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December 8, 2009
Assassin's Creed II - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
19/11/2009UbisoftUbisoftUbisoft Montreal1None
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Assassin's Creed II looks superb.
Back in 2007 one of the most heavily hyped and anticipated titles was Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed which hit multiple platforms (that was after originally expected to be a PS3 exclusive) and despite some mixed reviews - including our own - it has since become one of the biggest selling titles of all time with over 8 million units sold worldwide. Two years later and we now have the highly anticipated sequel, Assassin's Creed II, with Ubisoft promising to improve the game and fix all those issues people complained about in the first one. Have they succeeded? Hell yes they have...

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New hero Eizo takes out an enemy.
Set a couple of hundred years after the events of the first title (well, in terms of the flashback timeline) this sequel sees you playing a new character in Italy named Ezio Auditore di Firenze. As is the way in a good storyline your family has, unfortunately, been slaughtered and the overall goal of the game is to exact revenge on those involved. It's a detailed storyline with dozens of characters to get to grips with (so many in fact that we were a little confused at times) and a tonne of cut-scenes to flesh out the background history of Eizo.

Not wanting to mess with a good thing Ubisoft Montreal have retained the same third person gameplay from the original title, but have seen fit to expand the range of missions to break up the gameplay. There are now sixteen different mission types including assassination contracts, delivering messages, escorting friends through town, finding the secret glyphs, collecting codex Pages, eavesdropping on character discussions, rescuing prisoners and of course completing the main quest. There are some neat diversions too. At one point you will be controlling a stagecoach being attacked, in another you will be flying around in Leonardo's flying machine. It's certainly a major improvement over the original game which had too many similar missions.

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Sneaking up to an enemy in the water.
Eizo essentially has the same skill set as Altair from the first game he can walk, run, climb buildings, jump and use a variety of weapons to take out enemies from a hidden blade (and new to this game is dual blades so you can take out two enemies at once, swords, axes or daggers. Eizo has a few new abilities including the ability to swim underwater in order to elude and sneak up on enemies - this is pretty useful in cities like Venice - while enemies don't seem to have learnt to swim as yet and drown if you force them into it during battle.

One aspect of this game that does impress is the massive number of real-world locations used through the numerous cities in the game as well as characters based on their real-life counterparts. Leonardo da Vinci, Niccolò Machiavelli, Caterina Sforza, and Lorenzo de' Medici all make appearances in the game with Leonardo being a close friend of Ezio who helps him upgrade weapons, decipher encryptions, and provide new tools (such as the flying machine) to aide you on your quest.

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Intense action in Assassin's Creed II.
Beyond the main game and quest, there is quite a bit of other content in this game. Indeed there are a tonne of side objectives to complete as well including purchasing all 30 paintings from the art dealers, tracking down thieves, finding the 100 feathers littered throughout the game world, purchasing all weapon and armour sets, collecting all the treasure, and of course synchronizing with all 66 viewpoints on towers (Which also helps complete the maps). Finally, if you have a PSP there is connectivity between this game, and Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines which unlocks some goodies (we don't have the PSP game to test the extent of this however).

Picking faults with this game is pretty hard to do. Early on, say the first 2-3 hours, I felt that the game was pretty slow. Anyone who has played the original would love to get straight into the action, but it takes a while to do that here with several "introductory" styled back story cut-scenes and missions. While I loved the ability to upgrade your Villa to make it more prosperous I really wanted to see much more in this area, perhaps building farms, or new buildings to expand your township and so on. Still, it's a nice inclusion in this game and one I would like to see expanded in future.

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Hand-to-hand combat is key in this game.
For the most part puzzles in Assassin's Creed II are pretty straight forward however there were a few Glyph Puzzles (especially when you have to pick the correct paintings) the frustrated and it seemed more "fluky" when we got them correct. Finally we have to admit that the lack of a multi-player mode is somewhat disappointing. Having a few assassin's running around a city to take out a target first could be entertaining.

Something new to Ubisoft titles is UPlay. This is an online portal where you can track your game stats and earn credits in games which can be put towards unlocking new content. For Assassin's Creed II there are themes and costumes to unlock as well as a catacomb to explore. It also appears that in future this will act as Ubisoft's online store so keep an eye on it.

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Jumping over the Venice canals at night.
Visually Assassin's Creed II is a bit of a two-edged sword. On the one hand, artistically the game is almost unmatched. The recreation of Italian life centuries ago is as accurate as one could expect with gorgeous detail on the buildings, characters and even the countryside with the numerous farms and villas. New to this game is the day-night cycle with the game world looking very different at different times of the day. The highlight though must remain the lead character Eizo's wonderful range of moves which includes everything from walking around the city, climbing buildings and jumping from rooftop to rooftop and of course the combat with the numerous weapons.

Sadly there are some very minor issues to contend with. Again screen-tearing is an issue which rears its ugly head on a far too regular basis and while it may keep the game running at a fair clip it does actually become distracting. There were also some instances of clipping, and strangely these seem to occur most during the cut-scenes. Also the textures on the PS3 version of the game don't look as sharp as those in the XBox 360 version. If you have both consoles we would suggest that, especially with less screen tearing, the XBox 360 version is the way to go, however if you only have a PS3 we must point out that this is still a very nice looking game overall.

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Jumping from the top of a building.
Assassin's Creed II also impresses in the area of audio. Renowned video game music composer Jesper Kyd has returned to the franchise and used a 30 piece orchestra to create a delightful musical score to play throughout the game. Voice work, which must consist of thousands of lines of dialogue, needs to be given credit as it has an authentic "Italian" feel especially with many of the characters switching between English dialogue and Italian for the more "expressive" terms. Audio effects also manage to impress with solid use of surround sound channels and realistic ambient effects in the cities and the clash of weapons.

Assassin's Creed II is a step up from the original on so many levels. The missions are more varied, the storyline is a little more detailed and the main character has a much larger range of moves. The only disappointment is the visuals which while brilliant artistically has reduced textures and screen tearing on the PS3 (as we mentioned earlier, if you have a XBox 360 we would recommend you get that version instead). Still, even with the issues, this is a superb title worth adding to your collection.

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSThe scale of the world, and the detail impresses, but fix that damn screen tearing!
SOUNDThere's plenty of great dialogue and the music is Hollywood quality.
GAMEPLAYUbisoft have listened to complaints and increased the range of mission types.
VALUEThis is a lengthy game with a tonne of side-mission which will extend your missions dramatically.
OVERALLAssassin's Creed II is a big improvement over the original game with much more variety in the missions. Despite the graphical issues this is a brilliant title worth adding to your collection. Superb.

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