Assassin's Creed II

Assassin's Creed 2 Hands On Preview - Now With More Sand

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Getting my hands on a controller with Assassin’s Creed 2 on the other end until recently has been like trying to get hold of my bank manager on a Sunday... seemingly impossible. Last week though, it was as if he was doing overtime – either that or he’d been kicked out by his wife for cheating with the neighbour’s babysitter and had to sleep at the office – because the seemingly impossible became possible. No, I didn’t get hold of my bank manager, he’s still missing in action, but I did get to go a few rounds with Assassin’s Creed 2.

Chances are that by now you’ll have seen a heck of a lot of Assassin’s Creed 2 gameplay, but that’s okay when the person playing has done the same walkthrough a bajillion times. Last week the newbie was on the pad and after a two year absence, was back at the helm of an Assassin’s Creed game... and boy did it show. It’s safe to say that the learning curve for Assassin’s Creed 2 is a notch up from Assassin’s Creed 1 as now not only do you have the pretty unique combat to master and fairly simplistic free running, but the new character, Ezio, has a few more moves at his disposal.

On first impression it would seem that the environments in AC2 aren’t as easy to traverse as those in its predecessor. That’s largely down to the different style of cities you’ll be thrust into... everything seems bigger and more diverse. Gone are the old blocky buildings and flat roofs, and instead you see more sculptured buildings with slanted roofs that fit the period timeline. On more than one occasion I found myself having to work out a path to my target rather than just winging it; something that kind of distracted from the free flowing free-running. Sometimes I found myself blind jumping with some pretty tragic results, but on other occasions, the water of Venice saved me. Yes, of course, you can swim now, and it’s a simple but effective mechanic to get to grips with. You can also dive whilst in the water as well to avoid being seen by someone that may have been looking for you. Don’t feel like swimming? Grab a gondola then and use its simple one button controls to get around the canals of Venice.

As Ezio gets out the water he’ll be dripping wet with the water saturating his robes and it’s a great example of the attention to detail that Ubisoft Montreal have delivered. Sure, there were a few graphical glitches, sloppy textures and at times the game looked a little rough around the edges, but considering that this was an old build, you can’t judge the final product on those just yet. The same with the enemy AI that was a little dense at times, but again, it was an early build, so it’s not really that much of a concern at the moment.

Whilst we didn’t have chance to use the new gun or the double blade, we did have chance to check out the smoke bombs, and leaping on a target from a great height with the newly extended jump attack. Seriously, it’s a move that never gets old... even after the twentieth consecutive kill. The move works exactly the same way it did in the previous game, but the distance has been greatly extended.

I feel compelled to inform you that Assassin’s Creed 2 will feature no flag collecting. Huzzah! You will be tasked to collect some items of interest though; seals and feathers to name but a few, but Ubisoft have informed us that if you collect all of one type of collectible, you will be rewarded with a hugely useful in-game reward. What though? Well you’ll have to wait to find that one out.

A lot of people forget that Assassin’s Creed is a sandbox game, and number 2 is no different. In fact, it’s more of a sandbox game than the first ever was, simply because you can literally waste so much time doing nothing, which is the beauty of the genre. Our quest – which was taking down four archers before assassinating our final target – seemed to be taking a back seat to us stealing money, throwing it back out, and searching for posters to drop our notoriety back down to 0. The notoriety system is new to the Assassin’s Creed universe, as is the game’s mini map which is welcomed with open arms. Our only qualm at the moment with the mini map is that it doesn’t show what level an enemy is on, and with a game that has multiple levels, it kind of feels essential. Either way, there’s definitely more sand in the sandbox this time around, which ultimately means more fun.

A big complaint with Assassin’s Creed 1 was the combat and its repetition, and Ubisoft Montreal has gone some way to alleviating those concerns in the sequel. The new additions to the combat include the use of around 30 weapons, the chance to disarm a foe and use their weapon against them, the option to amusingly taunt your opponent whilst they cave an axe into your skull and a few new takedown moves. You can also grapple an opponent now as well and whilst grappled you can use a variety of close combat moves. Our favourite? The headbutt. Personally, the combat in the original didn’t irk me in the slightest and I saw it no more repetitive than a shooter which is constantly pew-pew-pew, but those who were annoyed by it will be happy to hear of these new additions. Even the simple inclusion of being able to pull a foe down from a ledge whilst you are hanging from it does wonders to the game’s overall playability.

New to Assassin’s Creed is the game’s monetary system, so the money you earn from doing missions, stealing off people and what not, can be spent on weapons, gadgets, and even armour. The armour not only allows you to customise Ezio on how you want him to look, but each piece of armour has an attribute tied to it that will benefit him – things like +2 health, +2 resistance. Ubisoft were quick to point out that the new armour system was not intended to have an RPG feel to it, but it blatantly does. It isn’t an RPG by any stretch of the imagination, but Assassin’s Creed can now boast RPG style features. Also new to the series is the auto crowd blending, a third person eagle view, the ability to pick up bodies and throw them, being able to hire courtesans, thieves – who can free run – and mercenaries to assist you with whatever it is you want them to do, and much more.

My first hands on with the game was overwhelmingly positive and being able to drop 20 foot on to my assassination target with the new extended jump attack to finish off my session, just topped off what was an already great experience. Admittedly things did look a little rough around the edges and it was trickier to get our head around the controls than we remember, but being an early build and us being decidedly rusty, we’re not letting that taint what was otherwise an excellent experience. Unfortunately we didn’t get chance to sample many of the new non-repetitive missions, but from a control and delivery standpoint, Assassin’s Creed 2 literally leaves its predecessor standing in its massive shadow.

Oh, and Ezio isn’t as hugely cocky or annoying as Altair, so that’s always good. That dude needed a slap.

Assassin's Creed 2 is out November 17th and November 20th in North America and Europe respectively.


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Game Info
Ubisoft Montreal


US November 17, 2009
Europe November 20, 2009

HDD Space Required : 4.6 GB
Backward compatible on Xbox One: Yes
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