Retrospective: Assassin’s Creed 2 Review Xbox 360

Assassin's Creed
Renaissance man

After my  Assassin’s Creed 2 hands-on with Patrice Désilets over at Ubisoft’s Sydney headquarters, I later had the opportunity to review the game for NetGuide magazine.

Playing the game in the comfort of my own home, and not (badly) in front of the game’s creative director was a lot less nerve-racking. What’s amazing about the Assassin’s Creed series is just how much each game improves over the last. Whilst Assassin’s Creed was a very intelligetnly written game, it only really served as a prelude to the incredible gaming experiences that were to come.

Check out my review from the pages of Game Console, below.

The first Assassin’s Creed enjoyed a short lived period of media adoration, then the bubble burst. It was a monumental fall from grace, a media backlash seldom afforded to non-Tomb Raider games. Most agreed that the sandbox gaming environment was impressive, but wished the developer had spent more time on the actual game play. Does Ubisoft’s sequel, Assassin’s Creed 2, have the chops to fix the failings of its predecessor?

Assassin's Creed 2
Sometimes I fly away
Set a few hundred years after Altaïr’s adventures in the first game, Assassin’s Creed 2 transports the action to Renaissance Italy. This time you control the character of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, descendant of Altaïr from Assassin’s Creed. Unlike in the first game Ezio starts out as the ordinary son of a nobleman; a sequence of events leads him to take over his father’s secret life as an assassin.

The premise of the Assassin’s Creed games was one of the worst kept secrets in gaming history. The historical settings are actually the genetic memories of modern day bartender, Desmond Miles.  Using a machine called the Animus, Desmond can relive the lives of his forefathers, members of a guild of assassins. In order to progress the player must complete missions, most of which end in an assassination. There are also optional side missions ranging from freelance assassinations to, bizarrely, sorting out domestic disputes.

The game picks up from where the first left off, with Desmond, escaping from Abstergo Industries. Aided by Lucy Stillman, Desmond is lead to the modern day assassin’s makeshift laboratory housing the Animus 2.0. In the first game, the modern-day sequences contained a bit too much dreary exposition. This time the game dwells less in the present day and before you know it you are walking the cobbled streets and sneaking across the tiles roofs of the beautifully realised city of Florence.

Assassin's Creed 2
Under cover of darkness

Ubisoft have given players a lot more things to do this time, making the game a lot more interesting than its predecessor. The economy system is a welcome addition, although as a wealthy nobleman, you will find yourself quite affluent, so affluent that there is little point in pick pocketing someone for a few florins. Looting the corpses of the dead is almost equally pointless, except for finding the odd throwing knife or smoke bomb. The ability to buy weapons, armour and accessories is a great addition. Again the huge amount of wealth that you will amass means that it is only a matter of time before you can own it all. Hiring thieves, consorts and mercenaries is fun, but to be honest the game is not really taxing enough for you to actually need their help.

The controls take a bit of getting used to. You will get slapped around a bit until you learn to counter and evade. This time you have a few more tricks up your sleeve, notably a poison tipped concealed blade and smoke bombs.  A neat technique for dispatching guards, is to drop a smoke bomb and quickly stab each one with the poisoned blade, stand back and watch as they go mad swinging their weapons blindly before dropping down dead in front of the gasping onlookers.

Assassin's Creed 2
Let's fight

Graphically the game is stunning. The modern-day segments could have done with more work; particularly jarring are Desmond’s boss-eyed expression and Lucy’s extraordinarily huge mouth. Inside the Animus the graphics are breathtaking. The sandy, David Roberts inspired Middle Eastern vistas have been replaced by the clay tiled rooftops and cobbled streets of Renaissance Italy.

Ubisoft have crafted the ultimate conspiracy story and packaged it in something that is part game, part costumed drama and part history lesson. Assassin’s Creed 2 is the game that the first one should have been. It still feels a little designed by numbers, but as a complete experience Assassin’s Creed 2 is a solid piece of entertainment that that’s fun to play, with a plot that will intrigue and surprise you.

Score: 9.0/10

This review was originally published in the February 2011 issue of New Zealand’s NetGuide magazine.