Assassin's Creed II Review
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The PC version of last year's beautiful action adventure is lots of fun, but you'll have to overcome its online-only copy protection and high price point.
- Huge, beautifully realized world to explore
- Ezio is a terrific new character
- Tombs put a spotlight on the excellent and enjoyable platforming
- A good variety of weapons, missions, and stealth techniques
- Incredible production values.
- Frequently broken copy protection scheme requires constant Internet access
- High price point
- Some additions are a little contrived.
Assassin's Creed II is a gorgeous and impressive piece of work, unfortunately undercut by a few notable issues that intrude on the fun. Developer Ubisoft Montreal has addressed many of the original's flaws by filling its follow-up with fresh and enjoyable mission types while still retaining the joy of movement and atmospheric wonder that characterized the original. The game's vision of Renaissance Italy is astounding, delivering a world that you will love exploring and a sense of wonder that few games can so joyously deliver. The cohesive story and a terrific new character will draw you in, and traditional platforming sequences and other new additions pile on the fun.
Assassin's Creed II's most unusual attribute, however, is displayed in big letters on the front of the box: "A permanent Internet connection is required to play the game." This requirement wouldn't be so peculiar if it were an online-only multiplayer game, but Assassin's Creed II is a single-player, story-driven adventure. Whenever you play the game, you must sign into an online portal; if you aren't connected to the Internet, you cannot start the game, and if you lose your connection, the game will pause. Even your saved games are stored online, which is a boon if you plan on playing on multiple computers, but seems like an otherwise unreasonable mandate. This is a bold approach to digital rights management--and one that could unnecessarily hinder your enjoyment. If a storm knocks out your Internet connection, you're out of luck; if you want to play games on your laptop during an upcoming airplane journey, cross Assassin's Creed II off the list of possibilities. And even if you maintain a solid connection, you might run into a few problems. Twice we had the game shut down while it was saving, and we ran into short but noticeable delays multiple times while the game attempted to load our profile and download our progress. Other times, our attempted login timed out, or the launcher incorrectly informed us that we had used the wrong username or password. These issues hindered our playtime for hours, and sporadically affected European players for days.
Regardless of your view of this unusual copy protection scheme and the inconveniences it might visit upon you, Assassin's Creed II is still a hugely entertaining and occasionally transcendent experience. Like the first game, it occurs across two timelines: a modern-day chronology starring bartender Desmond Miles, and another featuring one of Desmond's ancestors. When you start the game, you'll catch up with Desmond right where the original left him, though as fans of the original can guess, the Abstergo labs are no longer a safe haven. You'll spend a bit of time with Desmond during the course of the game, though the shoes you most frequently fill are those of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, the charmingly impetuous son of a 15th-century Italian banker. Ezio is an instantly likable firebrand, as passionate about family and honor as he is about wine and women. When you first meet him, Ezio is living a carefree life and has not yet donned his assassin's robe, nor is he familiar with the creed. However, Ezio's devil-may-care freedom is soon cut short by murder and betrayal instigated by the assassins' greatest threat: the Templars.
Assassin's Creed's Altair was an interesting character, but only for the stealthy order he represented, not because you ever got to know the man under the white hood. Ezio is far more appealing, for he's not just quick with a secret blade, but he's a fully realized protagonist. He isn't at the mercy of the plot, but rather, the narrative evolves from his need to uncover the truth behind his sorrows. It's the personal nature of the narrative that makes Assassin's Creed II's story more compelling than its predecessor's. The few modern-day segments featuring Desmond pack a lot more punch this time around as well, and the conspiracies driving that story arc become a lot clearer and, as a result, more provocative. The two missions that occur just before the finale, and which were released as downloadable add-ons for the console versions, hinder some of the story's dramatic momentum. However, the ending itself is shocking and memorable, a nice improvement over the original's flaccid conclusion.
Ezio isn't Assassin's Creed II's only headliner. The Italy he inhabits is a character in and of itself, filled with visual and sonic details that infuse the world with life and elegance. The cities you explore--Florence, Venice, and more--are larger and more detailed than the environs of the first game. Citizens go about their daily lives, and they look authentic doing so. Merchants sweep the street in front of their shops; small groups stroll along, making conversation with each other; and courtesans smirk and cajole as you pass by. These folks aren't cookie-cutter character models. They are dressed differently enough from each other and are animated so expressively that it's as if the population would go about its business with or without your presence. More impressive are the cityscapes themselves as they unfold in front of you, inviting you to take in their splendor. This is an incredibly good-looking game: the lighting is sumptuous, the draw distance is vast, and textures are crisp. If you don't have a widescreen monitor, however, take note that the game is letterboxed--that is, black bars will appear at the top and bottom of your display.
