E3 2009: Assassin’s Creed 2

Back in 2007, Ubisoft dropped a brand new IP by the name Assassin’s Creed on the world. This was the year of Bioshock and Super Mario Galaxy, and Assassin’s Creed managed to pull in great reviews and was an amazing title, although not perfect. A sequel was inevitable, but now we’ve seen the real thing in person. This time, Assassin’s Creed 2 leaves the cities of the Holy Lands and takes us 295 years later into the brighter and more elegant of The Renaissance. Venice, Florence, and Rome will be explored, but the demo focused solely on the beautiful city of Venice. As before, you will play the role of another ancestor of Desmond Miles: Ezio Auditore di Firenze, a man who though born into a noble family, soon sets out for revenge once his family has been killed. Unlike the original title, you won’t start this game off as a fully trained assassin but will slowly gain the skills, attitude, and lifestyle of an assassin as the game progresses.

Fundamentally, the E3 demo was the same as the demo showed during the Sony press conference, but slightly longer. The world is an open sandbox as before, but navigating the rooftops is much easier than before as the controls seem to have been polished up since 2007, though we can’t honestly be sure, because the staff wouldn’t actually let us get our hands on the controller. It appears that you can climb pretty much anything with ease. There are also vehicles. At the top of a watchtower, Ezio finds a flying machine provided by none other than Leonardo da Vinci (who will be your equivalent to James Bond’s “Q” throughout the quest). You use it in the demo to escape from a rooftop and make a grand entrance across town to assassinate what appears to be a bishop and in the process get to scare the life out of every guard between you and the Palazzo Cavalli.

During your escape sequence upon completing your goal, you get to see that Ezio, unlike his ancestor, can swim. This opens up whole new stealth opportunities as you can use the canals of Venice to elude guards and remain underwater as long as you can hold your breath as well as use it to drown targets. The combat system has been expanded ten-fold. Ezio isn’t able to carry all weapons all the time, but you can disarm just about anybody as well as stab two people at once. AI is much better as well. Certain targets will have guards who will seek you out as shown in the demo when Ezio hides in a hay cart and a guard starts spearing the hay (only to get pulled in by Ezio and dispatched).

Escaping bad scenarios and remaining hidden in a crowd has gotten both harder and easier. As you become more notorious, you’ll be more easily recognized by witnesses or in a crowd. To elude watchful eyes, you can now blend into any crowd more easily, but you also tear down wanted posters, murder witnesses, or simply bribe people with big mouths.

Once you climb to the top of the rooftops, you begin to see just how unbelievably huge the city of Venice is in the game (and it isn’t the only city). It’s really impressive because of the extreme level of detail, the gorgeous art direction, and the fact that the game doesn’t drop a single frame during all of it. Throw in the new day and night system and you’ve got lots of eye-candy, but it’s currently unknown if this affects game play in any way. Already, the game is a technical masterpiece and refines a brilliant formula, but all the little details of the story remain unknown. Assassin’s Creed 2 drops on PS3, 360, and PC this November. We’ll give you the skinny as more info becomes available.