Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ubisoft Puts the "Ass" in Assassin

Game: Assassins Creed II

Systems: Xbox 360, PC, PS3

Release: March 2010

Assassins Creed was one of the most boring games I have ever played. The controls were awkward. The setting was bland. The plot was down right silly. After a few hours of play I set down the controls and returned the game. More recently I got a hold of the sequel. The controls got a bit better, and the setting of 15th century Italy is more interesting. The plot, however, is still silly, and I doubt I'll ever have a desire to play the game again.

The entire premise for this series is down right dumb. In the not so distant future an evil group called the Templars are attempting to find a secret weapon that can do all sorts of stuff. The problem is no one knows where this weapon is, and the only way to find it is to look into the past. Books and ancient records, however, are not enough. To truly find the information people are hooked up to a machine called the Animus. This device allows people to scan the memories of their ancestors, and the main character Desmond just so happens to have a butt load of ancestors with knowledge of this secret weapon.

The first game had Desmond going through the memories of Altair during the crusades. Desmond also found out the corporation that runs the Animus is connected to the Templars. The sequel begins with Desmond being freed by the female "hero" Lucy. She takes him to a rag tag rebellious group that is also searching for the secret weapon.The key is to follow the memories of Ezio an assassin from Renaissance Italy. By the end of the game SPOILER Desmond discovers the truth. Aliens created the world and gave a dire warning of some future catastrophe. This is all explained in a pathetic ending monologue that struggles to cover up all the crappy plot holes.

So the story is dog poop on a stick, but that isn't anything new to video games. Gameplay and graphics will give some form of entertainment. The environment engine is truly fantastic. I really felt like I was running through 15th century Italy. Giant church steeples punch through the sky line. Venice is truly a labyrinth of water ways. Art is everywhere, and the carnival brought some color into the otherwise brown/red motif. As a student of history I had a blast roaming old school Italy. Unfortunately with all the graphical power going to environments character models suffer. Everyone runs around with giant fish mouths, their hair physics are rigid, and their eyes bulge outward.

Gameplay denotes improvement from the previous game, but still feels awkward. Combat is all about countering and dodging. This creates situations where you simply hold down block and wait for someone to attack. Running away is still more fun then fighting in Ass Creed II--unless you get the drop on someone.

Leonardo da Vinci is your gadget man, and he does make some cool toys. The famous hidden blade is now doubled so players can assassinate two people at once. A poisoned hidden blade is ridiculously fun. Pick a victim. Prick with poison, and watch as they throw their arms/weapons around while they slowly die. Ezio even gets a gun, which is extremely over powered in a land of arrows and swords. What about the flying machine you ask? Meh. Ubisoft over hyped the famous da Vinci glider, and the game is fun despite its pathetic weak-sauce.

Assassins Creed II is not a bad game, but it is far from anything spectacular. Fans of the first will enjoy the second. The rest of us will probably rent the game, play it once, and move on. Exploring Italian cities and poisoning people are the most entertaining parts of the game. The plot, character models, and combat still need improvement. Snerts Snazzy Score is a 4 out of 5.

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