To call Assassin's Creed 2 an improvement would be a massive understatement.
The story picks up again on Desmond Miles as he and a few others break out of Abstergo and find a remote continue his training as an assassin. Soon after he re-enters the Animus and you play as Ezio Auditore da Firenze. A young resident of Florence during Renaissance Italy. After his father and brothers are taken away and hanged in the streets, Ezio joins the Assassins in order to revenge his families' deaths, however, he stumbles on a plot much more dangerous. The story could be a bit better as you never seem to know who the bad guy really is. This is due to the long Italian names being quite hard to remember.
As you progress through, you'll recognise familiar elements from the original game. You'll need to assassinate certain people to progress, however, how you'll go about this is a lot different and less repetitive. Rather than the very linear and uninspiring route Assassin's Creed 1 took, number 2 takes GTA-style approach where you go to certain points in the world to start missions or 'memories'. This makes the game a lot less repetitive and keeps the game fresh throughout.
While most things from the original have either been altered drastically or taken out completely, the amazing gameplay is retained. It is still a joy to scale the tallest building, leap from a viewpoint or skip over wooden poles. For smooth gameplay, it is truly in a league of it's own.
While Altair seemed very sterile, the character development in AC2 is a lot better and it shows as Ezio turns out to be a great main character. The game shows his motives for fighting, his charm with the ladies and his great sense of humour resulting in a much greater experience. Other characters' such as Leonardo Da Vinci are performed brilliantly well by their voice actors and they all add their part to the game.
As previously mentioned, the game takes place in Renaissance Italy with cities such as Florence and Venice being brilliant reproduced with an amazing attention to detail. Each city has it's own feel, from the boats and lakes of Venice, the openness of the countryside to the hustle and bustle of Florence- it is truly stunning. These cities just re-confirm Assassin's Creed 2 as one of the best looking games out at the moment.
One thing that sets AC2 out from other games is how alive the cities feel. The civilians' are always going about their business and will not be afraid to call the guards if you start to get in their way. These guards are always roaming around and if you tick them off, they won't hesitate to attack. So you're going have to fight back. Assassin's Creed 2 combat system is similar to the previous games'. You basically bide your time for the enemies to strike, and them hit them on the counter. However, new additions such as smoke bombs and throwing knives help to add more depth to the combat.
And adding depth is a key improvement in Assassin's Creed 2 as, continuing with the GTA theme, there is now a lot to do when you don't feel like doing the main storyline. You can compete in races with thieves, complete separate assassination contracts for money and beat-up cheating husbands.
The game also allows you to play Estate Agent Tycoon with your families' local village: Monteriggoni. By renovating local assets such as the Bank, thieves' guild and buying paintings, you can gain an income that can ensure you never run out of money. Eventually, the level of money you get starts to become a little ridiculous and could've done with a little more balancing out.
So, you're probably wondering what you can do with all this money? Well, you can buy more protective armour or a more deadly blade from the Armory, as well as poison vials and health packs from the doctor. Paintings from an art merchant and you get a local tailor to die your clothes. There's a huge amount of customisation on offer.
Ubisoft have also added more depth for you in how you approach a certain situation. For example, you can hire courtesans to distract guards while you sneak in. Thieves will also make the guards leave the area. You can also throw some coins on the floor, which will allow you to sneak closer to the target the mad rush for money. New weapons such as Smoke Bombs also add a new varied way to attack.
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 and 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 Italian world of AC2 is much bigger than the original. This means that the game is longer and you'll never get bored of your environment. The game will last about 15 hours, and that's if you don't indulge yourself in all the other things Assassin's Creed 2 has to offer.
Not only does the game look amazing, but it also sounds amazing thanks to its awesome soundtrack. 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.
To call this game just an improvement would be a massive understatement. Ubisoft have listened to what the fans want and they have most definitely delivered.