The lights are on
Assassin's Creed II begins like a sprinter out of the blocks. Our protagonist from the first game, Desmond, breaks out of Abstergo with the help of a female ally and is taken to a secret, assassin hideout to reenter the animus for the assassin cause. We then meet one of Desmond's other Assassin relatives, Ezio Auditore di Firenze. This smug playboy is the son of an important man in Florence, Italy during the Renaissance. He goes about gallivanting and living a life of leisure until his father and brother are arrested and charged with treason. Ezio flees to his Uncle's estate in the countryside along with his mother and sister. He returns to save his father and brother, but they are hung before his eyes.
Ezio then learns of his Assassin heritage and the hidden war that has been raging on between the Assassin's and the Templars. Ezio vows to get revenge for his father and brother. He doesn't care much for the Assassin cause at first, but comes to believe in it above everything else. The game follows Ezio as he seeks out conspirator after conspirator, coming closer and closer to a hidden truth. In the end, he learns the powerful secret which will set up the remaining games.
The narrative of this complex story is absolutely riveting, and will hook many a Dan Brown fan. In fact, comparing this story to his works is like comparing apples to oranges (wink). The story isn't just a great set up, it continues for the entire duration. The ending is a little confusing, maybe even a bit of a letdown, but it really doesn't take away from the game at all. The part of the story that I liked best was the one collected via the Glyphs in video fragments, which, when you collected all of them, revealed a hidden story.
The second star of this game is the environment. In the game, you get to play in several cities throughout Italy. The scope of these cities is absolutely amazing. Ubisoft has recreated Renaissance Italy and put it on a disc for us to explore. It is like being there. Everything looks great. Like the other AC games, you climb all over the place, so you experience the environment from many angles and altitudes. There is also a ton to collect, whether it be feathers, weapons, armor, art work, glyphs, seals, statues, or money.
It is difficult to pick anything bad out about this game. I'm trying to think of any negatives, but am struggling. There are no glitches, or at least none that I ever experienced in my 30 hours of playing the game. The controls can be frustrating, they are very touchy, but once mastered you really have greater control thanks to the way it is configured. Fighting often seems like a button mash, but there are tactics and skill moves that once learned are especially useful and deadly.
Another negative could perhaps be that all you do is run around, climb, and fight people. There isn't a whole lot of diversity in what you actually do, other than the fact that things take place in various gorgeous locations. It would be nice to throw some COD like set pieces in there. They did have one where you flew a Da Vinci glider. There was another very quick set piece where you got to ride a horse on a wall in the Vatican and chop at the guards trying to stop you, however, this one only lasted about 30 seconds.
All-in-all, Assassin's Creed II is a great game. It might not be for everyone, but I think everyone who likes games should give it a chance. I'm giving this game a 9.5 and not a 10 just because I believe there is some room for improvement. This is not the perfect game, but it is close. They can still get better, and hopefully they do.
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