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Assassin's Creed 2 - Great Game!

When I got home from my vacation at the end of March, my lovely wife had Assassin's Creed 2 for the Xbox 360 waiting for me. Unfortunately, our TV problems meant I couldn't play it for a little while. When I finally did sit down for it, though, I was in pure heaven. This is an awesome game.

I had really enjoyed the first game, where you played an assassin during one of the Crusades. The historical detail was wonderful, with a story intricately woven in with the real history. Assassin's Creed 2 takes place in Italy during the late 15th century. You play as Ezio, a young man from an Italian family that gets caught up in the political struggles on the Italian peninsula during this time period. Your father betrayed and executed, you vow revenge on his killers, using the skills acquired both from family heirlooms as well as friends of your father. While your mission starts out as one of revenge, you soon discover that there is something much bigger going on, something that's carried forward from the Crusades, or maybe even from the beginning of time.

The conceit of the game is that this war between the Templars and the Assassins has been going on for centuries, and even now is still going on. You are also Desmond, a descendant of both Altair (from the first game) as well as Ezio. Through a technology called "The Animus," you are reliving these memories, learning the skills, and trying to stay one step ahead of the modern day Templars.

Unlike the first game, which had way too many modern-day sequences, you only play Desmond a couple of times, and at the beginning and end of the game. The rest of the time, you're in Italy, and the game designers have made this stay extremely inviting (if also quite violent).

The gameplay is marvelous, even more so than the first game. Ezio moves very fluidly through the wonderfully-portrayed cities of Italy, from Florence to Venice.

The fighting controls are much the same as before, with "X" being your attack button (with whatever weapon you're holding, or with your fist). The "B" button will allow you to grab on to somebody, and so forth. However, there are a few more wrinkles. You also have the option of throwing money on the street. If you're on the run from guards, throwing money will get the people around you going after the money, getting in the way of the guards and helping your escape (greedy bastards!). You can also throw dust in the eyes of your enemies, employ smoke bombs to give you cover to either escape or go in for the kill, or pick up a fallen guard's weapon to improvise. You can even steal your enemy's weapon!

One complaint about the first game was that it was much too linear and boring as you set up your assassinations. To get your assassination mission, you had to synchronize Altair's memories by climbing viewpoints, and then get information on your target through a couple of other minigames (like beating up an informant or picking somebody's pocket). In Assassin's Creed 2, everything is much more varied. You don't need to "prepare" for an assassination mission before you do it. You just go to the Memory Start spot and go to it. On the other hand, there are other missions around the city that you can do as well: assassination missions for Lorenzo, races, beating up wayward husbands, and stuff like that. There are also treasure chests to be found all over the place.

That's another difference between the games that I think makes this one even better: there's money involved, and you have to build up your family's estate. You can buy new weapons, armor, paintings for the house, medicine so that you can heal on the fly. Money adds quite an interesting flavour to the whole thing. It also hires courtesans to give you cover, mercenaries to fight with you, and thieves to lure guards away from places you need to sneak into.

While you have swords and stuff like that to fight with, the primary weapons of the assassin are the daggers that spring from your wrists. There's nothing more satisfying then jumping off of a wall and landing with your daggers in two of the guards' throats (does that make me sick?). That's also what you use in most of your assassination missions, though if sometimes you just beat them in a clean fight.

Assassin's Creed 2 has so much other stuff to find as well. There are 100 feathers all over the various cities and outlying areas that you must collect. There are 20 strange glyphs in various places around the map that, if you decipher them all, will give you a video memory of your immediate predecessor, giving even more hints about what's really going on in the overarching story.

The graphics must be seen and experienced to be believed. Everything is so fluid and well-rendered. When you're up on a high building, it can be truly breathtaking looking out over the city. Sometimes I just had to stop and marvel (which almost cost me my life once or twice).

Assassin's Creed 2 is a must-buy for anybody with a 360 or a PS3. With lush graphics, awesome gameplay, and lots of blood (and the occasional swear word as well, though most of those are in Italian and thus subtitled), you can't go wrong with this one.

You'll have hours of great gameplay.

Note: You know those glyphs I mention? The 20 glyphs that, when you find them and solve their puzzles, will give you a video memory from your predecessor? Yeah, those glyphs. Many of them are f-ing impossible to solve. After tearing my hair out to the point where I was going to go bald, I just used a Glyph guide for them if I couldn't solve them fairly quickly. It saved me lots of headaches.

Yes, I'm a wuss. Get over it.

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