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Not your everyday assassin

Jan 14, 2010

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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Assassin's Creed IIFinally! An open-world third person action game set in Italy during the Renaissance, with a storyline that involves everything from the ancient group known as the Knights Templar, to travelling through centuries-old memories using a machine that would fit perfectly in a movie like The Matrix.

That, in a very condensed nutshell, is Assassin's Creed II. It's proof that no one can accuse the developers at Ubisoft Montreal of rehashing the same old thing. This is not your average brainless, cliche-ridden AAA game.

It's a lot to take in, but that's just the tip of the iceberg in this grandiose sequel to the new IP that was released in 2007.

Assassin's Creed II starts off soon after the events of the first game, with protagonist Desmond Miles escaping from Abstergo Industries with the help of his friend Lucy Stillman. If you missed the first game, it can be summed up best by saying that Desmond is an ancient descendant of a group of assassins who is forced to visit past memories using a machine called the Animus, all in the name of helping Abstergo bring about the end of the world.

Heavy stuff, but it's that kind of subject matter that is par for the course in this series. The sequel has Desmond step into the cloak of another assassin, known as EzioAuditore da Firenze, who, after a wonderful hour-long setup, watches his father and brothers hanged in the middle of town after being betrayed.

Assassin's Creed IIIt's here that the adventure really opens up and players get a taste for what this game has to offer. Open world games are becoming more and more prevalant, so anyone who has played a Grand Theft Auto title will be right at home here. As Ezio, you're tasked with hunting down the men responsible for your family members' deaths. A much larger plot opens up as you finish missions, and you'll also travel to more Italian cities.

The main plotline is far from the only thing you have to focus on in Assassin's Creed II, though. There are countless other side quests you can complete at any point. You can do something as menial as collect gold from treasure chests, to something as thrilling as completing assassination contracts for people to earn extra money.

Though a lot of these side quests are in essense similar, there are so many of them that the game never feels repetitive, which is one of the original game's biggest detractions. Even collecting treasure chests can be a time-consuming challenge if, for instance, it's located behind a door that's being closely watched by several guards, or sits atop a building that's several stories tall.

The game autosaves after pretty much every mission and side-quest you complete, so it's all-too-easy to find yourself constantly saying "just one more thing" before it's two in the morning and you're contemplating calling in sick to work the nextday.

There is admittedly a learning curve to be aware of when you start the game though. The one and only significant downside to Assassin's Creed II is the controls. You'll often find yourself fighting between what you want to do, and what your character actually does.

Assassin's Creed IIThere are a lot of button combinations to master, even for the most seasoned gaming veteran. Heck, just to sprint you have to use the analog stick and two other buttons. Early on you're also likely to find yourself leaping off of the top of giant buildings when all you wanted to do was grab the ledge right beside you. Eventually you'll understand that less is better when it comes to moving Ezio, but it's a frustrating few hours up to that point. One can only wonder how many gamers will give up before getting to the good stuff.

Once you have the controls down pat though, it's a hugely rewarding experience. You'll be a master at controlling a crowd to do what you want, and when you want it. Being an assassin, you have to constantly be in the shadows as you stalk your prey. Sometimes though, you'll have to make your own shadows by causing a small riot by throwing cold hard cash on the ground, or maybe by sending a group of prostitutes to distract some guards.

And let's not forget being able to take out enemies two at a time by leaping from a hiding spot or hanging from a ledge and throwing an archer from a roof when he leasts suspects it. If you're going to be an assassin, you may as well have a little fun with it, right?

Fans of Ubisoft's Prince of Persia games are sure to find some similarities here as well. Ezio is a master at traversing buildings and rooftops, doing all sorts of swinging and leaping to quickly get where he needs to go, very much like the Prince. There are several assassin's tombs scattered throughout the game world that are set up to test the gamer's ability to pull off these moves. Though they can occasionally be frustrating, it's thrilling to pull off some insane stunts as you climb higher and higher on your way to your objective.

The game world itself was obviously painstakingly put together by the developers. This isn't just a few houses with a church thrown in along with some trees. This is a faithful recreation of cities like Florence and Venice, and for those who like to learn a little while we're playing (we know you're out there!), the game is full of interesting facts about historical people and places. It is always stunning to simply traverse the cities and see what you might find and where you might end up. There's nothing like making the climb atop the Giotto Campanile ... and then surviving a leap off of it.

Assassin's Creed IIThere may not be a multiplayer component to Assassin's Creed II, but with this much campaign content, there doesn't have to be. This game will suck you in and have you constantly coming back for more. Completionists especially will have a heck of a time getting rid of the hundreds of icons scattered across each city's map.

Assassin's Creed II is a masterful gaming achievement, plain and simple. The storytelling is much better than the majority of games out today, and the sheer amount of things you can do makes this worth its price tag.

Every gamer should try Assassin's Creed II. Just be prepared to say goodbye to your social life for a few weeks first.

 

Assassin's Creed II
Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
ESRB Rating: M for Mature
Official Site: http://www.assassinscreed.com

Rating: 9.5 / 10

 
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G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.