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oh boy



Assassin's Creed has proven to be quite a mixed bag for me. I'd vaguely known the premise for years now, but I never took the plunge because I didn't think a game full of bloody backstabbing would result in fun for me. Well, the friend that invited me over to his house for an Uncharted 3 weekend early last month happened to show me about twenty minutes of AC2 gameplay at some point during that weekend, and that's all it took to persuade me to at least give the series a try.

Now that I've beaten Assassin's Creed 2, I look back and I'm both glad that I did choose to buy it and somewhat disappointed by what I've played. For the first time, I don't know whether or not I want to continue to the sequel in a series, even though I did enjoy AC2 overall. [NOTE: Yes, I skipped the first game. I caught up on that game's plot thanks to a synopsis vid made by IGN.]

For those that don't know, Assassin's Creed's overarching storyline is actually surprisingly deep and complex. It is probably the most creative IP I've come across this gen. It's at once an "alternate history" action sim with an underlying sci-fi flair. At any point in the game, if you stop and really think about what's happening at that present moment in the story, it goes far beyond "look at me! I'm Ezio! I'm stabbing people in Venice!" I was drawn to this almost immediately, this constant complexity to the events, despite the game's open-world nature and my need to find the next "!" on the map to progress to the next story mission.

Graphics-wise, they let me down. A lot. The game is only two years old. I think it came out around the same time as Uncharted 2. Okay, that's not a fair comparison. Didn't GTA IV come out before AC2? I think that looks better. This isn't to say that the game looks bad; it's just not as good as it probably could have been. Regrettably, that's not the end of my woes on the matter as texture pop-in was flagrant -which actually didn't bother me that much - and screen tearing was commonplace. COMMONPLACE, people. You can't play five seconds of Assassin's Creed 2 (at least on the PS3) without experiencing some degree of screen tearing. It's awful. Every time you're about to become immersed in the game, the sky rips itself in several ways and you're pulled right back out. The feeling is identical to a situation where you're reading a really good book and just as you're about to leave your real world behind become fully enraptured in the tale, your dog bursts into the room and onto your lap or the baby begins to cry. I tried to ignore it, but it was always there, no matter where I was, no matter what I was doing. Why couldn't it have been lessened or removed in a patch?

The gameplay was pretty solid. I liked the variety in the missions. I liked hunting down synchronization towers to fill in my map. I particularly enjoyed all the "Seek and Find" sidequests, such as finding the eight statuettes in Monteriggioni, the entrances to the six Assassin Tombs, or the mysterious glyphs painted onto famous landmarks. Some of the puzzles within said glyphs were just abnormally tough, but that's what Youtube was for.

This was the first game I've played that actually, genuinely, emphasized stealth. It pissed me off that I had to hold down R1 and X to run, but I figure that was on purpose to encourage not running. I got better at it as the game went on, thankfully. I came to understand when it was okay to run and when it was necessary to walk. (That said, too many people in the streets! And those damn guys carrying boxes! I swear there was one mission where they actually swerved to get into a collision course with me!)

My one negative remark about the gameplay is directed at the controls. I've already mentioned the R1 thing, but beyond that, there was a bigger problem afoot. The controls can just be downright clunky and uncooperative sometimes. For example, Ezio always hesitates to drop down to a lower ledge. It's like he has to wait until he's absolutely still before he'll drop. Also, so many times, I wanted to just transition to an adjacent ledge, but he wouldn't move. Look, I must just be so used to climbing in inFAMOUS or, wait, inFAMOUS and most definitely Uncharted as well. It function here in Assassin's Creed, but it's not as versatile as it is in inFAMOUS, nor as silky smooth feeling as it is in the Uncharted games.

The not-so-funny thing is that I read in a few different places yesterday that most of these issues I'm citing actually reappear in Brotherhood. The screen tearing. The quirky controls. Why? Couldn't Ubisoft have removed/repaired these?

I'm in an interesting spot right now. With Uncharted, I went to start with Uncharted 2 to avoid the zombies in Drake's Fortune, but after an hour, I knew I'd crave more, so I went back to experience more. With inFAMOUS, I came to love the first game enough to warrant an immediate preorder of the second game without having even beaten the first game yet. Here, I love certain things, despise other things, and mourn the existence of other things still. It was hit and miss for me. So I am honestly on the fence about continuing on to Brotherhood. I've heard the story is shorter in BH and generally not so great in Revelations. It seems the graphics don't really improve and I bet the controls haven't been adjusted in any way. So what would I be playing for? It's more of what I've grown to be frustrated by. I guess it would be to continue the story. Assassin's Creed 2's story was very engaging and interesting.

Maybe I played through Assassin's Creed 2 and grew frustrated because I was trying to advance quickly? I mean, this is the same game people were raving about two years ago. I can understand why, but it's hidden amongst all these flaws. The game could have been so much better, so much more. It is such a shame.

Ah well. What do you folks think? Should I try Brotherhood?