I remember flicking through a few videogame magazines and chuckling to myself when I noticed that almost every publisher releasing games onto the Xbox 360 decided to re jig their dates when it was announced that Assassin’s Creed 2 was being released. The reasons they gave varied hugely, but reading between the lines it was simple- “Anyone with an Xbox 360 or PS3 is going to be playing Assassin’s Creed 2, not our game.” And it seems the publishers where right. Assassin’s Creed 2 has received rave reviews, so much so that when it was first released I didn’t bother doing a review for it. That will now change. I’m not going to rail against the popularity of Assassin’s Creed 2, it’s one of the best games currently available on the Xbox 360 (my console of choice), but I would like my turn to offer my opinion on it.
Assassin’s Creed 2 is much like the first game in that you are actually playing as Desmond, a mild mannered bar tender who is reliving the memories of an ancestor called Ezio Auditoré de Firenzé- a renaissance Italian noble- through a machine called the animus, so that he can learn how to be an assassin to fight against the evil templars in both time frames. Confused? Don’t worry, it actually makes a lot of sense, especially if you’ve played the first Assassin’s Creed.
A big problem I find with games on the Xbox 360 is that sequels seem to do one of two things. They either change everything we loved about the previous games and turn them into heaving piles of manure, or they do nothing and the publisher effectively just releases the same game all over again. Halo 2 anyone? Assassin’s Creed 2 manages to break that cycle, and I was very happy to review a game that took the original, removed everything we didn’t like about it, changed things that didn’t work, and then added a bunch of new stuff to enhance the general feel and game play- all without destroying that unique feeling that gave Assassin’s Creed 1 a welcome place in my Xbox 360 library.
Gone are the stupid side quests, replaced instead by side quests that are always varied, and actually rewarding to do- no more trying to find every templar in the holy land! Ezio can swim, something Altair loathed, the combat while still based mainly on wait and counter has been spiced up by the addition of a few new enemy types. Assassin’s Creed 2 has regular guards, as well as seekers, brutes and agiles, all of which need special tactics to beat. A new notoriety system means that it’s worth trying to keep a low profile, a collection of new custom weapons (some more useful than others) expands on your options for killing your targets, as well as adding a wonderful new RPG / sandbox element to Assassin’s Creed 2., which includes upgrading your villa and home town to get extra money which can then be spent on upgrading weapons and armour. It’s all a bit pointless (the best armour in Assassin’s Creed 2 is free), but it provides a nice break from the normal game play if you just want to unwind a bit before your next storyline mission.
The storyline is something that lets Assassin’s Creed 2 down a little. I tend to prefer games that have a strong story element, and this usually comes through when I do a review, but I didn’t mind so much in Assassin’s Creed. The problem is that it’s very hard to follow the conspiracy, new characters are thrown in left right and centre without warning, and then drop off the face of the earth, you’re often not sure what role the people you’re trying to kill have played in the story, and the time jumps just make everything confusing. At least this time Desmond isn’t leaving the animus every 15 minutes- you only drop out of it twice over the course of Assassin’s Creed 2 (unless you count the ending).
There’s not much more that can be said on Assassin’s Creed 2 in all honesty. It’s an excellent sequel, building on the strengths of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, and fixing its weaknesses. Ubisoft is going to be under high expectations for Assassin’s Creed 3 though, so let’s hope they can keep this pattern up.
So, to summarize, Assassin’s Creed 2 is an excellent addition to any Xbox 360 / PS3 owner’s library, unless you’re looking for something to complain about. It has a few minor flaws (nothing that jumps out in your face though), but on the whole it’s one of the best games I own.
The only way Assassin’s Creed 2 could be better was if it was my current favourite Xbox 360 game- Batman: Arkham Asylum. And yes, that is a link to a review. Not lemonparty.