…Assassin’s Creed with more of what you liked and less of what you didn’t like. Desmond Miles is delving once again into his ancestral memories in order to save the future by learning the secrets buried in his family’s past. With Altair’s story told in the previous installment, Assassin’s Creed 2 introduces a new hero, Ezio Auditore, who buckles his swashes across the backdrop of 15th century Italy. Literally picking up right where the original left off, Assassin’s Creed 2 combines a compelling story with a greatly improved flow of play to create a mix of action and mystery that is easy to get drawn into and difficult to put down.
What makes AC2 really pop is the way it builds on the successes of the original without sacrificing what made it great in the process. Everything that worked about the first game is equal or better here—the scope of the story, the intrigue that develops across two time periods, the design of the environments and the joys of exploring them—and it makes for an experience that is very easy to sink back into. Chief amongst the improvements made is the elimination of much of the tedium and repetition that sullied the previous adventure just simply by tying more of the missions to the actual story. It’s a simple and elegant fix that makes the game feel so much more engaging by constantly driving you forward through the plot rather than forcing you to tread water for long periods before you earn your reward as was the case in the first game. The mix of stealth, exploration, and stylishly combat works just as well here as it did before, with a few new cookies in the form of new weapons and gadgets to keep things fresh, even if most of them are more show than go.
What Doesn’t Work
What doesn’t work for AC2 is a relatively short and undistinguished list. It should be noted that despite being packaged as a separate stand-alone product this game is the truest sequel we have seen in quite some time and should under no circumstances be played without first experiencing the previous chapter. If one is in the business of nitpicking, there are a few horribly designed puzzles that are key to unlocking some very interesting pieces of the game’s mystery, and it’s a shame to think some people may miss out on them because they’re hidden behind a handful of unintuitive logic games. Those who took issue with the relative ease of the original’s combat timing game will be disappointed to learn that not much has been done to change that, though a few notable tweaks do make the fights feel a little better and the animations are still totally sweet even if many of them are holdovers from before.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line here is that Assassin’s Creed 2 is one of the best games of this year or any other, period. The first game was great in its own right and this one is better in almost every way. Even the finale is brilliant in how it provides a satisfying conclusion to this chapter while dropping huge bombshells that demand the series continue. This is a gamer’s game from start to finish, and if you don’t like it you might need to consider a new hobby.