PS3 Review – Assassin’s Creed II
Those that thought the first title was large in scale haven’t seen anything. The areas have been designed with care, and it doesn’t feel like there is too much wasted landscape, which was a problem with the original. There are small towns, large cities, and rolling countrysides that even include large farms. The design and attention to detail gives this an authentic 15th century Italian ambiance. Additional improvements include the new day and night cycles. Viewpoints are still heavily featured in the game, in which you climb to the top of a very high structure and synchronize the map so that you can reveal landmarks and items in the area.
Enemy AI has seen a great boost with the sequel. There are quite a few varieties and classes of bad guys, and some of them will track you down. Some of them are geared for speed, while others are tanks. Often they will keep tracking the area you were last spotted in, so you must keep out of sight once you break that line of sight. Seekers, as they are called, will rustle through nearby hiding places looking for you, so don’t expect that haystack to be safe haven all the time.
Notoriety in 15th century Italy is very much like the star system in Grand Theft Auto. If you are up to no good or hanging out where you aren’t supposed to be, your notoriety will increase, and when you reach the “notorious” level, the guards will chase you immediately when they spot you. Removing posters from the walls, bribing town heralds and taking out corrupt officials all lower your notoriety. Keeping your notoriety low makes it much easier to traverse the cities.
To avoid scuffles with guards, it’s never a bad idea to have some hired help. You can hire a group of four people to help out on your treks through the urban areas of Italy. There are three types groups to hire: thieves, mercenaries, and courtesans. The courtesans work hard at the world’s oldest profession and provide a distraction for easier entry to any guarded location. Thieves will provide various shenanigans to get the guards’ attention, while mercenaries will fight on your behalf. If there aren’t any groups available, then blending in with a crowd can be a great way to avoid detection.
In addition to the numerous weapons and armor available, Ezio has a few customization options available to him. There is a selection of dyes which, although they serve no gameplay function, can be purchased to change the color of your assassin garb. Armor and weaponry can be purchased through the shops with the exception of the Altair armor. Not all the customizations affect you directly, however. As the story unfolds, you begin to help revitalize a Villa. Early in the game, you will visit the Villa in Monteriggioni and establish a good reputation. Working with an architect, you will fund various projects to rebuild torn down establishments and refurbish the ones still open. Funding the town’s projects as will allow you make money off of them. Other things contribute to the value of the town, as well, such as buying paintings from an artist, pieces of armor, weapons, and finding many of the hidden items. Additional items are available via transfer from Assassin’s Creed Bloodlines on the PlayStation Portable.