Assassin's Creed II Preview for PC

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Ezio was a notorious cheat at Sports Day
Ezio was a notorious cheat at Sports Day

Ezio was a notorious cheat at Sports Day

It's hard not to love this time of year. The nights may be getting darker now, and the VideoGamer.com office may be colder than a penguin's ballbag, but every day seems to bring some new form of gaming delight. In the past week alone I've wet my whistle with Modern Warfare 2, Chinatown Wars, Borderlands, and now, after a morning at BAFTA's HQ on Piccadilly, Assassin's Creed 2. I know that a few big name releases have slipped to next year, but there's still plenty to get excited about in the run up to Christmas.

While I certainly enjoyed my first hands-on with Assassin's Creed 2, this second outing proved to be a far deeper, more rewarding experience. Whereas last time I simply dived into the game and started messing about with all the wonderful moves and mechanics, on this occasion I was allowed to start at the very beginning of the game. The preview that follows will naturally contain a few spoilers from the early parts of AC2's plot, but where possible I want to focus on other aspects - specifically the structure of the first act.

Assassin's Creed 2 kicks off mere seconds after the end of the first game, with Desmond Miles still trapped in a maze of high-tech laboratories belonging to the sinister Abstergo Industries. Within seconds he's been busted out by Lucy Stillman - the super-sexy Abstergo researcher who eventually turned out to his secret ally, and together the pair flee to join up with a small group of rebels who are taking on the evil corporation. There's more than a touch of J.J. Abrams to these opening moments: there's nutty sci-fi technology, there's grisly violence, there's smouldering sex appeal - and none of it will make much sense to you if you didn't play the last entry in the series.

After this somewhat madcap introduction, AC2 swiftly settles down into its core setting of Renaissance era Italy. I'm not going to explain the full plot of the game, but in a nutshell the idea is that Desmond has the power to recall memories of his ancestors - many of whom were deadly assassins. In this sequel our true hero is Ezio Auditore, a spirited young man living in 15th Century Florence. We first meet Ezio during the first seconds of his life: Desmond's first flashback occurs moments after Ezio's birth, a scene that takes the form of a brief but undeniably clever tutorial.

Underage drinking was a big problem in Renaissance-era Italy

Underage drinking was a big problem in Renaissance-era Italy

As Ezio's mother cradles her newborn son, the game first asks us to move his feet, then each of his arms, and then finally his head. Each of these actions requires the player to tap one of the four face buttons, immediately cementing what each button will do throughout the game: One controls your feet - allowing you to run, jump and climb; two more govern your hands - one for attacks, another for more general interactions. Finally, the fourth button controls your vision. There are a great many moves at your disposal in AC2, but thanks to this smart introduction you should rarely forget the commands to summon these options.

The second time we encounter Ezio, he's a passionate young man with a hot head and an eye for the ladies. As soon as you take control of him you'll be steering him through a Renaissance era street rumble, fighting alongside his beloved brother, Federico. Your first in-game assignments are clearly there to teach you the game's many mechanics, but they also introduce you to the hero and his world. You'll pick up the unbelievably fluid climbing and free-running controls, and then you'll put them to good use. You'll race your older brother to the top of a church; you'll pay a night-time visit to your high society girlfriend; you'll slip off her clothes, and eventually flee from her angry father.

You'll also run errands for the various members of your family, and in each case you'll be taught about one of the game's many side attractions. After delivering messages for your dad, you'll unlock the optional courier missions; after duffing up your sister's scumbag boyfriend (something that every older brother secretly wants to do), you'll open up the similar hand-to-hand combat assignments. There's going to be a huge amount to do in AC2, but thanks to to this careful structure you shouldn't be left feeling too overwhelmed by it all.

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rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ mydeaddog

Cheers Neon
It sounds like it wasn't in the way of the gameplay but added to it, so thats good news to me.
Sounds a little bit similar to the fable games the girlfriend part in my view, which is a very good thing in my view, esspecially interacting with the story.
Posted 15:59 on 24 October 2009
mydeaddog's Avatar

mydeaddog@ rbevanx

Hey, don't worry about it - i'm sure it's just someone trying to wind you up!

It's always a bit tough when you have to write about story-driven parts of games; I personally hate spoilers, but in a preview like this they can be hard to avoid.

I'm afraid I can't answer your question, as I didn't think to try and skip a cut scene! What I can say is that none of the scenes I saw were massively long in a Hideo Kojima kind of way. You do get quite a lot of them, but many are very brief: You might deliver a letter and then get a 20 - 30 second clip of the guy receiving it and thanking you, for example.

I feel that the cut scenes are there to supplement the gameplay, rather than to replace it. I certainly never felt that a movie was getting in the way; on the contrary, I felt that they worked really well with the rest of the game. Overall I was very impressed with the way Ubisoft guide you into Ezio's story.

Oh, and some of the scenes are interactive. When you go to visit Ezio's girlfriend at the beginning of the game, you have to press a button to kiss her! For a brief moment I thought things were going to go all Hot Coffee, but thankfully the whole scene is done very well.
Posted 15:50 on 24 October 2009
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ rbevanx

Why did I get TD for asking a question?

It's not my fault that my parents don't spoon feed me and I'm skint all the time.
Some people on this site can't buy all the games that come out.
Posted 11:52 on 24 October 2009
Wido's Avatar

Wido

Sounds bloody great. Getting this 100% nowz!

Great preview Neon.
Posted 11:17 on 24 October 2009
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx

I had to stop reading it as it was a bit too spoilerish for me.
But I read some of the summary and it sounds like a lot of gameplay to me.
There were concerns on the forums that becuase there are 3 hours of cut scenes, there might not be much of a game.

Neon you might not be able to answer this as you possibly have an agreement with Ubisoft etc.

Could you skip the cut scenes and were the cut scenes quite long from what you played so far?
Posted 17:58 on 23 October 2009
Mr_Ninjutsu's Avatar

Mr_Ninjutsu

Sounds pretty solid as a AAA title.
Posted 14:39 on 23 October 2009
altaranga's Avatar

altaranga

I, personally, am very excited about this game.

Nice preview, Neon.
Posted 13:49 on 23 October 2009

Game Stats

System Requirements
Release Date: 05/03/2010
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Action
No. Players: One
Rating: BBFC 15
Site Rank: 1,239 865
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