Assassin's Creed II Review
The PC version of last year's beautiful action adventure is lots of fun, but you'll have to overcome its online-only copy protection and high price point.
Of course, Ezio is more than just a talented gymnast without a fear of heights. He's not afraid to shed blood when the time is right, and he's got a number of ways to exact revenge. The dual hidden blades are his best deadly toy in this regard. You can still stealthily pull off a low-profile assassination (sneak up behind a guard and stab him in the neck) or conduct a high-profile kill (pounce on your target and plunge your blade into him in a single, dramatic move). But the best addition to hidden blade kills are double assassinations: Walk between two unsuspecting guards, sink a blade into each of them, watch them crumple to the ground, and keep walking as if you were none the wiser. If you get really enamored with the dual blades, you can hang from a ledge and wait for an enemy to walk above you, stab him, and toss him to the ground below. It's particularly satisfying to do so above the Venetian canals, because the body will splash into the water and then float to the top. Or if you'd rather conduct your bloody business from above rather than below, you can wait for your target to walk below and then assassinate him in one spectacular move.
If you want to take the direct approach instead, you've got more to unsheathe than a basic sword. One of your brand-new combat moves is the ability to disarm an opponent and take his weapon. For a treat, try taking a giant axe from one of the heavily armored guards and planting it in his head, or skewering another with a stolen spear. If you like, however, you can stick with what you've got and simply pick up your fallen foe's weapon off the ground once the skirmish is done. As before, you can toss throwing knives at pesky archers, but Assassin's Creed II also gifts you with a special ranged powerhouse late in the game. Or perhaps you like to play with your victim before it's time to recite the requiem. If so, stab him with your poison blade and watch him stumble about as he tries to gain his bearings before you slice his throat. If that weren't enough, you can purchase improved weapons and armor pieces from blacksmiths scattered around the cities. By the time you are finished, Ezio may be decked out in some impressive-looking gear--and sporting some highly effective weaponry. The essentials of combat remain the same throughout, however: When battle is initiated, you lock onto targets, dance about each other looking for an opening, and time counter moves to pull off a bloody and satisfying kill. Combat isn't difficult, but the addition of larger-scale battles makes it more exciting in this outing. Nevertheless, it's disappointing that enemies still dutifully wait their turn to attack.
Blacksmiths aren't the only vendors willing to take your cash. Assassin's Creed II sports an entire economy. You earn florins by completing missions, looting treasure chests, pickpocketing strangers, or stealing from dead bodies and covered Venetian gondolas. Your main source of income, however, will likely be your uncle's villa, which serves as your base of operations and is a tourist destination. The adage "You have to spend money to make money" is true. You can spend florins on villa upgrades, such as purchasing a brothel or a church, and in turn, the villa will earn more florins from tourists, and you can take the profits from a chest inside the living quarters. You can then use your florins to dye your garb, purchase treasure maps to point out the locations of all those glowing chests, or buy a new pouch to hold more throwing knives. Most importantly, you'll want to visit a doctor, who not only will inform you that a weekly bleeding is part of a healthy lifestyle (yuck), but will keep you stocked in health packs. That's right: Your health does not replenish on its own any longer, so you'll need to make occasional visits to the doctor to replenish your inventory.
If you'd rather just avoid physical damage altogether, you can still keep a low profile, and there are many improvements in this regard as well. You've still got a few old tricks to rely on: benches to sit on and haystacks to hide in, for example. But contrivances of the original (remember Assassin's Creed's scholars, and walking at a snail's pace in prayer?) have been replaced by more natural and sensible mechanics. If you want to blend with the crowds, you can walk into a group of citizens and be automatically hidden. It's fun to move smoothly from one roving group to another and avoid the watchful eye of nearby guards, though there are sadly few occasions when doing so is essential. Or you can slink past guards by hiring a group of courtesans to distract them with their feminine wiles, or by hiring a group of thieves to engage them. You can even throw smoke bombs and use the resulting cover to sneak past. You can still fight your way through most situations, but there's something uniquely satisfying about taking the stealthy approach.
