If you played Assassin's Creed II, it was hard not to notice the two missing sequences directly preceding the finale. The Battle of Forli is the first of two planned add-ons meant to fill in this obvious chasm, but this stopgap bit of downloadable content isn't wholly satisfying, whether you play it on its own or in sequence. Another hour's worth of a superb game doesn't seem like a bad deal for $4.00 (320 Microsoft points), but the added missions are boilerplate Assassin's Creed that don't capture the spirit of the original and seem unceremoniously tossed to eager fans hungry for new content. The Battle of Forli is hardly all bad; you spend more time with the charming and cunning Caterina Sforza, whose earlier appearance was all too brief. But this content feels quickly thrown together, making for a forgettable chapter in an otherwise unforgettable game. Please note: this review contains minor Assassin's Creed II spoilers.
If you haven't finished Assassin's Creed II, you should be aware that you won't be able to access the new content until you are approaching the end of the game. The new chapter takes place after the important revelation--and the emotional leap of faith--that concludes sequence 11. There was an obvious chronological gap left here, but that leap was an absolutely fitting end to the then-penultimate chapter and provided a delicate transition to the game's charged finale. Not only does the new content muck with the narrative pace, but the opening scene featuring an important artifact gives away too much, making the game's ending (and the Truth video you've been piecing together) seem far less magical. Of course, this won't affect you if you've already finished the game, in which case you will enjoy the romantic tension between Caterina and Ezio, who find Forli under attack by two brothers who are after more than just the joy of battle. The new dialogue and voice acting are excellent; a funny exchange about a missing finger (and toe, and limb) between Ezio and a black-robed monk is a particular highlight. But even played out of context, The Battle of Forli climaxes early, and the remaining content is more dribble than explosion.
The first third of the add-on is focused squarely on combat, pitting you (along with Caterina and Niccolo Machiavelli) against large numbers of sword-swinging foes. The big-scale battles are fun, but they aren't particularly challenging; it's quite easy to position yourself behind a busy attacker and stab him in the back with a single thrust. Unfortunately, the visual chaos of these battles removes some of the joy of counterkills, muddling up the screen and keeping you from seeing Ezio's slick murder moves. The remaining memories consist of by-the-numbers ACII missions: rescues, chases, and even more combat. None of these missions boast the slickness of the main game's activities, however. During one of the rescues, the victim repeats the same lines directed to her attackers ad nauseam, even once you've offed them all. At another point, contrived, glowing markers act as refill stations that replenish your ammo (throwing knives, smoke bombs, and the like). Compared to the main game, The Battle of Forli feels messy and poorly paced.
The only other addition of note is that of a "special memory," which is nothing more than an out-of-context flight on Leonardo's flying machine. There's no mission or goal attached to your flight, so it's there just to be there, and without the sprawling Venetian landscape underneath you, flight isn't nearly as much fun as it was in the early memory in which the machine appeared. And there is no explanation as to where this machine comes from and what it's doing there, as it clearly cannot be the same one you used in Venice earlier in the game. It's just another game-ish contrivance in a game that didn't need more of them. If you were at least hoping to pad your gamerscore, you'll want to note that The Battle of Forli doesn't offer any new achievements, though this is perhaps unsurprising, since it doesn't offer any new locations to explore or weapons to brandish either.
Assassin's Creed II is a superb game, partially because of how brilliantly its various pieces fit together into such a cohesive whole. Ironically, while intended to fill a narrative gap, The Battle of Forli feels out of place. You'll enjoy your time with the formidable Caterina (despite an uncomfortable reference to her reproductive prowess), but the gameplay is just a smattering of standard missions jumbled together without much care. This episode is inexpensive and offers another chance to return to an excellent game, but it's too lifeless and unimaginative to be a must-have.