Assassin’s Creed 2 Preview
It’s not just the story which is getting an overhaul and re-focus for Assassin’s Creed 2
, as Ubisoft has promised and revealed a number of fundamental changes to the core gameplay too.
There’s all the usual stuff obviously; new parkour moves, new weapons and new characters based on real people like Leonardo da Vinci. More importantly though there’s also a greater degree of personality applied to the gameplay, so you aren’t just repeating the same pattern of pickpocket, eavesdrop and stab for the entire game. That was the one part of the original Assassin’s Creed
which was almost universally loathed. We know we certainly got sick of it fast, that’s for sure.
This time around, Ezio is presented with missions that have far more individuality to them and aren’t just put on an endless loop. You’ll be swooping across the Italian skyline in one of Da Vinci’s flying machines, or using punting boats to navigate through the narrow riverways and find new ways to reach your targets. There’s a wider cast of supporting characters to offer you side missions and interim objectives too, not just the faceless, hooded masses.
Ezio can now use rivers for cover when needed
That said, the core focus of the game still looks to be staying the same – large crowds filling beautiful plazas, with your target usually out in the open and well guarded. Ubisoft can change all the preamble it wants too, but the really interesting part of the game will always be the risk and reward relationship that plotting an assassination entails.
The slow build of tension as you close on your prey, followed by the burst of relief as you slip the knife in and the runaway adrenaline as you disappear in the backstreets – for all its failings that’s one thing Assassin’s Creed
captured perfectly. If the sequel can’t do the same then we’ll be mighty disappointed. Murderously so, perhaps.
We doubt that will be the case though, as even a quick glance at Assassin’s Creed 2
’s feature list reveals that the basic framework of the game is being left intact. The sequel is still an open-world affair, with Ezio able to explore three cities; Venice, Rome and Florence in this case. That means there’ll likely be lots of tooing and frowing between missions, though the Tuscan countryside has been made a lot more interesting and exciting than the no man's land of the first game.
The Italians take Hide and Seek very seriously
In fact, Ubisoft has even gone to efforts to include new and unusual areas in the game to help give it a bit more character and variation – catacombs and underground dungeons built under the cities. In other words; exactly the types of places that might prove helpful to a grossly outnumbered assassin on a mission, though whether these areas are for hiding in or travelling through remains to be seen.
Either way, the inclusion of these crumbling and ancient areas nicely sums up the ethic Ubisoft seems to be applying to Assassin’s Creed 2
– one which disregards all the errors of old and brings the title up to date in terms of setting and gameplay mechanics. It forces an update in the weapons too, obviously. Altair’s not-so-hidden blade may have been a signature weapon of his period, but the Italians are a canny people and have learned to spot assassin’s by their missing fingers. As such, Ezio favours a rudimentary pistol and a new poison needle that he can safely carry behind his fist.
Obviously, without going hands-on with the game for an extended period and seeing just how well all of Ubisoft’s promises hold up, it’s hard to know if Assassin’s Creed 2
will really live up to all the hype. For now though, we’re quietly confident that Ezio and Desmond can avoid the sins of their fathers and weave a story which is set to thrill.
Assassin’s Creed 2 will be published by Ubisoft on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in November this year. The PC version will be out in Q1 2010. Until then, you can check out the latest trailer here.