11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Improvements all around,
This review is from: Assassin's Creed II: Platinum Hits Edition (Video Game)
Even with all the high profile games that came out this year and especially this fall, one that I seemed to want the most was Assassin's Creed II despite my hate/love with the original. Like many, I thought the original had a great concept, looked stunning and seemed to at least break the mold of action games only it got bogged down by repetition and an open world that wasn't quite as open as one would like and let's not forget those ****ing flags. Taking the complaints and suggestions from fans and critics into account, Ubisoft seemed to go all out in presenting a game that felt more bigger and better than the first game but then the crux of the matter is did Ubisoft just deliver what the first one should've been or actually went beyond? Well this game shows that there is legs in this series and whereas the sequel to the first one was inevitable just in terms of sales, this looks like it has the makings to be an actually worthwhile franchise as a whole and it starts here...with nitpicks I hope they fix.
Story: You once again "control" Desmond, a bartender turned captive by Abstergo Corporation who's using him to locate the Pieces of Eden, mythical artifacts tied to mythology and history. When him and technician Lucy Stillman break out, they bring him back into the past via a new Animus into the life of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, an Italian living in 1476. After his father and brothers are betrayed and executed, Ezio becomes an Assassin and takes to the streets of Florence, Venice and many other places to track down the conspirators behind his family's death and how it ties into Desmond's struggle in the future.
One thing I will say about the story is that 2 things: one, they definately changed the structure of the game and it's no longer repetitive and some missions do take a different take and give you a lot more options to proceed. Not to mention the story is a lot more engaging and while I was at times concerning the many, many names that pop up and figuring out who was the last dude I had to kill versus who's actually a friend, it's a more compelling story and when it combines mythology, paintings and historical photographs, it's a really cool storyline they got set up.
Graphics: Can't fault Ubisoft in the graphics department and like this, Far Cry 2 or Prince of Persia, they have a really great idea for amazing looking visuals and it goes right down to the architecture and I wouldn't be surprised if they recreated Florence or Venice perfectly. Character detail is good, animations during parkour are fluid and certain graphical details such as the "glitches" you'll occasionally spot look awesome. As far as actual glitches or bugs, I barely ran into any and if there was, I didn't catch them. My one complaint is that the "countryside" areas where it's more forest and meadows look a bit too barren and not really full so to speak.
Sound/Music: An absolutely stellar soundtrack with some really haunting and peaceful themes playing throughout and the more dramatic or action-y moments are nicely done. Voice acting as well is spot-on with many voice actors actually sounding like they're from the era and place as opposed to Altair's odd American-sounding accent and it's not the fumble that was Far Cry 2's voice acting. As far as sounds are concerned, everything works and the annoying comments when you climb buildings ("what's he doing, he gone mad?") have been toned down so that they're no longer heard EVERY time you climb something. Oh and I'd recommend playing with subtitles because characters have this habit of switching between English and Italian very frequently.
Gameplay: While the basics are the same, there's been so many improvements it might be hard to replay the previous game since you don't get access to the new parts. For one combat has been improved and counter kills have now given way to disarming opponents and using their own weapon against them, double assassinations, smoke bombs for easy getaways or poisoning them so they go crazy on nearby NPC's. Don't want to fight anyone and slip by unnoticed? Hire courtesans to distract them, thieves to lure them away or mercs to fight for you. Not to mention there's a lot more added missions with the familiar races but also there's assassination contracts, courier missions, beat-em-up parts where you pummel cheaters and many others. As far as collecting is concerned, there is some of that found in the feathers but there's only 100 as opposed to 100 in each city but then we have glyphs. Uncover a building and find an icon and you'll see somewhere on the building is a glyph, strange markings easily found by using Eagle Vision and scanning them prompts a really intriguing story about Subject 16 where you decode messages, find clues embedded in photographs are doing some riddle solving. While some are really taxing, they're kind of fascinating. Oh and found in Italy are assassin's tombs, basically a mixture of Prince of Persia-esque platforming sections and some combat where you'll uncover treasure; find all 6 and you'll get a cool gift as opposed to just an achievement/trophy and that's it.
Another added element is the idea of money. Remember those "please sir I'm poor and sick and hungry, just a few coins!" women from the first game? Well remember how you never actually had money to give her and you just had to push her away or if you were feeling devilish, stab her? Well now there is money (though no beggar women, though there's these lute players that get on my nerves) and they can be spent on upgrades such as better armor, better weapons, replenish your poison blades, smoke bombs, buy paintings or tint your cape. Buying paintings or upgrading your villa, a sort of central hub of sorts, will give you more money and like most sim games, depending on how awesome your villa is and the more visitors you attract, the more money you make. One element that isn't as successful is the idea of notoreity. Do more killing and bad stuff than the city can tolerate (which isn't much) and the guards will be more suspicious of you so while before they're a bit more suspect of you, at full notoreity they'll practically want to kill you on sight. How do you bring it down? Find posters that no guard would see, kill officials that don't exactly run that fast or bribe heralds and naysayers instead of...I don't know, roughing them up mafia-style and threatening to break their knees?
My one complaint about the game and it's a somewhat big one is the controls. I don't know if Ezio is too sensitive or he needs too precise commands but at times you'll find yourself swearing at him for doing something you never intended to do. He'll drop and hang from a ledge when you intend to jump, he'll run up walls when you intended to go into a door should your aim be off and most unfortunate, he can fall and sometimes to his death because he decided to jump off a building instead of up it. It's of course fun to do the parkour elements but to drop completely to the bottom of the streets cause of a missed jump or not judging the distance right can be frustrating. Oh and while it's a welcome change from Altair's snail pace, the parkour elements up a building are a tad unbelievable and athletic ability aside, you'd wonder how the hell Ezio can even climb half of this stuff at the speed he does. Oh but on that note? Ezio can finally swim and while he can't go underwater and dive like Mario, he can actually go in the water and even use boats as transports though rooftop travelling tends to be faster.
For those of you curious, I bought the Master Assassin's Edition so I'll detail what was in it. Found first inside of course is the game but it comes with a bonud DVD where you can listen to tracks from the soundtrack, watch trailers and developer diaries but the soundtrack looks slightly skimpy for a game this size and the "Part One" with no inclusion of any others bugs me. Oh and the developer diaries were far more numerous online than what we have here. Underneath that is the really cool artbook showcasing weapon detail, character designs and concept art for the cities. Still doesn't beat the Fallout 3 book for me but it's a notable one nonetheless. And of course under that is the Ezio figurine with some cool details and in a pose like seen on the cover. He's not posable but meh, it'll do. Included also in the game is 2 "bonus" areas: basically at a certain part in the game, an icon will appear on your map marked a "templar lair" and these are basically obstacle course type levels which'll yield a nice big cash sum at the end. Nothing completely awesome like new weapon or different armor but they're cool nonetheless. Also, in a welcome move on Ubisoft's part, apparently these areas will be made available for download sometime later as opposed to "either pre-order it or you'll never get it" offers given by other developers.
Is it my Game of the Year? Hard to say given the sheer amount of great games that came out this year but I'll say I definately enjoyed playing the game issues aside and would love to say a part III very soon.