Ever wish you could chill with Leonardo da Vinci? How about having him make you weapons from ancient scripts that you use to kill corrupt public officials? What nerd hasn't, which is exactly why Assassin's Creed II is a blast to play. A blast from the past, if you will. Enough of the puns, let's get this game on.
First off, if you haven't played Assassin's Creed don't worry. The game will catch you up to speed, enough to understand what's going on anyway, and the game beats you to death with teaching you the combat moves. Which, is where one of the few flaws this game has comes into play: very slow training menus. Not a deal breaker, but certainly enough to take you out of the game.
What doesn't take you out of the game is the continued free roaming aspect that lets you pretty much climb anything in the world. If you played the first game you won't notice any differences really, and if you haven't played the game you're in for a treat when it comes to controls. The only issue with controls is that you sometimes hang on ledges when you'd rather just jump off them. Not a huge problem, since the alternative is to have a system where you fall to your death more often.
As for dying, you probably won't encounter too many situations where you will die. This is where the biggest difference between this game and the first arises: combat. Admittedly, I have not beaten the game yet, but so far there has not been a huge emphasis on stealth. Now, that probably sounds good to most people out there, but I mean there is almost no emphasis on stealth. I have yet to encounter a situation where I can't just walk up and start owning some fools. Of course that makes me feel terrific and stealth can certainly get frustrating, but I would have liked a little bit more sneakiness in major assassinations.
In fact, huge brawls are fairly common. There will be times where you are fighting alongside ten to twenty, hired henchmen or loyal followers, against hordes of city guards. This does make for some awesome fight scenes but fighting is almost too easy in this game. If you're having trouble in combat situations just remember to go for the counter. Some of the tougher enemies can't be thwarted this way, but you can take on throngs of soldiers by simply using counter moves. The combat mechanics feel similar to Batman: Arkham's Asylum in the use of counters, but you're not allowed to be as aggressive in your attacks.
But, there are some pretty nifty side elements to the game. Instead of blending in with monks, you can hire prostitutes to strut around with and to distract soldiers, with witty conversation of course! After a short period of time, you also are able to manage your family's villa. You're able to upgrade buildings and even collect money from the shops in your domain. Just another side activity to hold your interest.
At the end of the day, Assassin's Creed II is a fun game that certainly lives up to the first game. Most players will probably find the game fairly easy, especially more advanced gamers. It is definitely worth a rental, although you might need to pay the late fee if you're interested in completing the game with full marks. You might want to wait until finals are over to pick this up, however, because once the game gets going it is hard to put down.
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