Chungking Espresso

Assassin’s Creed 2: 0 out of 5 stars

Posted in Game Analysis by Simon Ferrari on December 29, 2009

Assassin’s Creed 2 teaches its player one thing: there is no problem that can’t be solved by throwing hookers at it. Spoilers follow.

Assassin’s Creed had some problems with repetition; however, it remained a fairly competent system for the purposes of climbing and assassinating. In contrast, Assassin’s Creed 2 has a problem with heaviness. The climbing and hidden-blading remain, but they’re weighed down by the choices of a design team who brainstormed for their sequel and literally threw none of their half-formed ideas out.

This heaviness is reflected in the character design differences between Altair and Ezio. The former was lithe and competent, and we bought it when he bowed his head to disguise himself as a passing monk; the latter is a bulky, slovenly mess. One killed swiftly and silently, while the other employs brute force as his primary modus operandi.

There are two things people mention when they need to explain what’s “better” about this game after noting that the problem of repetition remains: Leonardo’s Flying Machine and the Assassin’s Tomb explorations. We’ll get to the tombs later. There are two missions involving new vehicles in this game, both tied to Leonardo. These are the ludic equivalent of McBay explosion scenes: labor wasted on short set pieces rather than on balancing and playtesting core mechanics.

The first is a carriage chase through the Appenines, which I have to admit was the most fun I had with the game. You’ve got three obstacles: soldiers pursuing you on horseback, roadblocks, and archers shooting flaming arrows. The physics on the cart are quite complex, and you’ll spend most of your time sending it careening from side to side in an effort to emulate Andre the Giant’s strategy against Wesley in the Princess Bride: you’ve got to crush these fools against rocks. If the carriage had less health, then the roadblocks and archer flames would be more of a challenge; as it stands, you’ve got to dodge roughly half of them. Still, the experience is thrilling while it lasts.

The flying machine sequence, on the other hand, is patently ridiculous. This takes place in the context of needing to rush into San Marco to save the Doge from being poisoned. Time is of the essence, so, naturally, you waste the entire day climbing towers with your friend Antonio the thief. He shows you how to ascend to the top of the structure via a construction site, which you already knew how to do if you were thorough about clearing the Assassin’s Tombs.

Then… oh no! There’s a fence! Only a flying machine could get over that! You waste even more time killing pockets of guards so your thief friends can build pyres to keep Leonardo’s flying machine in the air. Finally, as night falls, you’re allowed to partake of the set piece that was advertised so heavily in AC2 promotional material. It lasts all of 45 seconds. You hit one hot air pocket, kick a few guards in the face (by double-clicking the left trigger instead of hitting X, which is a breathtaking usability failure), and fly toward San Marco for a cutscene. This raises two new points: cutscenes and the fact that Batman can fly.

I can’t remember whether or not Assassin’s Creed was cutscene-heavy. AC2, on the other hand, is. A new addition to the formula is everybody’s favorite ludic abortion: the quicktime event. Ubisoft’s Anvil engine presumably can’t handle subtle physical expressions, so things like hugging need to take place in cutscenes. Near the beginning of the game, the player pointlessly presses a few buttons to allow Ezio to have casual sex with… drum roll… Amerigo Vespucci’s sister. Amerigo was a pornographer, get it? We never see her again; nor do we see Caterina Sforza, whose family was later tied to the Borgias through marriage, after “saving” her from being somehow stranded on an island and engaging in some extramarital flirting. More about the women in this game later.

Other QTEs cover such things as shaking hands, double-hidden-blading captors in the throat, and the choice to hug Leonardo or not. What’s the idea there? This hug is the only QTE that the player can actually “miss” in the game, and the window of opportunity is quite small. Is this some kind of knock against Leonardo for being a homosexual? You’re in an involved conversation about either the Codex or a new gadget, and all of a sudden the game prompts you to hit the B button. My controller was on the floor, so I missed the opportunity. Leonardo pretends he wasn’t really trying to hug you and says, “Ah well.” Explain this for me, please, because I love Leonardo more than I do Amerigo Vespucci’s sister.

Moving onto combat and Batman now: this game shows how quickly a combat system becomes outdated when competition enters your niche. Freeflow in Arkham Asylum is both fluid and brutal. If you’re good you can rack up combos of over one hundred hits, all the while flinging yourself through the air and pummeling heads into the floor. Batman doesn’t need a QTE to execute a beautiful beatdown. Contrast this with AC2, where there’s always one solution to felling each enemy archetype.

