Xbox 360 Review: Assassin’s Creed II

Is everything still permitted?

The original Assassin’s Creed was the perfect example of how to launch a new IP. Make it fun, yet simple and make it flawed in areas so the sequel can sort them all out. But, can Ezio fix the problems of the first game?

If you played the first Assassin’s Creed, you’ll know that the story comes with a twist. You don’t just play as an assassin in the old days; you play as Desmond Miles who simulates memories from his assassin ancestors through history thanks to a simulation program called the Animus. It’s kind of like entering the Matrix, so basically…Desmond is Neo (well not yet anyway).
The sequel picks up a few weeks after the first game ends where you finish the path of Altair. Lucy, who befriends you in the first game, decides to bust you out and take you to a base with other assassins. From there, you enter a new Animus and a new ancestor by the name of Ezio…

Ezio Auditore da Firenze is young Italian nobleman. He’s a free spirit, impressing every one and never shying away from the ladies. But his life is changed when his family is betrayed and he swears vengeance on those who have wronged him. Donning the now infamous hood, Ezio starts to learn the way of the Assassin. Ezio’s story of family is consumed by vengeance and conspiracy in Assassins Creed II as you scale the heights of the beautiful, yet brutal, Renaissance Italy.

The story of Assassin’s Creed II topples that of the first game. You feel more connected to Ezio because of his thirst for revenge against the Templars. The first game was criticised a lot by being too repetitive and combat being too simple. Has this changed for the sequel? Oh, most definitely. There are a wider variety of side missions like assassinations, races, fighting to do, but there’s a lot more besides.
After a while, you’ll come across your family villa and over time, you can upgrade areas of it with money you make from missions or find in treasure chests. As you upgrade, you’ll get a steady source of income that will come in handy for buying new upgrades such as armour and weapons. You can also buy health packs that you can use at any time…money plays an important part in AC2, it can be also used to hire groups of mercenaries to fight for you or courtesans to distract guards so you can access areas that are off-limits.

There’s a bigger variety of weapons in AC2. You still have your sword and assassin’s blade, but you can get hammers, poison blades and even a concealed pistol. Even better, you can actually pick up enemy weapons and use them in battle. Enemies are a lot tougher this time around…some fall victim to the counter-attack, while others simply deflect this and fights can go on for quite some time.

Having recently gone back through the original game, one thing that bugged the hell out of me was the sheer number of collectables. There were hundreds and they were really difficult to locate, luckily the sequel is a bit more forgiving…there are only 100 feathers and 30 codex pages to find for achievement glory. Well, technically you don’t get an achievement for getting all 30 codex pieces…but you need them to complete the game (that’s the only semi-spoiler you are getting).

There’s also 20 glyphs hidden around the cities and can be found by using Eagle Vision. Each of these glyphs open up puzzles that you must solve in order to get clips from a secret video from Subject 16, the clips don’t make much sense at first…but when you get the last one, they are all complied into one movie and that was a serious case of “WTF?” It’s worth doing just for that, although I know videos of it have leaked on the net already…There’s quite a funny moment shortly in the game where you are saved by your uncle and Ezio looks confused as to who it is, then he says “Its-a me…Mario!” which made me laugh and question if Bowser is a Templar, a funny concept when you think about it…
Set during the Renaissance, Ezio makes a friendship with Leonardo Da Vinci who gives him upgrades and even a flying machine for an assassination mission. Da Vinci is an interesting character who helps Ezio a great deal through his quest for vengeance…

Has AC2 done enough to sort out the problems from the first game? For the most part, I would have to say yes. While it’s not perfect, it does feel like a vast improvement and I thoroughly enjoyed playing it all the way through. The real star of the game is Ezio, but places like Florence and Venice look absolutely stunning and incredibly realistic. Character models are a lot better, although facial animation can look a bit odd at times.

Voice-acting is superb and the story continues to add mystery to the story of Desmond. What is his connection with his ancestors? Well, I guess any questions we have will be answered in Assassin’s Creed III and probably raise some more questions for the next game after that.

The Verdict

Assassin’s Creed II is the near-perfect blend of platforming, combat and exploring. It improves upon its predecessor in every conceivable way to make a stunning sequel. Ezio’s story is more engaging than that of Altair’s and he’s more likeable. The combat could do with a bit more attention, but that aside…the game is just outstanding and deserves to be played by all.



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