Assassin's Creed II

Assassin's Creed II
Assassin's Creed II Cover
Platforms Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows
Genre No-renaissance-here adventure
MtAMinutes to Action 8
Keep Playing? No
Buy from Amazon

A few years ago, I had to opportunity to borrow an Xbox 360 along with a bunch of games when my friend was out of the country. Assassin's Creed was one of them, and while I was more or less satisfied after the first hour, the entire game left a lot to be desired.  I found it incredibly repetitive and full of crappy A.I. while lacking any kind of story framework.  It had its moments, like finding the lookout points around the city along with some beautiful graphics, but the game left a foul taste in my mouth.

Fast forward more than two years later and this time Assassin's Creed II has fallen into my lap.  Everyone was raving about how much Ubisoft had improved the game over the original, but then again all those same people had lavished praise on the first one.  I'm not one to judge a game without giving it a try though, so here we are for another go around with the first hour of Assassin's Creed II.

For a quick introduction, the Assassin's Creed series is all about third-person parkour in the past.  You play as an assassin who runs around the city doing what assassins do: finding out information about their target and then taking them out.  The first game took place in the Holy Land in the 12th century whereas the sequel is set in Italy during their Renaissance in the 15th century.

Warning: Do not buy this game for Windows as Ubisoft wrapped Assassin's Creed II in some of the most awful DRM anyone could ever imagine: a required, persistent internet connection for a single player game.  Avoid this at all costs, don't buy it and don't pirate it for Windows.  Do not give Ubisoft any reason to justify what they did.  Two years ago, Ubisoft released Prince of Persia without any DRM whatsoever, ask them to return to those days.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I select Story Mode and the first hour of Assassin's Creed 2 begins.  I enter my name and the game begins loading.  Desmond from the first game begins narrating, he says he's a Prisoner of War.  That may be a stretch.  The Templars and Assassins are still at war.  The Templars has Desmond prisoner in the first game, and he's ready to fight back.

01 - Desmond recalls Lucy Stillman, who may be an Assassin plant in the Templar science labs.  "My name is Desmond Miles, and this is my story." (complete with Tidus fist pump)

02 - Oh my, the game has the balls to start out right where the last one ended, looking at a wall of red graffiti.  Lucy appears and says we have to go. Oh, Kristen Bell, I'll follow you anywhere.

03 - The first thing I notice is that the game looks a lot better than the first, there's been a definite graphical upgrade.  Lucy tells me to get in the Animus, the device that allows Desmond to travel back in time via his DNA, or something.

04 - She says we only have a few minutes, so we gotta make this quick.  I think she fought her way into the place because she has blood on on her shirt.  So we're viewing another cutscene, a woman is giving birth and the wet nurse is speaking Italian.  The father appears, but the baby is not crying!

Assassins Creed 2 Lucy Stillman Kristen Bell Desmond

05 - Haha! The game is telling me how to control the baby, A moves the legs, Y the head, and X and B the arms.  The baby cries, and I get the Birth of an Assassin achievement.  Well, that was tough.

06 - Back in the real world now, we gotta go!  Some guards approach and Lucy violently takes them down.  Desmond just strolls around, how do I run? Oh, hold R.

08 - We just navigated our way through a huge room with tons of Animuses (Animi?). Desmond somehow figures out how to unlock a door and we appear in a garage.  Tons of guards appear, I guess I'm supposed to fight them?  Mashing the X button seems to work.

10 - I kick one guy in the nuts and toss him to the ground.  Lucy easily takes care of the rest.  She shoves me in a trunk and we leave the Abstergo building.  Another achievement unlocked.

12 - We're in some warehouse now, Lucy describes the current situation.  The Templars are winning the war, that's not good.

13 - The Assassins are going to train Desmond to be an assasssin.  Lucy hugs Desmond for his willingness to join up.  Nice.

Assassins Creed 2 Lucy Stillman Kristen Bell Desmond Animus

14 - Lucy has brought me to the Assassin's hideout.  I'm greeted by some old friends of hers, and then I regain control.

15 - I can talk to the workers here, the woman runs the Baby as she calls it, their version of the Animus.  How convenient.  Shaun is in charge of information and other boring stuff.  His British accent indicates he doesn't have time for us petty Americans.

16 - So even though Lucy has been gone seven years, she's just tooling away on a keyboard instead of hanging out with her old friends. Desmond apologizes for previously helping the Templars, but Lucy forgives me.  Okay, time to hop in the Animus!

17 - I hop in and get another achievement, this game is just doling them out.  All right, Repubblica Fiorentina appears, circa 1400's.  The beautiful Italian architecture is drawn out and the a man begins a speech.

19 - He's talking half in Italian, half in English, a bit weird, but at least he's got an Italian accent.  Some bureaucrat appears and we begin arguing, but then he throws a rock at me! Oh, he's got it coming!

21 - Fighting is smooth if a bit slow, my brother appears and challenges me to just keep fighting until I run out of health.  I end up not taking any more soldiers out before they run off. Cowards!

Assassins Creed 2 Ezio Street Battle

22 - I loot the guys injured on the street so I can pay the doctor, haha.

24 - I loot enough money and my brother wants to move on.  The next memory is activated, I need to follow Federico to the doctor.

