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Assassin's Creed II review



  • Recommended by TR
Assassin's Creed II


Our Score


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There was one gap in the original Assassin’s Creed that its free-running hero could never make it over: the gap between our expectations and the reality of the game. It’s hard to remember after such a savage backlash, but some aspects of the game were magnificent. The visuals? Undeniably stunning. The recreation of the Holy Land, and of the architecture of Jerusalem and Acre? Incredible. The environment-sensitive, realistic animation? Only bettered by Uncharted and its sequel.

And while not everyone liked the controls – the game practically plays itself is one complaint I’ve heard – they certainly produced a fluid experience of climbing and free-running that made clambering up walls and towers a pleasure, not a chore. Having spent some time this week playing Pandemic’s dumb but fun The Saboteur, I can’t tell you how much Altair’s swift, easy climbing and jumping is missed when it’s not there.

But then you get to the gameplay. The endless repetition. The creaky assassination missions. The tedious pick-pocketing, spying, menacing activities. The boring, frustrating combat. The spectacularly uninvolving modern day framing story. And let’s not forget such golden memories as “You dirty thief, I’ll have your hand for that.” I loved the first two hours, enjoyed the next three, then got progressively less interested as time went on.

Frankly, I wasn’t that excited about this sequel.

Here’s the surprise, then. Assassin’s Creed II is almost the opposite experience of Assassin’s Creed. It starts off looking and feeling like more of the same, hitting you straight up with the continuing adventures of Altair’s modern descendent, Desmond, and the mysterious organization Abstergo – the present incarnation of the Knights Templar.

Fairly quickly Desmond finds himself back in the Animus – the machine that enables him (and us) to relive the experiences of his assassin ancestors – and in the shoes of Ezio Auditore, the young son of a Florentine banking dynasty at the height of the Renaissance.

The depiction of the city is, as you might expect, breath-taking, the game capturing the stonework and tiled roofs we still flock to today with a painterly eye for light and detail. The behaviour of crowds and the general sense of a living world is an improvement on the original. Yet the gameplay still feels – in these early stages – uninspired. For the first hour we’re back in tutorial territory, so it’s fetch quests, simple fights and scavenger hunts all the way. What’s more, the game’s biggest flaw – the tendency of the intelligent controls to decide that you want to do something other than what you intended – rears its head pretty soon.

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Chris Beach

December 8, 2009, 5:37 pm

Loving this game so far, the thrill of climbing the massive towers! And I like the side quests, esp the tombs which are more climbing puzzles ala Tomb Raider than the rest of the games. The economy side is nicely done to, and having treasure maps is much better than hunting all over for flags. The 100 feathers is a more reasonable target.

Although I do think they could have a kept a bit more of the 1st with regards to the actual assinations, I liked the building up of my knowledge of the target before attacking, ok you didn't 'need' to, but it felt more real. Now its just follow waypoint and kill whatevers there.


December 8, 2009, 6:59 pm

1 dumb question, but does anyone know where that second screen shot on the first page takes place? The one with the boat frame. I've completed the main quest and don't recall seeing that location at all. Looks like Venice, maybe?

Also, whilst I really enjoyed this game, the controls are one of the most frustrating I've ever come across. The amount of times I've had a fluid free-running experience ruined, or a silent assassination blown because the controls have decided I ment to let go and leap into space rather than climb a ladder, for example, nearly drove me mad.

Finally, I think "Assassins" Creed is a bit of a misnomer really. Whilst I enjoy slapping a guard up the side of a head with a warhammer as much as the next man, it's not really very Assassiny is it? Most missions usually ended in either storming in or out of a location, sword swinging. You even lead a small army at one point! Less Hitman in Italy, more Ezio of War in places...

Other than that, the graphics are amazing, and Ezio is one of the most likeble characters I've played in a long while. He also looks THE MAN in that white robe/armour combo.


December 8, 2009, 7:01 pm

Absolutly loved this game, but then again I'm a huge fan of the original. Finished it not too long ago but still feel compelled to continue playing to get all the trophies and collectables. The story in the glyphs is an intersting pull and the ending is - without ruining anything - still a "WTF".... quite literally ;op


December 8, 2009, 11:15 pm

@TheEvilGenius: I would imagine it's the Venetian Arsenal Shipyard pre-order quest.


December 8, 2009, 11:48 pm

@EvilGenius - I remember seeing that shot in relation to the "ShipYard" addon that came with the special edition... Will probably be released as DLC at some point!

The game is awesome, I finished it on Saturday after 2 weeks of pure entertainment from it. I found the controls fine whilst playing through it, I don't remember one occasion where Ezio did something other than what I expected. Bizarrely though, once I had finished the story and started working on a bit of Trophy whoring, I started getting frustrated at his movements, particularly when trying to sweep 5 guards off their feet in one go!

It was especially nice having been to Venice just last year, given the time difference it was surprising how many parts of the city I recognised :)

Would be tempted to grab a copy of the original if there weren't so many other great games out already vying for my attention. It gets no better in the new year either!


December 9, 2009, 5:14 pm

I am finding this a bit boring, just like the first one only bigger, feels like hard work and with little enjoyment or sense of reward.

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