2009's big slate of holiday games got pared down when a lot of titles slipped to 2010, and those that remained have largely been released already. One of the last, Assassin's Creed II, is a sequel to one of 2007's most-hyped original IPs, a game that got good reviews and sold well but was still seen as a bit of a disappointment.
A mysterious story about near-future Templars and virtual-reality access to the memories of 12th-century assassins acted as backdrop to beautiful open-world parkour and stealth. Does the sequel surpass its predecessor? After a week of play, here's how we felt.
Scott: Assassin's Creed II is a stealth game that's appropriately crept onto our radar after a lot of far-more hyped titles this year, and it merits some serious attention. The strange plotline of the original continues, but updates the focal setting to Renaissance Italy. Rendered in beautiful detail, Florence and other cities can be climbed around and navigated through--although in self-contained zones--and the characters this time around are a lot more lively and spicy. Famous historical figures, including a young version of Leonardo da Vinci, are great additions to the storyline, and also provide you with inventions to use in-game.
Unfortunately, it's hard to figure out the fragmented storyline, which sometimes feels about as clear as a chapter of Metal Gear Solid, but the game's missions and layout are a lot easier to dive into and play than in the original Assassin's Creed. A funky computer sim-type interface and lack of a true tutorial force players unfamiliar with Assassin's Creed to feel somewhat alienated, which is a shame considering the amount of research that's been poured into this universe.
Assassin's Creed II is, in the end, a sort of open-world game that at times feels like Grand Theft Auto set hundreds of years ago, especially in its mission-focused structure and its roster of quirky side characters. It's one of the most pleasant surprises of the year--a game that's better than its hype. However, its Dan Brown spirit and arcane framing might not be for everybody.
Jeff: Unlike most of the gaming press, I found the original Assassin's Creed to be a trite and redundant open-world action game that had tons of potential. The cities were beautiful, the climbing mechanic was on point, but the repetition of mostly lame mission objectives almost prevented me from finishing the title.… Read more