectables which are thankfully scaled down from the last games high number of flags and Templars. Changing from the high numbers of 50 flags in almost all town regions, the same amount within the outer kingdom with 60 addition Templars to kill to a steady 50 Feathers and 8 Statues makes them a fun quest of seek and find rather than a chore that we will eventually give up on. Attached to these collectables are achievements that are well founded for finishing your collection, as well as doing appropriate but difficult stunts or tricks during normal gameplay. Giving the player an incentive to go back and play the game again to test their skills and increase their gamer score.
All in all, throughout the game, you get a sense that what we are doing has all been done before. Only feeling as if the system was given a minor facelift, we feel like the new features are great, a bigger variety of missions to do in game, but peel back the layers and it’s the same thing we had last time. Which isn’t bad, but it isn’t an all too positive thing either. The first go round was new and exciting, just rinse and repeat won’t help to keep interest if anymore sequels are in the works.
My final opinion of the game is that personally I enjoyed the game about the same if not more than I did the first one, but after a while it felt all too familiar. Technically I was impressed in some areas but very disappointed in others. All around I had mixed emotions but I did come out enjoying it and would recommend this is one for your collection.