My feet race from rooftop to rooftop. The moon is shining down on me, illuminating my white figure and showing me the way. I pause on top scaffolding above the market square. Soon my target comes into my vision. As he draws close enough I unsheathe my hidden blade as I take my leap towards him; And with one swift movement, in one scarce second. His life comes to an end by my hands. I am Ezio Auditore da Firenze, and like my father before me, I am an Assassin.
Assassin's Creed II is not shy on epic moments. Especially when dealing with major historical events and figures such as Leonardo de Vinci. But instead of continuing the adventures of Altair in the Third Crusade from the first game, we take a flash forward in time to a new Assassin in Renaissance Italy 1476. The previously named Ezio Auditore da Firenze is a young Italian noble who leads a normal nobleman life of money, woman, and fights in the name of his family honor. In fact at the start of the game you're not even an Assassin at all. But that all ends as a horrible family tragedy involving a conspiracy that affects all of Italy causes you to don the white cowl and seek vengeance where vengeance is due.
Although rough around the edges as an Assassin rookie would be; over the course of the game you will be taught by various allies how to be the best badass Assassin you could be. Oh and don't expect Ezio's vengeance to be swift. While the game starts in Florence Italy 1476 Ezio's entire adventure will span many years of his life all the way through 1499. Along the way he will be traveling from cities such as Florence, Tuscany, Venice, etc. And let's not forget recently escaped Desmond Miles and Lucy Stillman who, while hiding from Abstergo, meet up with some remaining Assassin's in the modern day and use the Animus 2.0 to view Ezio's life through his eyes.
Visually, Assassin's Creed II has improved moderately from its predecessor. Instead of dank desolate streets such as Acre we are shown the rich, vibrant colors of some of Italy's most famous cities. My personal favorite is the country side of Tuscany. You just can't beat that sun. However graphics do remain slightly the same with only moderate improvement it's still a welcome change (Lucy looks a lot hotter if you ask me). The sound quality is great, especially when you can actually hear your sword slash the flesh of a nicely slain guard; or how some roof shingles might come loose if your landing isn't as perfect. But if none of this does it for you then the games score will definitely have you entranced in your surroundings. You may not cry, but you're eyes might very well get teary.
Gameplay is where we see the vast difference from the previous Assassin's installment and its sequel. Unlike the first game, the side missions are optional now and they don't have any real tie in for the main story. So this time you don't need any investigations to go after your main target. But the side missions are still great to play and come in greater variety now. Instead of the greatly repetitive 3-5 missions ACII will have around 16 different mission types guaranteed to keep things fresh enough. Also in place of the hidden flags from AC this time you'll be collecting feathers found although out the cities. And this time collecting them will unlock some content that could become use full later in the game.
Combat as also evolved from what we've seen. While counter kills are still the option of choice for taking down various guards, there are now many ways to do so. A personal favorite is the disarm moves that allow you to steal an enemies weapon when they try and attack you and then kill them with it in some of the most brutal animations I have seen in a game such as this. Trust me; their blood will spill like wine onto the streets. Now you still have your standard fists, sword, dagger, and throwing knife to fight with. But this time you have the added bonus of being able to fight with both, yes both, hidden blades. Honestly using them to dispatch the guards is almost as fun as disarming them. And fortunately if the fight gets too rough we have a handy smoke bomb for distraction and a quick escape.
And don't worry, you won't be fighting alone. You can hire Italy's underworld of thieves, mercenaries, and courtesans (prostitutes) to either fight by your side, or distract enemies for you. This has more than saved my ass in the game. If you previous main weapon doesn't cut for you, you can take advantage of the games new economy system and purchase different weapons, armor, and ammunition from you local black smith. Or you can use the money you've earned and invest it into your families' villa (HQ) so you can get discounts on such items. But I guess what it really comes down to is the assassinations. And I assure you each and everyone is deeply satisfying as you know see firsthand the atrocities your targets commit instead of just hearing about them. Each target has different ways of going about and doing the deed. So each person will find their own special way. However while some may be challenging others are pretty straight forward but still fun to do. You even get a portrait of every slain foe you kill that you keep in your room at the villa. How creepy is that at night?
Replay wise ACII does a very good job keeping you interested even after the story is over. I personally went back to get all the feathers and more. And yanking a guard of a roof and watching him scream down to his death never gets old. With hope of DLC in my mind I personally will be playing this game again and again.
All in all, Assassins Creed II, in many ways, should have been what the first game was like. While the story was still interesting, it was kind of a bore having to do repetitive and tedious missions to move it along. This is not so with the sequel. No, Assassins Creed II is a great story about revenge and conspiracy with greatly improved gameplay mechanics and characters, both old and new, that we will welcome with open arms into the AC universe. Oh and as a word you warning to you sci-fi buffs, prepare to have your mind, body, and soul blown away at the ending which will no doubt lead us to AC III. Later.