November 17, 2009

Assassin's Creed II | First Impressions

Chris Nitz Says Ubisoft finally put the long anticipated Assassin's Creed 2 in player's hands. There was a lot of hype surrounding this title: improved story line, better fighting mechanics, less repetition, and beautiful visuals. There are high expectations for this game. Here's my assessment after completing the first assassination.

AC2 starts off right where the first game ended. There is a brief review of what happened in the first game, so don't worry if you didn't get through it. Desmond is broken out of his holding cell and carted off to a new area. Here, Desmond meets some new faces and gets a glimpse of Animus 2.0. After the character meet-and-greet is done, Desmond hops into the Animus and it is off to the 1400's to relive his ancestors history.

Ezio is the ancestor Desomd will be playing through this time around. Ezio is a trouble causing womanizer. Upon entering the Animus, Ezio starts off with a fist fight. Here Ezio meets his brother. Fighting concluded, it is time for some sibling racing up the sides of buildings.

Ezio ends his night in the bed of a fine digital lady. Morning comes, the lady's father arrives and finds Ezio where he should not be. Comical escapage ensues. Ezio ends up running a few errands for his father. Ezio returns from one of said errands only to find his father and brother have been arrested.

Ezio runs off to the prison to find his father. Some brief dialog later, Ezio is now donning the Assassin's robes. The new stealthy Ezio is now ready to free his father and brother from their captors. Upon returning.....hahaha, time for fans to go out and play the game for the rest of this story.

The scenery in the game is stunning. Hopefully, brown is your favorite color, as it seems everything is some shade of brown. There's also some vertigo here as well. Climbing to the tops of bell towers yields an amazing view of the city. I was playing the game for a bit with my wife sitting next to me. She has been to some locations and started to reminisce about the places she has been. Ubisoft has done an amazing job of recreating the city. The place the graphic engine falls flat is in the cutscene close ups. Characters often look flat. This is a shame as Ezio's outfit looks stunning during normal game play.

The voice work is crazy awesome. Everything from the accents of the characters, to the mindless babble of the peasants on the street is done in ear-pleasing goodness. Looting a dead guard will have people cursing Ezio and telling him how horrible of a man he is. It is a nice little touch that helps with the aesthetics.

For those that played the first Assassin's Creed, the controls will be familiar. There is still some issues with precision when running and jumping from objects. Climbing is still done with ease, though Ezio is attracted to everything he can Spiderman off of.

The fighting still feels the same. This is a shame as it was one of the big things Ubisoft was touting as being changed. Hopefully, as the game progresses, more options become available. Right now, it still has a very familiar feel to it.

One of the biggest improvements is how often the charter comes and goes from the Animus. This took a lot away from flow, and story, in the first Assassin's Creed. This time around, Desmond stays in the Animus for far longer periods of time. The outside characters working with Desmond will communicate to him through the Animus. After three hours of play, I was never taken out of the Animus to do some sort of character interaction. This is huge improvement in keeping the story flow moving.

So, should fans pick this up? YES! The story is amazing so far. It is still fun to get to the top of a bell tower and see how much of the city is rendered at once. Jumping from those heights and landing in carts of straw is still as enjoyable as ice cream on a warm summer's day. Look for the full review in the coming days.