Assassin's Creed 2 review - worthy action sequel

Author: Daniel Matschijewsky
Date: 2010-03-04 12:19:00
How to continue a game! Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed 2 is more varied, coherent and captivating than the already great predecessor - which is mainly due to the lively game world, the varied assignments and the charming characters. We test the PC version.

There are more pleasant ways to be woken up than with the words "Get out of here, otherwise we'll be dead!". This is exactly what happens to Desmond Miles, the leading actor in Assassin's Creed 2 and the victim of kidnapping by scientist Warren Vidic. We rewind: In the first part of the action game by Ubisoft Montreal from 2008, the crazy Vidic forced the young bartender to make a crazy experiment. It was about centuries-old memories of the Assassin Altaïr, buried deep in Desmond's genome. The assassin's wealth of experience can be called up and "relived" again using a machine called Animus. Vidic's goal: to uncover the secret, long-forgotten hiding place of the legendary artefact Edenapfel and to use its power to help his declining Templar order to new strength.

When Desmond sees through the plan, Vidic wants to shut it down. Just in time, Vidic's laboratory is attacked by Altaïr's fellow assassins, who flees mad scientists. Desmond is left behind and (thanks to Altaïr's view of the eagle) suddenly recognizes strange symbols on a wall. But then: End credits of part 1. This is where Assassin's Creed 2 comes in, seamlessly, with Desmond's view of the cryptic characters. And Lucy Stillman, former villain assistant Vidic, who was refined during the game. It is she who rips Desmond roughly out of his trance: "Get out of here, otherwise we'll be dead!"

»Video: Watch the first minutes of Assassin's Creed 2

The beginning

If you haven't played the first Assassin's Creed , it's hard to find the plot of the second part. Even the fast-paced summary at the beginning is of little help. It's a good thing GameStar exists: We have summarized the plot for you again in a special.

Previous Assassin's Creed refusers may find that stupid, but it cannot be relevant to the rating. Similar to Mass Effect 2, Assassin's Creed 2 is laid out as part of a larger story that is supposed to span several games. And just like the bioware role-playing game, Desmond's new adventure doesn't linger long with a prologue. On the contrary: in the turbulent first minutes you flee the lab complex with Lucy, fight yourself through the security guards and are finally smuggled out of the rogue headquarters into Lucy's trunk. The escape ends in a warehouse far from Vidic's sphere of influence. Here the self-confident blonde has brought one of the gene-driven time travel machines (animus), with which Desmond is to slip into the skin of one of his assassin ancestors again; into that of the young nobleman Ezio Auditore da Firenze. Destination of the trip: Northern Italy at the end of the 15th century.

The hero

In the memories of his Italian ancestor, Desmond should not only continue to search for the hiding place of the Eden apple, but also learn Ezio's skills and transfer them to the real world.

At the beginning, Assassin's Creed 2 sends you through an entertaining tutorial, in which Ezio first gets to the arrogant son of the hostile Pazzi family (combat training), then delivers a race over the rooftops of Florence (climbing deposits) with his brother Federico and finally his does two other siblings Claudia and Petruccio various favors; for example, a lesson is given to an unfaithful fiance (side quests). In this way, you will be introduced to all the functions of the game in a very entertaining way, and you will also get to know a hero with Ezio, something you rarely find in the action genre. Resolute and spirited, never at a loss for a casual saying, womanizer and provocateur, but basically a good person at heart - it is easy to identify with someone like that.

All the more shock then: Ezio's father Giovanni is the victim of an intrigue, wrongly accused of treason, and finally hanged together with Federico and Petruccio. All of this is happening in front of Ezio, who has to watch helplessly how his family is murdered. Even as the lifeless bodies dangle from the ropes, Ezio swears to take revenge on the people behind the plot. That may sound relatively simple, but it brings a lot of emotions into play through the narrative style and the identification with the hero. So we are extremely motivated to hunt for the conspirators, especially since Ubisoft understands very well how to credibly portray Ezio's development from a rebellious youth to a calculating assassin. It's just a shame that the finale that Ezio is working so desperately for is comparatively unspectacular. Ubisoft is likely picking up the big bang for Assassin's Creed 3.

The orders

Similar to its predecessor Altaïr, Ezio is hunting for several conspirators. However, in Assassin's Creed 2, you no longer have to walk to the local assassin store every time, then do three identical sub-missions, and then complete the murder mission.

Instead, you follow a clearly defined mission structure that builds on each other, similar to the main story of GTA 4. In Venice, you only save the injured thief Rosa from the lustful hands of several guards, then fight her way to a canal and then propose the escape gondola to protect underhanded archers. Rosa's brother and leader of the thief guild Antonio is so grateful to Ezio that he helps him to hunt down Dante Moro, one of the backers of the Auditore conspiracy. Its involuntary demise should be staged in a way that is effective for the public, ideally in the evening during the carnival, where there are lots of spectators. To get close enough to Dante, Ezio needs a golden mask, which he has to win in three games organized by the festival organizer. So you charm women to get hold of handkerchiefs, go to checkpoints under time pressure and deliver a gripping capture-the-flag tournament with a nimble AI opponent.

Assassin's Creed 2 cleverly combines all of its playful facets. Ezio fights, sneaks, swims, climbs, steals, kills, runs, is not allowed to kill anyone here or sometimes does not cause a stir, locates targets in the crowd by eagle-eye, frees captured allies, overhears conversations or escorts contact persons - who in the first part for more Diversity has called it here - great!

»Watch the Assassin's Creed 2 test video in the large player

The fights

In addition to good ideas for mission design, the first Assassin's Creed also lacked a well thought-out combat system. Those who made a counterattack at the right moment easily stabbed a dozen opponents.