25 - Holding R and A kicks off free run, I hop around a bit and find the doctor, who's wearing a giant a giant bird mask... weirdo.

26 - Federico challenges Ezio to a race to the roof of a church, should be easy!  Well, actually that was really easy.  Together we climb to the stop of the steeple and have a good look at the city.

28 - The title screen screen appears, but no time for that, Ezio is looking for love and wants to wake up "the beautiful Cristina Vespucci."

29 - Before that though, I press the Y button to synchronize the map.  This was my favorite part of the original!  I take a leap of faith off into some hay and hide in there as some bad guys approach.

Assassins Creed 2 Ezio Cristina Vespucci

31 - I hop out and approach Cristina's window, Ezio invites himself in.  He says a minute is all he'll need.  Wow, he's quick! I've already taken off her nightgown as some a non-explicit sex scene kicks off.  I haven't seen action this fast since God of War II!

32 - Of course, her father catches us in the morning, and he calls for my head! Time to escape the guards.  I trip and fall though, and lose I guess, as the guards immediately pounce on me.  After a bit of loading I'm allowed to run again.

34 - After a bit more running, I hop in a hay stack and become Anonymous.

36 - I approach the blacksmith, but they're all out of stock, obviously I'm not allowed to buy anything yet.

37 - I stumble upon some courtesans that can be used to tempt away unwanted guards.  Interesting.  The game informs me that prostitution was a popular occupation during this time period.

39 - Not really sure what to do now... I find another shop that sells pouches? Exciting. Ah, there's my father.  A cutscene kicks off between us, he's not happy about the fight, or the visit with Cristina.  Okay, he's not really upset, he seems a bit pleased that I'm so much like him!  He asks me to deliver some documents to Lorenzo de' Medici.

Assassins Creed 2 Ezio Leap of Faith

41 - I press the Back button to read the letter, but it doesn't really make much sense to me.

42 - After a bit of unecessary (but fun) climbing, I find a guard who can deliver the letter.  The man is out though, so it's back to my father.  Before that though, I climb another tower and synchronize the map with the area. 2/66 viewpoints found.

44 - On my way back home, I'm seen by a member of the Pazzi and the chase is on... for about 10 seconds.  One of my complaints about the first game was that you were attacked every few minutes just for standing around, that seems to be back, unfortunately.

46 - I return home and knock on my own door.  Another cutscene starts with Ezio explaining the situation.  Well, he doesn't feel like chatting and informs me my mother and sister were looking for me.  I approach my mother.

48 - She would like help with an errand, so I'll follow her to her friend.  Mother explains the situation with that one guy I fought at the beginning.

50 - Hey, we arrive at Leonardo Davinci's place! Wow, the banter between mother and son is... interesting to say the least.

Assassins Creed 2 Ezio run Away

51 - The controls seem inconsistent, I'm told to press B to pick something up, but before I had to hold B to loot.  Holding B now just shoves stuff around.

52 - So that mission involved me just carrying a heavy box from point A to point B, though I guess I did get to meet Davinci.

53 - I talk to my sister, Claudia, now.  She's having trouble with her boyfriend, Ezio will straighten him out.  The mission "Beat a Cheat," begins!

55 - On my way to the cheat, another lookout point appears, duty calls!

58 - This one is a bit of a tougher egg to crack, as I made it almost to the top before I had to shimmy around entire building before I found just the right precipice to grab onto.  And then I fell... all the way down.  What a waste.

60 - I find the boyfriend... and his new woman.  He's already given her a ring, but I've just given him 20 punches to the face and a couple of knees to the groin.  He goes down in a pile, and this mission is complete.  And that's the end of the first hour of Assassin's Creed 2.

Assassins Creed 2 Ezio Desmond Bloody Blade

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 8

What I loved: Well, the game still features the lookout points, and it at least appears they're going to try to move the story along.  I hated how the original didn't do anything with Desmond.  They finally got him out of that sterile building and into some professor's house.  What an exciting transition... or not.  When do I become an assassin?

What I didn't like: The first hour of the original definitely had a lot more going for it, by this time in that game I was already knee deep in intrigue and the blood of my enemies.  This time, I'm just *ahem* knee deep in beautiful women and school yard fights.

Gameplay: Feels pretty much the same as the last go around, the climbing engine is still really good, and the world is still wide open and ready for exploration.

Fun Factor: Guards still spot you from a mile away when you're just standing around, which is what bothered me the most about the last game after all the repetitiveness.  Why wasn't this fixed?  Why can't I just chill out and enjoy all the hard work the developers put into creating a realistic and believable world?

Graphics and Sound: It sure looks like the graphics have improved, and everyone has realistic accents this time around!  If you're into the Renaissance this game may be worth checking out just for the recreation of 15th century Italy.

Story: While the Desmond story has been moved from neutral to first gear, Ubisoft seems to be heading in the wrong direction with Ezio.  Errands can be fun, but not when the prospects of killing people are the selling point of the game (yeah, you too Grand Theft Auto IV, stop that).

Would I keep playing? Nope.  I didn't really have high hopes though, this game would have really needed to pull out all the stops to get me to return.  I honestly probably will end up playing this game at some point though as once I get into a story, no matter how bad it is, I like to see it through.  Not right now though, maybe in a few years when Ubisoft will see absolutely no money from me.  But if you're new to the series, skip it.