Assassin's Creed II's sense of place and time isn't due just to its visuals, however. Its high-quality sound design is equally responsible, delivering a busy-sounding Florence while still allowing the little quips of citizens commenting on your acrobatics to shine through. There's a good variety of such dialogue now, so you won't tire of repeated lines, and because the citizen rescues of the original Assassin's Creed have been excised, you won't hear the monotonous whines of complaining peasants. There are a few scattered audio glitches, particularly during the Bonfire of the Vanities mission toward the end of the game. However, these are small flaws given the overall excellence of the audio presentation. Two aspects of the sound design are particularly noteworthy: the music and the voice acting. The game's splendid orchestral score is subtle and soothing when it needs to be, never intruding on the exploration and never manipulating your emotions with inappropriate musical melodrama. As for the voice acting, it is uniformly excellent. Not only is Ezio voiced with charm and energy, but the surrounding cast is mostly superb--though one particular line delivered by Ezio's uncle Mario might make you cringe.
The greatest beauty of Assassin's Creed II's exquisitely detailed environments is that you can run and jump across the rooftops with ease and climb the tallest towers to get a bird's-eye view of the game's glorious vistas. You control Ezio much as you did Altair, though movement feels a bit tighter and even more fluid than before. The game strikes an excellent middle ground between responding to player input and automating actions like leaping from one surface to the next, so it's simple to leap about the city smoothly without worrying that you're going to plummet to your death on the next hop. You'll still encounter a few awkward moments here and there: simply walking off a ledge onto a rooftop a few feet below can still be bit clumsy, for example. But these moments are few, and in fact, you'll pull off some awesome-looking moves without even trying. If you want to get the most out of your impossible leaps and dives, you'll want to plug in an Xbox 360 controller, which offers a somewhat more fluid experience. However, the keyboard and mouse scheme is a fine alternative, so if you don't have a gamepad lying around, don't worry: You'll have no trouble soaring across the roofs or slinking about hidden tombs.
Tombs are more intricate levels in which you must retrieve an important artifact (and if you collect all of them, you are in for a special treat). Some of them are platforming puzzles of the best kind, in which you must figure out how to get from your starting point to the destination, in the manner of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Ezio can't run on walls like the Persian prince, but he's incredibly agile nonetheless, and swinging and hopping about rafters and chandeliers within the tombs is great fun. A few tombs throw some additional challenges at you, such as a time limit in which to reach your goal. The best tombs, however, are those in which you pursue an enemy but run into obstacles that force you to give chase using an alternate route. The chases are excellent, and they require quick reactions, but not so quick as to be unreasonable. Flawlessly keeping up with your target without breaking your momentum is one of Assassin's Creed II's greatest thrills, and as long as you are paying close attention, you can pull it off on the first attempt.
Nothing wrong with the controls. And the copy protection also isnt a problem cuz I'm playing a cracked version. lol
Don't forget horrible controls. The Assassin's Creed games were designed to use a controller. The keyboard and mouse configuration was not well mapped. Plus, no support for game controllers (Xbox 360 controller). So, in the end, it is a nightmare trying to get the Assassin's seals especially when there is a time limit. Thankfully, Ubisoft enabled support for controllers in Brotherhood and Revelations.
Oh yeah, and certainly don't forget the terrible interface, the game crashes, keeps crashing and doesn't save properly. You'll be playing the same sequence over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and... again. Talk about value for money: that's a lot of extra playtime, isn't it?! Yech!
- Player Reviews: 162
- Game Universe:
- Assassin's Creed (PC, MOBILE, PS3, X360, DS, IP, BB, WINM),
- Assassin's Creed II (PS3, PC, X360, PSP, IP, DS, BB),
- Assassin's Creed II: Battle of Forli (PS3, X360),
- Assassin's Creed II: Bonfire of the Vanities (X360, PS3),
- Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (PS3, X360, PC, MAC),
- Assassin's Creed III (PS3, X360, WIIU, PC),
- Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood - The Da Vinci Disappearance (PS3, X360),
- Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood - The Da Vinci Edition (PS3, X360),
- Assassin's Creed: Revelations (PS3, X360, PC),
- Assassin's Creed: Ultimate Collection (PC)