In the first Ninja Gaiden reboot, countering was somewhat overpowered. You could make it through three quarters of the game doing nothing but blocking and counter-killing. Team Ninja fixed this problem with Ninja Gaiden 2, adding enemies fairly early on that can break your blocks, punishing you for sticking to dominant strategies.

In AC2, there’s never a reason not to turtle into a defensive stance: no matter how rapidly you upgrade to the best weapons currently available, direct attacks do nothing. Lightly-armored enemies will always fall to a single counter. Heavy guards can be dispatched with a single disarm move, and their larger weapons can then be used to one-shot counter any other enemy archetype. Oddly, medium soldiers are the most difficult to crack: you’ve got to dodge them and take cheap shots at their sides in order to whittle their health away for a killing blow. The final gambit is a “special move” for each weapon type that you’ve got to pay an arm and a leg for just to learn that their animations take too long to be useful. This is boring, tedious stuff that, once you’ve got the money for it, you’ll probably avoid completely by spamming escape gas.

You know what was fun in Assassin’s Creed? Running along rooftops and dispatching archers with throwing knives. Now I’ve a limited amount of knives on hand and three times the archers shouting at me to get off the roof before I hurt myself. Is everybody in Italy rich enough to hire an archer to stand on top of their goddamn houses? I’m not into immersion, but you can consider it broken at this point. If I do kill the louts, it’s only going to increase my notoriety level. That would mean wasting roughly one minute out of ten tearing posters off the wall. So, parkour is ruined for me.

All of the preceding were minor complaints; on to the fatal flaws.

The Assassin’s Tombs are not “a breath of fresh air.” They’re environmental “puzzles” with poor camera scripting and a single solution. Whenever you pull a lever to start a timed segment, the game refuses to return to your prior camera angle while disengaging your right trigger button (which I hold down almost constantly). So you begin each of these segments spinning around in slow motion, like a drunkard. When you approach key jumps and see what you have to do, the camera will swing to the right or left at the last minute to screw up your aim. I suppose this was designed to help people who were tip-toeing toward the jumps. If that were the case, then they should have added a line of code to disable the camera movement if the player were moving at a given speed when she passed the triggering zone.

If a tomb puzzle is triggered by a pressure plate, then you can reset it in the event of fumbling over the first jump and wasting precious seconds. But if the trigger is a lever, you’ve got to wait for the allotted time to run out before you can restart it. They already had the code and the animations in place to create this allowance, but they ignored it.

The tomb chase sequences, on the other hand, are symptomatic of the core problem with Assassin’s Creed 2: they’re fake. Your prey is designed to always run fast enough to remain within sight yet out of reach. The only way to actually kill him is to gain higher ground through parkour and execute an aerial assassination. What they’ve done here is forced a cathartic climax, the one solution they’ve allowed. Janet Murray calls it “scripting the interactor.” This isn’t ludic; it’s cinematic.

This general fakery adds to the heaviness problem I mentioned earlier. You get a bunch of new weapons, including poison and a gun. You never need to use the gun unless you’re bored, and the poison can only be used in situations where your hidden blade would accomplish the same thing: once you’re spotted by a guard, you can’t even select it for use. The double blade is nice, because you can now kill two oblivious AI at once, but it’s clearly just there to look bad-ass. It actually got me into trouble quite a few times, when I was trying to kill a Borgia courier who was right in front of me and it triggered double kills against innocent bystanders instead.

Platforming also has two new additions: fling jumps and pivots. The fling jump is only useful for reaching the tops of three map synchronization towers and two pointless little parapets in the game’s final chapter. It looks great to grab a pivot and swing around the side of a building, but none of them are in key segments of the map. There’s also never a guard on the other side of the pivot to kick in the face.

One thing Assassin’s Creed had down pat were the main assassination missions. The Assassin’s Guild was scattered throughout the city, and I had to scope everything out in order to earn the right to take the Templar scum out. You didn’t know where they were hiding, because nobody can be everywhere at the same time. There was a nice little ritual involving dipping a feather in some blood. Most of all, the targets had personality. There was a doctor who-may-or-may-not be experimenting on his patients, and a gluttonous merchant who-may-or-may-not be a repressed homosexual. The player was rewarded for killing these men with tact.

