Game Review: Assassin's Creed II (PS3)

I was in Gamestop with the original Assassin's Creed in hand, determined to make a proper go of the series because the latest one has pirates (pirates!). The sales rep, bless his heart, stopped me right in my tracks.

"That one sucks," he said, plucking another game off a shelf. "If you're going to start, start with this."

And so it begins.

I've played Assassin's Creed IV (review here) and enjoyed its straightforward gameplay. Assassin's Creed II has a denser plot and ends with a cliffhanger, but it has all of the same elements that make the whole series so diverting: sneaking-heavy side quests, collecting challenges, and entire cities with buildings to climb using your character's improbable upper body strength. Bits of actual history are sprinkled into the gameplay, which is always fun, because history is fun. Also: assassinations.

Assassin's Creed II follows Ezio, a young nobleman-turned-Assassin in Renaissance Italy. His journey of revenge begins with his father and brothers' hangings at the hands of the Templars. Throughout the 22 years that it takes him to murder every major person involved in his family's misfortune, Ezio is assisted by a number of characters, including his uncle, two bordello madams, Leonardo da Vinci, and even Machiavelli, because why not. The Assassin's targets are real historical figures with some embellishments to their backstories, I'm sure.

In terms of graphics, the cities look amazing. Ezio travels from Firenze (Florence) to Tuscany, Rome, Venice, and other smaller locations in his quest for the Templars. Venice is hands down the most gorgeous locale, and this game convinced me to go there one day. Ezio and the NPCs who wander mindlessly in the streets and rooftops are rendered well, and Ezio looks sharp in his threads and armor. Meow.

Speaking of meow, the heavy-handed randiness of Ezio and his ladies had me rolling my eyes. Yes, yes, Ee-tah-lee, ee-tah-lee-ans, they arrrre so full of amorrrre! Gawd, the only thing worse than the flirty dialogue was the accents. They were almost comical. Ezio is the worst offender since he has the most lines, but a lot of the NPCs are truly atrocious. "What's gotten EEN-to HEEM?"

Ezio's adventures are framed as a narrative within a narrative -- his ancestor, Desmond, is reliving his experiences using a hacked version of the Animus, which is a device used by the modern-day Templars in their own unending quest for something unknown. Ezio eventually reaches the heart of the mystery in his time, but the reveal only creates more questions for Desmond, who ends the game proper with a heartfelt, "What. The. Fuck." I like Desmond. And, bonus: Kristen Bell is the voice of Lucy Stillman, an undercover Assassin. Coolness!

Since ACII ended with a question mark, I have no choice but to play the other two games in trilogy. Just kidding, I already looked at the Assassin's Creed Wiki and read about the origins of the sikrot mysterious "Pieces of Eden."

I guess...I guess I just like looking awesome and hurtling from heights to stab bad guys.

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