Assassin's Creed II - PS3 - Review
You could spend many hours wasting time in Assassin’s Creed II, and not once will it feel like a waste. There are numerous side missions and distractions that can – and inevitably will – keep you from sticking to the main goal, which is always noted on the map with an exclamation mark. Like the original, Assassin’s Creed II is a big game that’s made up of several little objectives. But unlike the first, this time around there is very little room for boredom.
Some people use environment-mimicking camouflage to hide from their enemies. Ezio, the game’s hooded anti-hero, takes a different approach, using whatever – and whoever – he can find to stay under the radar. This goes deeper than sneaking through the shadows, and is more expansive than hanging from the ledge of a cliff that, should you fall, will be much more painful than a leap of faith into a six-foot pile of hay. Assassin’s Creed II enhances your ability to sneak around with heightened awareness, starting with the power to immediately gauge your level of disguise.
Any group of people – even a group as small as two – can be used to blend in. No, you won’t suddenly disappear or become transparent. But in this game, enemies only see the things that stand out. While standing in a crowd or walking with a few people, enemies are not likely to notice your presence. It’s easy to know for sure if they will or not because the color of Ezio’s clothes – along with the group he’s using to blend in – will fade out, turn slightly gold and highlight the ground whenever he is completely hidden. If no one is around, Assassin’s Creed II gives you the option to hire a wide range of groups – including prostitutes that can be used to distract the enemy – to surround Ezio as he makes his way through the most dangerous locations.
With the exception of specific missions that must be completed without being caught, Assassin’s Creed II is really good at letting the player deal with the inevitable. Compared to God of War or Devil May Cry (two of the only other adult-oriented action games that aren’t shooters), the enemies in Assassin’s Creed II aren’t overly strong. However, they patrol frequently enough and are dispersed in such large quantities that you will still feel threatened by them. Not so threatened that you’ll be scared to fight– quite often you may save time by cutting their throats before running off. (Your pocketbook may also benefit from extra duels since you can examine dead bodies for cash and items.)
But if you’re up for a run, the game will give you one in a way that’s only rivaled by Mirror’s Edge. As you climb the ledges, awnings, uneven bricks and other structural indentations, Assassin’s Creed II is fast, seamless, and intense. You can’t jump off a roof without direction and expect to land safely. You won’t be able to leap from building to building just because Ezio is lined up properly before the jump is executed. When it comes to climbing, the game is rough and realistic – yet soft enough to eliminate the possibility of an excruciating death (big drops won’t deplete a full health meter), and exaggerated in just the right way to prevent any hints of ennui. In short, this means you can climb easily (just hold two buttons like before), but it’s not so quick that you feel like a superhero, and it’s not so difficult that you feel like you don’t have a chance. It’s just the right speed, and when you consider the amount of work that must have gone into perfecting this aspect, you could almost justify the inclusion of a glitch or two.
Glitches – such as walking on air after a landing a fall (it’s just like it sounds) – are slightly more common in Assassin’s Creed II than you might expect. Airborne oddities are the most frequent glitch and often appear while climbing or landing. There was also a brief moment when an enemy got caught up in a glitch as well (he too appeared to be suspended a foot above ground).
And though they aren’t technically glitches, clipping and object pop-in – where certain objects materialize out of nowhere as you walk through an environment – are insanely common in this game. The stiff facial expressions, though again not a glitch, are further proof that the developers cared more about creating great gameplay than anything visual. This might surprise fans of the original Assassin’s Creed, who spent nearly two years anticipating what looked to be one of the most breathtaking games of its time (and it was). After playing Assassin’s Creed II, some players may wonder if the graphical limits of this generation have already been reached.
Assassin’s Creed II kicks off with plot advancements, movie-style camera angles, lots of dialogue, and movie sequences that cannot be skipped. If you didn’t know better, you’d mistake the game for an RPG. However, this introductory element – and the zillions of story sequences that follow – is merely a necessary addition to a big sequel competing in a marketplace that’s flooded with lengthy stories. Those who care to pay attention will discover a tale that is solid, usually well acted, and is wholeheartedly impressive for a video game.
But if your mind wanders when one of the characters starts to ramble, or if you lose interest when the lower-quality voice-actors appear (it happened to me, so I’m speaking from experience), never fear: while several of the sequences hold clues to your mission, you don’t need to follow the story to know what’s going on. The game caters beautifully to those who only care about the gameplay. The latest objective can be viewed at any time via the pause menu, and with significant characters clearly noted (and often glowing) within the environment, it’s highly unlikely that you will become lost or confused.
Review Scoring Details for Assassin's Creed II
Just like the first Assassin's Creed but several times more exciting, more engrossing, and free of all the time-wasting nonsense. In this game, when you're wasting time you won't even realize it.
A beautiful game... Two years ago. Today, Assassin's Creed – I mean Assassin's Creed II (boy, it's hard to tell them apart!) – is attractive. But attractive really doesn't cut it, especially when you factor in the glitches and unnecessary graphical flaws.
Great music that isn't used nearly enough. The sound effects are stellar, and the voice acting is mostly good. But be prepared for a few disasters: not every actor in this game is worthy of being called an actor.
Assassin's Creed II isn't really an "easy" game, but it's not a hard one either. It was definitely made for the mainstream, slightly skilled gamer, allowing just about anyone who played the original – or any other recent action game – to survive on the basics alone.
It's not stealth-action redefined, but it is stealth-action that has been taken much further than the original Assassin's Creed.
Assassin's Creed II is more than a great sequel because it does things the first game couldn't even hope to accomplish. There are tons of surprises in store, so if you enjoyed the original – or even if you only kind of liked it – this is one of those sequels that absolutely must be played.