Despite all its flaws, there was something about Altaïr’s original adventure that just gripped me so thrillingly. It wasn’t until people pointed out certain issues with Ubisoft Montreal’s game that they even became apparent, such was my enjoyment of traversing Acre they were just non-existent. Now, whether releases this year have soured my views of what combines to make a quality title, with the bar being raised considerably, or my own preconceptions of what to expect Assassin’s Creed II does not begin well. The most apt description is it does a lot of things well, just not as well as other sequels, and sequels it shall be compared to. There is no denying that the tech on show in the original was something to marvel, but with a bit of tweaking and listening to the community, it would be interesting to see if Ezio can follow boldly in the footsteps of his ancestor.
Set in the Renaissance period it seems somewhat apt that the game begins with a bit of a crescendo. Unfortunately, this builds up over several hours and takes a noticeably long time to really get going. For newcomers to the series, the story will seem somewhat sketchy and the length of time taken to get into the real meaty bits of gameplay may well be a big turn-off. It seems to fall foul of ‘this other game does it better’ an awful lot. With such a slow ramp up in excitement, opening with a fantastic set piece seemed a strange omission; pile on top of that the first few sequences are just glorified tutorials and it all just seems a little familiar and to be honest, aggravatingly boring. Graphically the game is stunning during normal play, but takes a dramatic hit during close ups, which is the same for the fluid in game animations and the wooden information based cut-scenes. There is nothing particularly poor about the voice acting but up against the truly outstanding Uncharted 2, it just feels a bit flat and lacking any ambient noise.
Despite all of these possibly crippling points, after a five hour stint, putting the game down was hard. The free running works even more spectacularly than before due to Ezio’s increased agility of his previous counterpart, with even more possible routes and options when running across rooftops and climbing to incredibly heights. Additions to the combat have removed the counter-fest that Altaïr engaged in ever so frequently. Positioning, weapons and number of enemies all have a greater importance, being able to disarm enemies and having a degree of strength foes to combat does lead to more interesting and varied battles. With the inclusion of an actual use for money from buying new weapons and dyes, to renovating areas of Tuscany to gain a steady form of income. With side missions, plenty of collectibles and an increasingly engrossing main plot, Assassin’s Creed II, despite its drawbacks, has me in its grasp.