There was a lot of hype concerning Assassins Creed 2. Along with some concerns; was it just more of the same? Would they fix up some of the problem areas? Could you actually swim?
I'm critical of games and movies. Very much so. So believe me when I say 'Get this, and don't look back.'
Assassins Creed was a good game with fun elements and some really great moments, let down by a few flaws and some slightly grating missions.
Its offspring is not only two in number, but twice as good.
The most important part for one an all. And the answer from the get go is; Yes. It is far superior to gameplay in Assassins Creed 1. Gone are the rinse-repeat missions, leading up to the actual assasination. Gone are the clunkier elements of the combat system. Experience an evironment where anything and everything can be used to your advantage. Experience combat where its not a matter of if you will defeat your enemies, but in what manner you bring about their inevitable demises.
Combat, first, as that had a few major flaws. The hidden blade is now a proper weapon in its own right. You can attack with it and, glory be, you can BLOCK with it. Counter kills are every bit as lethal and one-shot-kill as they ever were, with less frustration.
Fists too recieve a major upgrade. You can, if your fancy takes you, punch opponents into the floor. Also, while unarmed and grabbing an opponent, you can now lay three hits on them out of a choise of headbutt, knee and punch.
The best part of the upgraded unarmed combat is the ability to disarm guards. This is especially useful on two of the new enemy classes; Brutes and Seekers. These nasties are armed with two handed weapons and spears, respectively, and can be rather lethal. Disarming them not only robs them of their attack power, but also lets you use the special moves that come with the weapons. Also, the counter-kills for those two weapons, though they lose you the weapon, are very, very satisfying.
The enemies themselves are more varied as well. Gone are the days of Guard 1, Guard 2, Guard 3, Italy sports its own army of foes for you to cut through. The basic armed soldiers are still there, ranging from basic Militia, through to armed Man-At-Arms, to the armoured and painful Elite units. Then come the specialists, all of whom require some extra attention in a fight; Brutes, Seekers and Agiles. These chaps add a whole new dynamic to every fight, as the Brutes and Seekers each have different special moves, and the Agiles are more than capable of outpacing you in free-running.
Not only is the combat more dynamic, but the guards are smarter too. No more blending in with a group of monks, despite being heavily armed. No more sitting on a bench and the guards magically losing sight of you. The seekers use their spears to prod about in haystacks, and guards will check the people on benches. Later on, of course, you pick up some moves that swiftly (and permanantly) put an end to such nosey individuals.
On the subject of blending in, there is a new system involved, notoriety. A bar around the symbol net to your health fills up as you perform illegal or noteworthy actions. When that bar is full, you are now Notorious. Guards will start top take notice of you, and react immediately to any wayward behaviour. They also poke around in haystacks more. By tearing down wanted posters, bribing heralds, or simply killing off the officials who give the orders, you can lower your status back to Incognito.
Blending itself is much easier, and much more believable. Simply stand in the middle of a group of citizens, go with the flow, and you are just another person. Nice and easy.
The missions are all very well done. The beat-up and delivery type missions have now been made sub-missions that you can choose to pick up or leave be as you choose. The actual game quests are much slicker than the clunky feel of the original, and the progression is smooth and seamless.
Thats right, this time around you get pocket money. Money can be aquired in various ways, all of them fairly easy and self-explanatory. You can use money to buy medicine (which you carry with you and use when needed to restore health), new weapons, new armour which adds to your health bar, and other things. No need to be poor but awesome, right? Rich and awesome is a win/win situation.
The story progresses well from the last game, and goes much deeper. Especially if you hunt down all the clues and extras. No more random flag collecting, the collections are all tied neatly into the story. There are only about three or four incident where we are brought back to the present day, rather than the past, and the modenr sequences are all well done and serve a purpose. If you're like me, and really liked the plot laid in AC1, then 2 should have you on the edge of your seat.
AC1 was very nice graphically from the get go. 2 has probably improved, but its so slick and smooth that its hard to know where to start. Needless to say, the attention to detail is breathtaking. As someone who has been to Venice, standing in front of the Doges palace was one of those 'ohmigod' moments that make this game so darn good.
So, what are you waiting for? Click buy, already! If you like swash and buckle, sneaking and stabbing, awesome vistas or just pure epic, this game will treat you well.