Published on October 18th, 2009 | by prime

Assassin’s Creed II – Hands-on

One of the most successful videogames of all time and the fastest-selling new IP in recent history. And two years later, with lessons learned and feedback embraced, Ubisoft Montreal are ready to show their hand…

First things first…unlike its predecessor, game Director Benoit Lambert reassures us that the PS3 version of Assassin’s Creed II is as technically sound as that of its Xbox 360 brother, running at full 1080p and without a graphical hitch or framerate issue in sight. Good news, then, for those of us concerned that Ubi’s Anvil Engine simply wasn’t up to scratch for the PS3’s architecture. But technological triumphs only get you so far, and the Canadian team has been keen to develop the Assassin’s Creed experience beyond mere technical improvements. “The original wasn’t very rewarding,” explains Lambert – and he certainly doesn’t need to tell us twice after having spent hours needlessly trawling the land for those worthless flags. “AC1’s flags were good for grinders,” admits Lambert, “but they didn’t have a particular reward.” That’s all changing for ACII, however, with the game’s new collectible: feathers. There are 101 feathers to collect across the entire game world, which Lambert says has both ‘purpose within the story’ and significant reward upon collecting all of them. Quite what that is though, Lambert isn’t prepared to say, unfortunately.

But the idea of reward is one that runs uniformly throughout ACII. Lambert introduces us to the game’s new secret locations – underground caves and building interiors that play host to a different kind of gameplay to that which we’re used to seeing in Assassin’s Creed. They’re puzzle sequences which Lambert likens to Prince of Persia, and the resemblances are clear to see, with a sweeping camera giving a vague overview of the area upon entry. These segments are far more linear than the rest of the game, acting as a welcome break from AC’s traditional fast-paced, kill-a-minute gameplay, yet they feel like a perfect match for Ezio’s athleticism, requiring precision and physical dexterity, and with each taking advantage of newly acquired moves. Essentially, each are is a preset course filled with discreet paths and waypoints – brainteasers, in other words. Persevere though and you’ll be rewarded substantially, with Lambert assuring us that finishing all of the secret locations unlocks the biggest reward the game has to offer – a brave move considering the title’s core focus on killing.

Assassin’s Creed II, it seems, is keen to appeal to every kind of gamer, rather than simply just those with a lust for blood it’ll certainly satisfy those that do, though, with-all new move sets and opportunities to deal death. The dual concealed blades may be the most widely publicized, but did you know that you can also disarm opponents, fight with them hand-to-hand or purchase new weapons and armour at the store? That itself brings a whole new area of gameplay to Assassin’s Creed, with the essence of micro-management as you keep an eye on your wallet while infiltrating enemy strongholds and looting downed soldiers for cash on the way. There are plenty of ways to bring in additional revenue, including investing in local businesses and relying on a daily income from your villa. The villa also acts as a place to show off your wares, be it newly acquired armour, clothing or weapons, or purchased paintings – and you’ll be able to access new secret locations from your villa too, by building a well just outside.

The villa acts as ‘a summary of prayer’s experience’ says Lambert, after a few hours with the game so far, the experience with Assassin’s Creed II has been surprisingly encouraging. A candidate for game of the year? You’d be unwise to dismiss it at this stage.

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