Jeff Markiewicz On December 22, 2009 at 7:33 am

The first Assassin’s Creed was heralded as one of the first truly next-generational titles this generation. The graphics were top notch and the location very fresh and unique. While it ran up the charts for the critics, but it didn’t fare as well with the common players who claimed it was immensely repetitive. Now two years later, its sequel hits the market. Ubisoft Montreal has made a big push for variety this time around but will this assassin hit the mark?

The story opens up with you playing as Desmond in an Abstergo Research Facility. You’re held there against your will and one of the operators, Lucie, has decided to jail break you. Once out of the laboratory, you make your way to a safe house and there you’re enlisted to fight against Absertgo and the Templar. Entering the Animus 2.0 you enter the shoes of Ezio Auditoire de Firenze.   He is a smooth teenager with a knack for troublemaking. In the beginning you run little jobs for your father and there is a suspicious edge to them all. This all culminates to a certain event and you finally don the assassins clothing and the story starts getting some traction. Along the way you will meet a lot of cool people, like Leonardo da Vinci who will aid you in your quest. After your first couple of assassinations, your targets don’t get much exposition so they feel like one-dimensional bad guys that you don’t even have a good idea as to why they are bad. You can delve into the menus and read some back story on them but it’s not explicitly told to you so you have to dig for it. Because of this, some parts start to lack a certain punch because you’re not too invested into the characters or story but it is nonetheless a coherent story that finishes strong. 

Lackluster beginning gives way to an amazing experience. You’ll start in present day escaping from a facility with the help of an old friend. It’s supposed to feel like a grand escape with some elements of stealth but it’s really just a follow the leader sequence. The hand to hand combat feels simplistic and not much fun.  But soon you’re off into the past and you start free running around the city and a small grin develops on your face. It’s not perfect but how well it works is amazing and little touches make it feel real. Every place you grab on a building looks like an actual spot you’d grab and when you’re running away your character exudes a feeling of carelessness and desperation. It works really well. Then you get a sword and the combat starts to click. You’ll periodically get new weapons that just keep enhancing the experience and make you feel even more like an assassin.  Your missions will range from merely tailing people for information to full on assaults of a stronghold. In addition to the main missions you’ll have several side-quests you can delve into like races, assassinations, and collecting codex letters. Around the world you’ll also have feathers to collect and treasure maps from venders to for the locations of chests around the world. Another layer of the story is presented by hidden truth symbols that require you to do simple puzzles to unlock a small piece of video and upon completion, reveals something pretty cool. When you get to a new city, you immediately explore and expand the map by synchronizing at viewpoints. Using your Eagle Vision, you’re able to see your targets as well as things that are hidden to the eye. Fairly early on you’ll be at a city where you’ll be able to spend your money on upgrading everything which is a lot of fun. As an added benefit, the shops will give you a discount on their items like weapons, armor, and health. Weapons and armor will change your appearance and as an added perk, you’ll be able to purchase dyes to further customize your look.  At times you’ll be in awe at certain buildings because they will appear to be impenetrable, challenging you to try to get inside. It’s a lot of fun. They are usually the center of certain missions too which have a lot of buildup but there is a major issue. You’re typically swept off your feet in love dreaming of how epic the mission is going to be only to be a little letdown that you complete it in a couple minutes due to how the ease of the game. It never puts up a challenge so while you consistently feel like a badass, you also feel a little bad because of the cheapness of the game.  For example you’ll plan to take on 4 guards which should be a decent challenge but you can immediately assassinate 2 of them and then, even when they are fully alert with their swords drawn, walk up to them and assassinate them. Then if you get into a fight that you don’t want to spend a couple minutes finishing, you throw down a smoke bomb and you can assassinate everyone before it subsides. The only thing that will probably kill you is navigating the world.

