Assassin's Creed II PC DVD
Published by Focus Multimedia
Developed by Ubisoft
Assassin's Creed II was a resounding success on the consoles when it was released late in 2009 but its arrival on PC wasn't as celebrated. Not only did the game arrive around six months later, it was £10 dearer than most PC titles and had a rather obtrusive copy protection system requiring a permanently Internet connected computer. At its heart however the game was every bit as good as the console versions and benefitted from crisper and more detailed visuals. Fast forward to the latter part of 2011 and we have the PC version re-released by Focus Multimedia. The game comes for just over £10 (and at the time of writing it can be found for less than £5 online which is simply amazing) and is accompanied by the Battle or Forli and Bonfire of Vanities missions making this release at least excellent value for money.
I don't want to bog down this review with going into too much detail with the game's storyline, but it's worth mentioning that the game makes very little attempt to bring you up to speed if this is your first game in the series. Essentially there's a battle between the modern day Templars (known as the Abstergo Industries) and a group of Assassins. You'll play both as Desmond Miles, who begins the game as a captive of Abstergo, in the twenty-first century, and as one of his ancestors, Ezio Auditore da Firenze who lives in Florence during the Renaissance period. Abstergo want to access secrets they believe can be found in Desmond's genetic memory, which they hope to obtain using a machine known as Animus. Fortunately for Desmond there are others who don't want Abstergo to get their hands on him. For most of the game you'll play as Ezio which is just as well because both the character and the time period he lives in are much more entertaining. Ezio is essentially a bit of a rogue. He's not above stealing, getting involved in fights and climbing into your lady's bedrooms for a late night rendezvous.
There's a lot to do in Assassin's Creed II. As the name of the game suggests there are plenty of assassinations to carry out but there's a lot more variety to the game than you might think. What makes the game so interesting is the way you witness Ezio change from a being a total rascal to a formidable assassin. The game takes quite a few liberties with some historical figures and weaves them into the storyline in a fairly decent manner. During the course of the game you'll engage in Prince of Persia style platforming (although it's much easier here), there's a decent amount of melee combat, there are many assassinations to commit and stealth plays a big part in the game too. There are races to take part in with plenty of side missions to keep you entertained and what I like about these is that they can offer a change of pace and help the game to avoid becoming too repetitive.
There's an economic system in the game and you can renovate the ancestral home of the Auditore family to receive a percentage of the revenues made at the shops there. You can then use this income to equip Ezio out with more impressive gear. Of course Ezio can also steal and loot slain enemies for a little extra cash. Ezio will need money to pay for doctors to heal him. He'll also need to visit blacksmiths to purchase weapons, armour and ammunition. He can purchase pouch upgrades (allowing him to carry more ammunition) from the tailor. Art merchants will sell paintings and treasure maps and there are also fast travel booths that will take you swiftly from one area to another, for a fee of course.
Even though the game is a few years old, it still looks very impressive. In fact you're going to need a well specified PC to have the game looking its best. The look of renaissance Italy, particularly Florence and Venice, is about as good as you could hope for in a game at this point in time. Some of the animations look awkward. The facial animations in particular look strange when the characters are speaking. However, most of the animations in the game don't look that bad at all and are pretty much in line with what you'd find in most games released this year.
Whilst it is great to see that Assassin's Creed II is subtitled, it's a shame that the opening movie, which gives a short summary of the story so far, isn't. This omission seems rather odd but in many other respects the game does a decent job in providing subtitles for the main dialogue (these subtitles are shown on a darkened overlay to keep them easy to read at all times) and providing visuals indicators to highlight the presence of enemies and the direction in which they are descending upon you from. The game also visually alerts you to let you know when you are no longer in the line of sight of your enemies so that you can come out from your hiding place. All your objectives are shown in text so you're always aware of what has to be done. In short then it's not perfect for deaf gamers but the problems are not serious.
Copy protection issues aside, it's crazy that a single-player title needs a constant Internet connection in order to work; Assassin's Creed II is a very impressive title that's an absolute bargain for the low asking price of this re-release. The addition of two extra missions serves to make this an even better deal. I think the best comment that can be made about the game is that two years on from its initial release (on console) it still manages to shine and be one of the more impressive games you can play on the PC. If you are yet to experience Assassin's Creed II and you are interested in the game there's simply no excuse not to give it a whirl.