VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Gut Reaction – Assassin’s Creed II


Our esteemed editor-in-chief, Michelle, rolled out this (brilliant) idea when she tackled “Modern Warfare 2” a few weeks back — a gut reaction to a brand new game that’s based on several hours of game play yet doesn’t require the reviewer to complete the entire game before filing a review.

If you are anything like us, you are currently juggling multiple games (I’m immersed in Call of Duty, Tony Hawk: Ride and Assassin’s Creed). Not to mention the fact that designers deliberately are creating longer, more elaborate stories for their games, meaning finishing a title isn’t nearly as simple as it used to be. But you, dear reader, don’t want to wait to hear if a game is worth your time and money, so here’s a gut reaction to Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed” sequel, after completing the first full stage (approximately 10 missions) of the DNA memory strand.

There is a lot of build up in this new story, more than I remember in the original “Assassin’s Creed.” Like its predecessor, “Creed II” takes place in an open-world environment that allows you to follow a set story or simply explore exquisitely detailed, historical settings.

The plot begins in modern day, where  Desmond Miles (Nolan North), with the help of researcher Lucy Stillman (Kristen Bell), uses a machine dubbed Animus 2.0 to interact with distant memories left by his ancestors. This time out, Desmond explores the past life of Ezio Auditore da Firenze so he can learn the ways of the assassins and locate other Pieces of Eden (a holdover device from the original story).

Ezio lived in Italy during the Renaissance in the late 15th century, so you get to explore Florence as you get your feet wet with multiple missions. The percolating plot ends with the murder of Ezio’s family, which will set him down a larger path and — hopefully — expand the game.

But I needed the refresher course on “Assassin’s” controls, and playing the early levels of the “Story” mode reminded me just how much has changed from the original to the sequel. The hero stil vaults like a gymnast around his European playground. Ezio scales walls, tiptoes through rafters and blends into crowds when he needs to avoid ever-present guards. The animation is fantastic, and the introduction of evening missions is an excellent touch. The motions are fluid, the missions are challenging, and Florence is a gorgeous backdrop for the “Assassin’s” action.

But you have to complete the entire first strand of Ezio’s memory before you even earn your Assassin’s robes (pictured on the game’s box), and until you get your costume — it’s the equivalent of Superman’s cape, after all — your only weapon is your fist. Well, your fist and your stealth abilities to escape danger by hiding in bales of colorful leaves or ducking into a curtained box.

Clearly I’m just scrating the surface. Ubisoft says there are roughly 200 missions in “Assassin’s Creed II,” with only half of them tied to the official game. So even after you have wrapped up the story, there is PLENTY left to explore in the open world. For instance, once I completed the first stage, I’d only found one of 100 possible feathers (collect them for points) and was bankrupt on eagle-eye views. But still, I played enough to know that the sequel is a natural progression from the original “Creed” game that will delight fans and attract newcomers to the genre.

Grades So Far
Graphics/Presentation – A
Story – B
Control – A-
Fun Factor – B+
Will I Finish? – Oh, hell yes!

EM Gut Reaction
By Sean O’Connell
Originally posted 12.1.09

Updated: December 1, 2009 — 3:33 pm