A Fantastic Story Hampered By Frustrating Controls
Assassin's Creed 2 has such a polarizing a effect on me for several different reasons. The first game in the series was impressive for several reasons. It established a wonderful universe with some really interesting characters and a wonderful conspiracy theory look on some classic history. On the same token though it suffered from some significant game play problems such as repetition, wonky controls and aggressive AI. The second game in this series pretty much plods along the same path as its predecessor and improves in some areas and only seems to highlight the frustrations of its older sibling.
Technically Assassin's Creed 2 is an impressive game. It is one of the best graphically looking games on the Xbox 360 and it truly "wow's" the player with the immensity of the towns in the game. New additions to the game such as the Villa and the money system are welcome and nicely implemented. The developers even did an excellent job alleviating some of the repetitive side quests this time around too. Despite all of that though the game suffers from some of the same problems as the first game and they often times appear more flagrant this time around simply because you know they are carrying over from the first game.
The most notable of the frustrations from the first game that carried over is the manic running/jumping system as you traverse the buildings. When it works it is bliss, but I still found so many times in the game where my character would almost sporadically jump in the wrong direction, plunging me to my death. There was a level of common sense from the AI that seemed to fail and I more than once found my same actions on the controller result in different actions (making or not making a jump) at the same location in the game. The second biggest downfall I found for this game was perhaps the side quests. In short the side quests are still terribly boring. Some of the droll from the first game was alleviated simply because there were fewer side quests, but on the whole they have not been improved.
All that said though the game shines in three key areas. First off it is gorgeous!!!! The cities, the people within them, and the environments are wonderfully done and truly immersive. Never before in a game have I truly felt like I was in an living, breathing city. The second area is the storyline. In this game the player gets a much deeper look at the world behind the pieces of eden and we get to see a sneak peak of what the grand story is here. The ending is almost as impressive as the twist in BioShock and really lays down the groundwork for a great third game in the trilogy. Finally and perhaps the biggest improvement is that the enemy soldiers are toned down in their aggressiveness. One of the toughest experiences in the first game was that in the late game, navigating any of the cities became frustrating and hindered the overall story progression. In this game the soldiers are much more tempered to your existence which helps tremendously in the forward progression of the story.
All said and done though, the game does nothing to really change the core mechanics from the first game. Fighting is still defensive, running on roof tops is still there. Pickpocketing, eavesdropping, and sneaking around is all built in. While there are some fine points tuned, the major flaws from the first game still exist and if you are not hooked by the storyline from the first game you are not going to be drawn into this next chapter in the Assassin's Creed story.