Assassin's Creed II Preview for PS3

On: PS3Xbox 360PC
One new side quest involves searching for contact lenses
One new side quest involves searching for contact lenses

One new side quest involves searching for contact lenses

On the other hand, you may be surprised by how long the game takes to set out its stall: You may have never felt a particularly big connection to Altair, the hero of the previous game, but you'll spend so much time with Ezio before he even becomes an assassin that you'll probably feel quite bad for him when tragedy inevitably strikes. I won't spoil exactly what happens, but suffice to say it's not nice - and the impact is all the greater because you have a feel for the life that Ezio loses. Only at the very end of the first section of the game, after some 90 minutes of play, will you eventually don your distinctive hooded armour. By this point, you'll be thirsty for some bloody payback.

Shortly after reaching this pivotal moment, a Ubisoft rep stepped in to skip me ahead. The next section I got to play was far more linear: a sort of self-contained mini-level that found Ezio pursuing his enemies through the ancient halls of Santa Maria Novella's Catacombs. By this point in the campaign you'll be used to freely skipping across Italian rooftops as you please, but here the gameplay is more strictly channelled. You'll have to use your acrobatic skills to find you way through collapsed stairwells and ruined chambers, and you'll find yourself actively scanning your surroundings for the vital platforms and handholds that will let you progress. It's all very reminiscent of Tomb Raider, or perhaps Ubi's own Prince of Persia; since this section was designed by the Singapore-based team that made the latter, perhaps this shouldn't come as a surprise.

In addition to a spot of climbing-based puzzling, the catacombs section also forces you to deal with a number of patrolling guards. By this stage in the campaign Ezio has learned quite a few new killing skills, including the ability to throw knives and to assassinate enemies as you hang from a ledge beneath them, so it wasn't exactly a challenge to dispatch these hapless fools. Towards the end of this level, you'll also have to chase a guard who spots you and then runs off to inform his mates. As your victim-to-be scurries away on foot he'll shut large gates and unstable scenery to block your path, forcing you to seek an alternate route. It's a big change of pace from what comes before, hopefully suggesting that Ubisoft really has listened to all those complaints about the first game being too repetitive.

There are actually six of these secret tombs to explore, but you'll only ever be forced to visit the first one. However, it's certainly well worth your while to seek out the other five, as each one contains a hidden assassin's seal (by which I mean a stone tablet, rather than a psychotic sea mammal). If you manage to collect the whole set, you'll unlock the armour that Altair used during the last game. It's an exciting prize, but the seals are only one of several collectables up for grabs: you'll also have to hunt for feathers ('cause feathers are the new flags, y'know?), secret codes that can be decoded by Leonardo DaVinci to upgrade your gear, and treasure chests hidden all over the world - you can even buy treasure maps to help you find the latter.

People who wear berets without irony DESERVE to die

People who wear berets without irony DESERVE to die

All of these items are showcased in the Auditore family villa. As I briefly mentioned in my last preview, Ezio has a private mansion located in Monteriggioni in Tuscany, a sort of private safehouse that can be visited between assignments. Having briefly seen the villa for myself, I can tell you that this place is a lot larger than what you might have been expecting. The house itself is massive, with entire rooms dedicated to the weapons you've collected, artworks you've bought and trophies from the people you've killed, but in addition there's also a small town that's sprung up around the grounds. The shops here are cheaper than in any of the other cities throughout AC2's world, since the locals are more than happy to give you a discount, and in addition you'll also take a cut of their profits: every 20 minutes or so you'll automatically receive a small quantity of cash, Fable 2 style.

As it happens, this isn't the only similarity to Peter Molyneux's fantasy epic. Once you start accumulating large volumes of cash you'll be able to invest it in the town, upgrading the 11 local amenities and businesses. When you first come to the town everything will look a bit shabby, but as soon as you upgrade a building, it'll transform into something grander and smarter than before. Once this happens you'll get a better discount, but since the new structures are also larger, they'll also let you do more exploring of the town. Upgrading the brothel, for example, might let let you climb to the top of a previously inaccessible tower, allowing you to grab another feather or whatever else is stashed there. Everything you collect or upgrade in AC2 will increase your cashflow, from the value of your art collection to the size of your armoury. The more you spend, the more you ultimately receive.

It's a smart arrangement, one that should encourage players to seek out all the many activities and diversions available. As I say, there's going to be a lot to do in this game, but I like the fact that Ubisoft is trying to tie all the various elements together. And on a separate note, the game itself is looking stunning. The code I played this week wasn't final, but it's already looking genuinely beautiful. This is the kind of game where you'll occasionally stop what you're doing just so that you can have look around and appreciate everything around you - it's that good-looking. The game's architecture is stunning in its detail, but the audio work is also superb; as you walk through the busy streets you'll hear street vendors shouting in Italian about the fresh produce they have for sale, or someone announcing the cancellation of a church mass due to an outbreak of plague. It adds up to an incredibly vibrant game world, and I for one can't wait to see more.

Assassin's Creed 2 is scheduled for release on November 20 for Xbox 360 and PS3. A PC version will follow in 2010.

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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

Release Date: 20/11/2009
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Action
No. Players: One
Rating: BBFC 15
Site Rank: 4,961 16
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