In Assassin’s Creed 2, the target is almost always either running from you or waiting in one specific location surrounded by guards. You run up to him and stick a blade in him, then you kill the remaining guards and go home. I know who some of these men are, because I studied European history eight years ago. The player sees history pass by, but she’s unable to engage with it. The Borgias were a brutal family, the Medicis patrons of the arts… and all they could dig from this was some stabbing and poisoning?

I haven’t mentioned how bad the meta-narrative is, because it’s too easy to nitpick. I actually enjoyed the change of pace the Desmond and Lucy story provided in the first game, because it gave me an opportunity to learn about this world Ubisoft was crafting. Here we just get an annoying, mean British guy and some inane rambling about how every major catastrophe in human history was caused by the Templars and the pieces of Eden. Oh, and a bunch of spinning tile puzzles.

If you read reviews and check forums, only children find this stuff compelling: “Dont u get it? The Roman gods knew that 1 day ppl would invent memory machines, so tey left hidden msgs for Desmond!” The only question remaining is, “How much money did they pay Corey May and Dooma Wendschuh to churn out such tripe?” That’s right, Ubisoft has been employing the crack team responsible for Terminator Salvation: The Game for more than five years now.

Generally, I don’t care about a game’s narrative—especially if it’s about Illuminati and the Bible post-Da Vinci Code. All I want it to do is stay the hell out of my way, but Assassin’s Creed 2 insists on rubbing its poor narrative design in my face. There are a number of times when I have the chance to assassinate three or four of my main targets at a time. I’m literally standing ten feet from them. Instead, the game enters a cutscene and the targets inexplicably disappear. There are also pacing problems here, like a bad season of Battlestar Galactica stuffed with filler episodes. I’m approaching a climactic battle, but I’ve got to spend ten minutes dispatching a random thug guilty of cuttin’ up, or otherwise harming, a whore (that’s a Clint Eastwood line).

Now we return to my opening line. It doesn’t take an expert feminist analysis to see that there’s something deeply wrong about how this game treats women. You can flirt with a Sforza and couple with a Vespucci, but they’re never heard from again. Two of the strong female characters are brothel-owners, one with the ridiculous notion that prostitution is a form of religious worship. The third is a thief who Ezio must carry like a baby through the city after she gets wounded by an arrow.

And I repeat: every problem can be solved by throwing hookers at it. Is there a room containing a Codex entry surrounded by guards? Send the courtesans to distract them. How about a festival party filled with guards searching for you? Hire some courtesans and “blend in” with them to hide. Do you need to progress through a heavily-guarded sequence of bridges? Flit from one group of courtesans to another to ensure success. You can also hire thieves and mercenaries, but why would you?

What do you like about this game? Building up your estate? Why don’t you play a Sim game instead? Why should I have to return to my estate constantly to collect my 20-minute tithe? The Borgias have couriers for that sort of thing, don’t they? If Our Creators couldn’t stop a solar flare with the pieces of Eden, why would Desmond be able to? Why would they care about the fate of humans, their traitorous enemies? Why design 22+ weapons when they never provide an advantage, only a way to keep your attacks from being constantly deflected? Why do I need a flashback telling me that Altair made a baby on top of a tower that one time? I’m his ancestor, aren’t I? Why are there only two types of vantage point towers for each city? Why would I ever complete a side mission? Why does the game come to a complete standstill so I can try to win an invitation to the Doge’s Carnivale party? If all the people I help throughout the game are Assassins, why are they all such ineffectual morons? Why do these idiots keep coming outside when they know I’m trying to kill them?

What the hell, Niccolo Machiavelli? Really?

How does a game about killing people, the Old Testament, and the Borgias completely bore an Italian Jew?

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30 Responses

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  1. Charles said, on December 29, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    Simon, you promised something Rogers-esque! However, there’s nothing about what you drank while playing or stories about ex-girlfriends. Very disappointing.

    • Simon Ferrari said, on December 30, 2009 at 1:01 am

      I’m sorry to disappoint, Charles! I’d intended to make it more anecdotal and use shock-jock bullshit magazine writer in-your-face direct address more, with some drug references peppered in, but I suppose the spirit didn’t strike when it came time to put ink to paper. Mostly I wanted to do the Rogers thing where you give something zero out of five starts for no reason and refuse to note any positive aspect of the game.

      Also, one of my IRL friends who actually likes Rogers says it’s because he usually makes one clever observation that completely ruins the game for you; thus, the hooker comment was born.

