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Humanity's Darkest Secret

February 4, 2010

     The sequel to the hit 2007 game, Assassin’s Creed II picks up right after its predecessor left off.  Desmond Miles is freed from Abstergo Industries by secret Assassin Lucy Stillman just after discovering the messages written in blood on his bedroom walls.  Lucy takes him to an Assassin hideout, where she and other Assassins have him enter a new Animus 2.0 to learn the skills of an Assassin through the bleeding effect and discover more about the Pieces of Eden.  This time, he delves into the memories of another of his ancestors, Ezio Auditore da Firenze.  Ezio, the son of a well-to-do Florentine (who is secretly an Assassin himself), loses much of his family when one of his father’s supposed friends betrays him as a part of a political scheme.  Ezio becomes an Assassin too, with the help of his uncle Mario, to kill those responsible for his father’s betrayal.  In doing so, he discovers a Templar plot to gain ultimate power with the Pieces of Eden.  Along the way, he meets many famous historical figures, including Lorenzo de’ Medici, Niccolo Machiavelli, Caterina Sforza, and most notably, Leonardo da Vinci.

     Although the first game was very enjoyable, this game fixes essentially every single problem from the first one.  For example, there’s a much wider variety of assassination techniques, including from above, from in a haystack, hanging from a roof, and assassinating two people at once.  There’s an actual health bar so you can see how hurt you are, upgradable armor and weaponry, medicine, poison, and much more.  There’s also a greater freedom of movement, as  you can travel between such locations as Venice, Florence, Monteriggioni, Forli, and San Gimignano almost whenever you please.  Most importantly, the main character, Ezio, is a really interesting, if someone nymphomanic, person who you can really get to like.  The main character of the previous game, Altair ibn La-Ahad, was highly unsympathetic and generally cranky and overly synical.  You really feel for Ezio’s loss in this game.  Most of the other main characters are also fairly likable, particularly Leonardo da Vinci.  Just so you know, there’s a quicktime event involving hugging him, and if you miss it, you may feel like a total jerk.

     The game’s plot is highly engrossing (at least, Ezio’s plot is), and at last, you manage to get a bit of the information behind the Pieces of Eden and what’s really going on.  The locales are beautiful and highly accurate (I myself have been to Il Duomo, and the rendering of it was spot on), and the graphics are a great improvement over the last game on the whole.  Further contributing to Ezio’s superiority over Altair is the great voice acting of Roger Craig Smith, whose Italian accent is rather believable, considering the fact that he isn’t Italian.  Ezio didn’t even have an accent, when all the other characters around him had Middle Eastern accents, which was kind of awkward.  Just like the previous game, the gameplay, with the new additions, is extremely exciting and fast-paced, which is the biggest highlight of the game.  Occasionally, Ezio may decide to randomly go in a different direction than you’re telling him, which can get frustrating.  But that’s the only issue.  Sure, this may not have the best plot ever (I still think it’s quite cool), but it’s a dang fun game that takes you all across Italy.  By the end, you’ll want to kill Rodrigo Borgia almost as much as Ezio will.  I’m greatly looking forward to the final part of the Assassin’s Creed trilogy, and I hope that Ezio makes a brief appearance, so we can see what happened to him in the end (as that was one of the weakest parts of the game, a lack of a true ending for Ezio).

Story: 9.3      Gameplay: 9.6      Presentation: 9.4      Soundtrack: 9.3      Acting: 9.4      Overall: 9.5

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