The acrobatic system is quite well-designed but there is a degree of impreciseness in the system. Since it’s so dynamic sometimes there will be spots where you think you should reach but can’t and other times there are places that you know you can go but have to sit there and struggle with the controls for a bit.  This is fairly rare in the cities but once you enter the catacomb platforming sections they crop up a bit and the elegance of the system breaks down pretty easily. Combat is also a blast. Fights are very fluid and dynamic but they tend to be way too easy. If you get caught in the act of killing or doing something you shouldn’t, guards will run after you. If you encounter another pack of guards they’ll come after you too. The only way to get out of this is either to run away and hide or kill them all. Hiding is typically the preferable method with many places to hide around the world once you get out of their eyesight but sometimes killing can be oh so much fun. As you continue to cause menace around the cities, a notoriety meter will keep filling up to a point where the guards will be very alert to find you. To deal with this you have a variety of options from ripping down wanted posters, bribing a herald, or killing an official. In the mean time, you’ll have to blend in with the locals. If you’re running or on top of a building, it’s obviously going to be suspicious and they’ll catch onto you faster so sometimes it’s better to walk and be patient. If you get within a decent cluster of people, you can actually completely blend into the world. Since they follow their own path, you’re at the mercy of their movements but for a modest price, you can hire prostitutes that will follow you and keep you hidden. If you want to take the less stealthy approach, you can hire fighters and thieves to fight and cause distractions for you.  The variety and depth to this game is amazing. Even the side-quests which you’d expect to be all to be relatively are presented with a unique angle that makes them not repetitive at all. Some bugs were seen like the game crashing and falling through the world but the game saves enough that nothing is ever lost and most were addressed with a recent patch. The ease of the game does make some of this depth hidden but if you take the leap of faith, you won’t be disappointed.

The game also includes Ubisoft’s new Uplay system. This system is sort of achievements taken to the next level. Instead of just getting meaningless points, you can use the points you get from Uplay to unlock new things in the game or hold off to unlock something else in a later Ubisoft game that supports Uplay. The achievements are all along the main story so they are easy to pick up and the unlocks are fairly decent for being free. It must be noted that the theme you can unlock is not a premium one but other than that they are pretty self-explanatory. It will be interesting where they will take this concept.

Everywhere Ezio grabs or places his foot is perfect and considering how dynamic the climbing system is, it’s amazing. During fights everyone is fluidly animated as well and looks awesome. The cities are all rendered quite beautifully and subtle queues are intelligently blended into the scenery for places that are easy to climb up or dive into a hay barrel. There are parts outside of the city though that does not look as stellar.  Some places will have farms and they’ll look really flat and simple. The water looks amazing and it nicely reflects the world but at the sacrifice of any waves. Even in a boat you won’t even make much of a wake, which is shown by a simple texture. Cut scenes are pretty good but clearly a notch below those of Grand Theft Auto 4.  The true treasure is just the climbing and fighting animations, simply phenomenal.

Bringing this all to life is some decent sound design. Music is fairly subtle, only heightening during combat and chase scenes. There is no real central theme to it but after you listen to the credits, you start to appreciate how really nice the music has been done. The voice acting is great and nicely blends both Italian and English together to give the game an authentic feeling without forcing you to read. Turning on the subtitles will reveal the little extras that at is in Italian but they are easily deciphered by context. All the ambient noises adequately bring the time period alive and the fights sound especially nice.

Ubisoft Montreal set out to add variety to the game and they succeeded admirably. They have built upon the great foundation of the first and it’s a blast to play. Setting the game during the Italian Renaissance gives players another great period to explore. The game will last a meaty 20 hours or so depending on how many side-quests you do plus with the addition of two major downloadable expansions coming soon, you’ll be able to extend it even further. The characters start to become a little one-dimensional without much exposition but the story is nonetheless coherent and keeps pushing you forward. Plus, in addition to the first Assassin’s Creed, there is a free short prequel movie that you can watch that takes place directly prior to game available online. Navigating the world via free-running feels great and the subtle queues placed throughout are brilliantly executed. Combat feels fluid and has quite a bit of depth but it’s incredible ease distracts a bit from the depth. The graphics bring the world to life very well, especially the animations and the cities. The sound is well done and seamlessly blends Italian and English together. The music is quite well done as well. They listened to the fans and addressed everyone’s concerns, now it’s up to you to take the leap of faith and play this excellent game.


Story starts off good then sort of takes a back seat until the end. Gameplay starts slow but within a couple hours becomes amazing. Tons of variety and free-running is incredible. Only issues are the game is super easy and free-running can be imprecise at times leading to some minor frustration.


Free-running and combat animations are amazing. Cities are well-detailed and never feel repetitive. Cut scenes could be a tad better though and the outside of certain cities can feel a little dull and flat.


Music is subtle and lacks a central theme but it is done beautifully. Ambient noises of the cities and locales are well done; even a bard will come up and sing for you.


Slow start leads into a massive world of enjoyment. The amount of variety and freedom is awesome. The graphics are great, especially the climbing and combat animations. The voice acting seamlessly blends Italian and English together which just builds upon the already great atmosphere. Take the leap of faith and get it, you won’t be disappointed.

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