Yet even if you don't often need to be sneaky if you don't wish to be, you'll still need to stay out of the public eye if you can by keeping your notoriety levels low. Notoriety works much as it does in the Hitman games: The more bad deeds you're caught doing, the higher your notoriety levels rise, and the more likely it is that guards will recognize you. If you want to roam the city without worrying about being chased by every group of guards you pass, you can reduce or eliminate your level of notoriety by bribing town criers or by assassinating key guards. The easiest way to reduce your notoriety, however, is to remove the "Wanted" posters that appear whenever your notoriety meter begins to fill. This is one of Assassin's Creed II's more artificial elements, simply because "Wanted" posters appear in places that no guard would ever see. Nevertheless, "Wanted" posters give you another reason to clamber to the rooftops, which is never a bad thing.
The story missions tying all of this exploration and combat together are vastly improved over those of the original, often stringing multiple objectives together and usually making good use of Ezio's skills. Eavesdropping missions are gone completely, and beat-'em-up tasks are mostly optional. Instead, you will be rescuing prisoners, tailing important targets from the rooftops, assassinating wrongdoers, and plenty more. Some of the best missions act as set pieces and often involve Ezio's ever-positive friend, the resourceful Leonardo da Vinci, who will not only upgrade your synchronization (health) bar, but provide you with a few amusing gadgets, like your poison blade and smoke bombs. In one exciting scene featuring your talented comrade, you drive a horse-drawn carriage at a breakneck pace. In another, you take to the skies in one of da Vinci's flying contraptions, using the heat rising from the city's chimneys to stay aloft while kicking archers out of the way. If you thought Assassin's Creed lacked variety, you'll find plenty in the sequel.
Optional tasks are compelling as well. You can still climb to the tops of towers and make a leap of faith into a bale of hay or autumn leaves beneath, and doing so is just as unrealistic and awesome as it ever was. The flags of the original have been replaced by feathers, which tie in to story events early in the game. New missions include assassination assignments retrieved from messenger pigeons and timed rooftop races, which are always enjoyable in a game that makes the simple act of moving from one location to the next such a pleasure. You also run the risk of being pickpocketed, in which case you can chase after the perpetrator and tackle him, taking not just your stolen funds, but the florins of other victims as well. Another intriguing addition is the hidden glyphs you locate on certain buildings by activating your eagle vision. These glyphs tie the story's dual timelines together in an intriguing way and initiate puzzle sequences that in turn unlock short video snippets. The puzzles aren't that great, but the snippets are so weirdly fascinating that you'll want to collect all of them so that you can watch them in sequence. There are enough historical and religious conspiracy tidbits in here to keep you interested, and they're just outrageous enough to delight Dan Brown devotees.
Assassin's Creed II is a fun and beautiful game that gives you the freedom to explore while still offering a focused adventure steeped in atmosphere. It's also an expensive one, retailing at $60, a full $10 more than most PC games sell for at launch. The two additional missions offered as downloads to console owners don't seem reason enough to justify the extra cost--not for a single-player game that has value only if you can connect to the Internet, and only if Ubisoft's servers are working. Yet if these factors don't affect you (and that's a big "if"), you'll probably fall in love with Ezio's escapades. Assassin's Creed II is a picturesque and jubilant romp that will keep you glued to your monitor, marveling at the details that make its historical world such a delight to inhabit.
Nothing wrong with the controls. And the copy protection also isnt a problem cuz I'm playing a cracked version. lol
Don't forget horrible controls. The Assassin's Creed games were designed to use a controller. The keyboard and mouse configuration was not well mapped. Plus, no support for game controllers (Xbox 360 controller). So, in the end, it is a nightmare trying to get the Assassin's seals especially when there is a time limit. Thankfully, Ubisoft enabled support for controllers in Brotherhood and Revelations.
Oh yeah, and certainly don't forget the terrible interface, the game crashes, keeps crashing and doesn't save properly. You'll be playing the same sequence over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and... again. Talk about value for money: that's a lot of extra playtime, isn't it?! Yech!
- Player Reviews: 162
- Game Universe:
- Assassin's Creed (PC, MOBILE, PS3, X360, DS, IP, BB, WINM),
- Assassin's Creed II (PS3, PC, X360, PSP, IP, DS, BB),
- Assassin's Creed II: Battle of Forli (PS3, X360),
- Assassin's Creed II: Bonfire of the Vanities (X360, PS3),
- Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (PS3, X360, PC, MAC),
- Assassin's Creed III (PS3, X360, WIIU, PC),
- Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood - The Da Vinci Disappearance (PS3, X360),
- Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood - The Da Vinci Edition (PS3, X360),
- Assassin's Creed: Revelations (PS3, X360, PC),
- Assassin's Creed: Ultimate Collection (PC)