|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Ubisoft Montreal||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 17, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
June 12, 2009 - One of the most anticipated titles of 2009 has to be Assassins Creed II (ACII). The original stealth-action title saw loads of success despite a few gameplay mishaps. Regardless, a vast and loyal following has developed around this franchise, and the sequel is set to right the wrongs and springboard the series into epic status.
At E3 2009, we sat down with the developers at Ubisoft Montreal to get an eyes-on demonstration of how the game will play. Set during the Italian Renaissance, players will take on the role of a new hero, Ezio. He is the shadowy, bereaved son of a Florentine nobleman, who sets out on a quest to avenge his family. The tale that is spun revolves around a major power struggle between competing noble families in the Italian city-states and the subsequent conspiracy that affects the entire peninsula. As Ezio, players will be supported by a vast network of informants and street toughs as well as grand figures of the Renaissance such as Leonardo Da Vinci; the master artist, scientist, and inventor will act much like Q from the James Bond films, providing Ezio with tools and inventions to accomplish his goals.
Despite the new setting and hero, fans of the series will be happy to know that the gameplay in ACII is strikingly reminiscent of the original while still incorporating a host of refinements. First, Ezio will be able to make use of a lot of new weapons; however, his dual retracting daggers are likely to see the most action. Second, hiding spots are not as safe as they once were. Guards are smarter in non-combat situations and they will come to investigate even if it does lead to an untimely death. Third, and probably most importantly, not only have more mission types been added, but multiple objectives will be strung together on the fly. That means a failed assassination will lead to a chase mission, which may in turn lead to an escape mission. These unscripted gameplay segments should allow for a lot of replay value and force players to complete objectives cleanly.
The level we were able to see demoed was nearly identical to what was shown in the E3 2009 trailer. The developers played as Ezio sneaking about Venice. While there, he receives information from a couple of conspirators letting him know that Da Vinci had left a flying contraption for the assassin on top of a rampart, and that it was ready for Ezio to use in order to complete an assassination mission. After quickly dispatching a nosey passerby and propping him up between the informants, Ezio shimmied his way up a stone tower with ease; platforming in ACII looks to be perfect.
After making his way up to a perch, three guards were stealthily taken out with Ezios retractable daggers. The devs even went so far as to take out two unwitting victims at one time the devious giggle the dev let out was evidence that even playing through the level hundreds of times wasnt enough to tarnish the experience.
Making his way to the hidden glider a contraption taken directly from Da Vincis sketches Ezio was able to glide over a very long distance by using the rising heat from strategically placed bonfires left by his fellow plotters. This glider scene seemed to serve a contextual purpose as well as a new gameplay mechanic, as frightened guards and towns people fled from Ezios advance screaming Il Diavolo!
Upon landing, we were able to see a couple types of alerted guards in action. Two of them were carrying polearms and a third was heavily armored and hefted a large battle axe. Unfortunately, two major flaws with close-combat, prevalent in the original game, became immediately apparent: stupid enemy A.I. and repetitive kill animations. Despite being surrounded by three combatants, Ezio only had to deal with one of them at a time. One can only hope that foes will be more challenging and lifelike in the final version of the game. Additionally, after taking out the first two guards, Ezio then proceeded to disarm the helmeted, axe-toting combatant with a head-butt I dont think so. We saw this demonstration three times, and in every occasion the same silly animations were used.
Despite these blatant missteps (keep in mind its still a work in progress), ACII looks like it is bound to be a compelling experience. The world is meticulously crafted and true to how it was during the time period. In fact, the team incorporated the equivalent of Renaissance blueprints of the cities in order to make the setting look and feel right. Whats more, Ubisoft Montreal made sure to add an Italian flavor to the people and villains in order to make NPCs more than just avatars in need of a good throat-slitting. Fans and new players alike should find hours and hours of enjoyment when this title releases in fall 2009. For the most part, weve really liked what weve seen and look for to getting some hands-on time with the game.
CCC Editor / News Director