In Assassin's Creed 2 this is no longer so easy, which is mainly due to the five new, very different enemy classes. Though armored ruffians, for example, don't care much about frontal attacks and also have the unpleasant habit of throwing Ezio out of balance with ax blows. Therefore it is important to avoid the butterfly attacks first and then to fall in the back of the boys. The adversaries are now a little more persistent in the persecution. Unlike in the first part, they search for possible hiding places and poke at you with their halberds in the famous haystacks. In addition, there is now a GTA-like search level that gradually increases as Ezio gets attention. To lower it again, tear off posters from the walls or bribe heralds not to let them call you out to search.

Nevertheless, the enemy AI is still in need of improvement. On the one hand, the pursuers often afford dropouts when climbing or hunting over the rooftops, on the other hand, the boys still do not act as a team, but rather attack one after the other. If you then throw a smoke bomb, you can stab the defenseless (because coughing) guards in rows. The fighting will be even easier if you hire members of one of the three factions (thieves, mercenaries and courtesans) who are waiting to be deployed anywhere in the streets. Because while the allies distract the guards, you can easily hunt the minions from behind with a simple (brutally animated) swipe into virtual nirvana.

The climbing inserts

Like its predecessor, Assassin's Creed 2 draws a large part of its fascination from the magnificent climbing inserts. More fluidly animated than Altaïr, Ezio scrambles up facades, automatically grabs the next best lead and climbs even dizzying heights with admirable lightness.

It is also clear that the legendary viewpoints must not be missing, which not only reveal the position of hidden missions and traders, but also give you an impressive all-round view of the huge, detailed cities. Thanks to the freely configurable mouse and keyboard controls, gymnastics are easy to handle. At the beginning, however, it takes getting used to having to hold down both the right mouse button and the spacebar key for the free-run mode required in climbing inserts. After all, the program supports up to five mouse buttons, which means that the overloaded keyboard layout can be detoxified. With a gamepad, however, you have the best control over Ezio, especially since the good vibration effects provide feedback about injuries in the event of falls or fights. Either way, the strange button symbols are confusing. Instead of "E" for the "execute" action, the program shows a head, a hand stands for "cancel". Especially in the occasional mini-games, in which you have to press the right key sequence quickly, this symbol guessing costs unnecessary thinking time - at least until you are used to it.

The hiding place

The linchpin of Assassin's Creed 2 is the village of Monteriggioni, where the Autidores family mansion is located. You can visit the dilapidated property at any time between missions, which now works much more comfortably thanks to the new fast travel function.

In Ezio's domicile you stock up on better weapons and armor, train new combat maneuvers and - it gets exciting - find the sword and robe of Altaïr later in the basement. However, the powerful equipment is protected by six seals, the keys of which are hidden in so-called assassin tombs. You do not have to enter these tombs distributed in the game world to end the story, but you would miss out on a lot of fun. The reason: Each of these side missions sends Ezio into a winding catacomb, church or cave, where you have to master creatively designed climbing inserts in the Price of Persia style, the solution of which often triggers a satisfying “Aha!” Experience. Elsewhere, Ezio chases a guard who, on the run, drops gates and bars behind him, forcing you to switch to alternative routes at lightning speed.

The only problem: If you finally own Altaïr's equipment, you don't need anything else. Both the sword and the assassin's armor are not only indestructible, but also far more powerful than any other weapon and clothing in the game. Too bad, because this design decision leads the huge and upgradeable arsenal (and with it the Auditore-Villa) largely at least in the second half of the game to absurdity. Only the investment in larger bags (for medicines, poisons and throwing knives) is really worthwhile in the long term.

Leonardo da Vinci

Ezio is actively supported by Leonardo da Vinci on his revenge campaign. For you, the universal genius who just grew up at that time is what the ingenious inventor "Q" is for James Bond.

He improves Ezio's equipment and always conjures up a technical masterpiece at the right moment. For example, for a highly exciting night mission (the recently changing times of day are fixed) in Leonardo's aircraft, which only remains in the air by sailing over beacons spread over Venice's roofs and the associated buoyancy. In addition, da Vinci decrypts so-called code pages - 30 in number - that Ezio has to find in the course of the plot to unlock the finale. It is also thanks to Ubisoft's portrayal of the legendary physicist, inventor and engineer that the dark and bloody story of Assassin's Creed 2 is loosened up with a huge dose of humor. The numerous, very well-sounded conversations between Ezio and Leonardo are full of charm and wit, the increasingly strong, friendly bond between the two is literally tangible - great!

The technology

Thanks to its sharp textures, numerous details and harmonious lighting, Assassin's Creed 2 is already a feast for the eyes on the consoles. Thanks to anti-aliasing and higher resolutions, the PC version optically adds a little extra, and without putting a lot of strain on your PC than the predecessor did.

However, Ubisoft's port is not entirely flawless. Especially with tracking shots in cutscenes, line shifts that are typical of consoles are annoying, and they cannot be remedied by experimenting with frame rates (VSync). The repetitive random conversations that you can hear in every corner of the street can also be improved. A tiny point of criticism in the otherwise excellent soundscape of the game. Because both the ambient noise and the effects during the fight are at a high level, the dynamic music perfectly accompanies the action at all times. Above all, Assassin's Creed 2 is very well set to music, all speakers fit their roles and do an excellent job.

»Rating box for Assassin's Creed 2
»Read conclusion about Assassin's Creed 2

Also on Assassin's Creed 2 on GameStar.de:

»Assassin's Creed 2 test video
»Assassin's Creed 2 pit stop video
»Timetable: All specials for Assassin's Creed 2 on GameStar.de