Assassin's Creed II is definitely a bump up from the original. It seem Ubisoft fixed the linear way of carrying out assassinations so it doesn't become so repetitive. This game is probably one of the best in this series & AC fans should definitely have it in their collection.
Assassin's Creed II story is better than ever. Not only does it take place in one of the most influential time periods of our history, but it really helps bring the characters to life.
As you remember from the first AC game, you play Desmond Miles. A man that is working with the company Abstergo were he is using the Animus to relive his ancestor's life as a assassin to gain knowledge of certain events or artifacts. He and a few others break out of Abstergo and find a new setting to continue his training as an assassin. Soon after he re-enters the Animus and you play as Ezio Auditore da Firenze. A young citizen of Florence during Renaissance Italy. After his father and brothers are betrayed by a close friend & Ezio is unable to save them. Ezio joins the Assassins Order & with the help of friends along the way to avenge his families' deaths, however, he uncovers a plot much more dangerous.
The gameplay takes all the good from AC & just furthers it by new additions. It evens seems to coat the repetitive things so they are so noticeable. Plus Ubisoft added more customization to this one not only with Ezio, but with your residence, Monteriggoni.
Assassin's Creed II combat system is similar to the previous games'. You basically hold of enemies long enough to counter & finish them off. However, new additions such as smoke bombs & poison darts give a bit more to the combat. Small improvements here & there give a little more depth to this game. As now there is a lot to do when you don't feel like doing the main storyline. You can race with thieves, complete separate assassination contracts for money, beat-up cheating husbands & did I mention you can swim now. As I said with coating the repetitiveness, you can now hire courtesans to distract guards while you sneak in. Thieves will turn the guards' attention & pull them away from the area. You can also throw some coins on the floor causing the citizens to fight for money allowing you to get closer to your targets.
The game also allows you to customize Monteriggoni. By renovating local establishments such as shops & guilds. It helps you flair up the home with paintings & brings in income to fund your expenses, however you want to spent them. You can buy more protective armor or a more deadly weapon from the Armory, as well as poison vials & health packs from the doctor. You can dye your clothes to give you ways of blending in or for sheer aesthetics. It was a nice touch by Ubisoft.
Also, hidden in certain places are Assassin's Tombs; which mostly consist on Prince of Persia-esque puzzles in which you may have to climb to a certain place in a certain time. These are seriously fun & also showcase the development team's confidence in the gameplay, as a game with poorer controls would have suffered badly. There's also a nice little price waiting for you after you complete all the tombs.
The gameplay was changed just enough to give you that in depth feel, but yet not distance you from the original. The customizations & added companions keep them game alive so it's not so linear.
One thing that sets ACII out from other games is how alive the cities feel. Then the cities. Venice, Florence, Forlì, San Gimignano, & the Tuscan countryside are so beautiful. The world is huge compared to AC. Not only are they gorgeous to look at, but Ubisoft captured the feel of the cities as well. The towns feel real with how everyone is just going about their day. The civilians' are always going about their business & will not be afraid to call the guards if you start to get in their way. These guards are always roaming around & if you tick them off, they won't hesitate to attack. The world is so much bigger & from the cities vibes, to the architectures, & to the countrysides' plains, it's truly visual eye candy.
Not only does the game look amazing, but it also sounds amazing thanks to its awesome soundtrack. This aspect only helped bring the cities to life. Each cut-scene, each sequence is accompanied by music that matches it perfectly. Whether it be booming war sounds as you chase down your enemy, or the hollow and haunting sound as you watch your family die it just works perfectly. Truly one of the biggest qualities of this game. It helps set the mood & tone of the overall game.
Overall, Assassin's Creed II is a perfect sequel. It took all the great features of AC & just made them even better. Easily one of the best games not only for the series, but in it's genre. Any fan of free roaming, adventure, action or hack & slash games would do wisely to add this to their collection.