      • Max Martin said, on December 30, 2009 at 1:34 am

        Whoops, my bad, you guys. I take full responsibility for this one.

      • Tee Gee said, on March 28, 2014 at 1:03 pm

        May I ask , how much time did you play AC1 and also how much time did you play AC2 before making this review? I’m just curious.

      • Simon Ferrari said, on March 31, 2014 at 11:53 pm

        Hey Tee Gee! I don’t own either of these game disks anymore, so I can’t check play time. But I did collect most of the flags in AC1 and I have all but two of the achievements for AC2… I definitely only played each game once through, and this write-up was mostly a joke, so there are (as others have noted over the years) a couple of factual inaccuracies. That said, since writing this, I have played AC: Brotherhood, AC: Revelations, AC3, and AC: Black Flag, and AC2 remains my least favorite of the series. I still think it’s basically garbage.

  2. […] Assassin’s Creed 2: 0 out of 5 stars « Chungking Espresso "How does a game about killing people, the Old Testament, and the Borgias completely bore an Italian Jew?" Simon Ferrari didn't like Assassin's Creed II; he explains why. It's entertaining, for sure (but I'm still going to pick it up). (tags: games simonferrari writing assassinscreed2 ) […]

  3. Sean Beanland said, on December 30, 2009 at 10:52 am

    In a world of Battlestar Galactica and Lost, where explanations are never really given and mysteries are never solved because they would allegedly never satisfy anyone, I did appreciate that Assassin’s Creed went all out and said “Why yes, it IS aliens. And the sun is about to explode. Or something. FFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU”

    Also, the only side missions worth doing are the assassination contracts, because they force you to use the abilities given to you.

    Finally, it’s great that Ezio can swim. It’s NOT great that every other NPC is afflicted with Altair’s deadly water allergy. At first this was convenient for dispatching guards, but then I found a handful of missions that require you to babysit parkouring thieves across the rooftops. If they fall in the water, dead!

    • Alex said, on December 30, 2009 at 12:36 pm

      I stopped doing the assassination contracts once I got to Venice, since I didn’t want to tail a gondola unseen =( Maybe I will give it another go though.

      The water thing was pretty funny/annoying. I’m pretty sure I completed two assassinations just by pushing dudes into knee-deep water.

      • Sean Beanland said, on December 30, 2009 at 12:51 pm

        I was telling people how great the assassination contracts were, and then I started doing the Venice ones. They’re super annoying. I enjoyed all the ones in the other cities, though.

      • Simon Ferrari said, on December 30, 2009 at 1:43 pm

        Okay, okay, you two have convinced me to at least try the assassinations. I actually like stupid crap like tailing people in gondolas.

        Strangely, the only water issues I ever had were that I twice fell into bodies of water that were outside my current memory… which led to instant de-synchronization.

  4. deckard47 said, on December 30, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    I am so glad that you mentioned the tomb chases and shitty camera angles. I spent forever in one tomb (the one where you have to climb to the top of the cathedral?) because one or two jumps and timed sequences were horribly timed, sign-posted, and signified (by the camera angles).

    I jumped from one point 15 times before I found that I had to hold the unintuitive control stick in the opposite direction from where the game normally required you to swing the stick. Often, I’d die because what used to be “jump out” had suddenly, secretly turned into “jump sideways.” Blech.

    Also, after watching a tomb chase (over the brother’s shoulder), their boring, impossible artificiality (until you reach a high leap-attack point) became unpleasantly apparent.

    So, yeah, awesome post, and I actually liked the game.

    • Simon Ferrari said, on December 30, 2009 at 1:41 pm

      Ohhhh yeah was it the one in San Marco where you had to jump off the stained glass window of a cross? That took me 10 minutes. One jump! That I knew how to do! In Normal People World!

  5. Michel said, on December 30, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    Good points. I’m blinded by a Gaynor-esque sense of being there though. I love cities and architecture and that’s where this game shines, for me. Yes, the glyph puzzles and metanarrative are worse than what I imagine Dan Brown’s crap is like, the variety of weapons is pointless, combat stinks, I hate searching for chests but feel compelled to, etc. But the cities…gorgeous.

    • Simon Ferrari said, on December 30, 2009 at 4:55 pm

      Thanks for fulfilling your promise to bring it, Michel!

      Now I’m going to start with something that’s angry but not directed toward you:

      I was pissed off during Clint’s lecture tour when he attributed the holodeck paradigm to Gaynor. I know he wasn’t saying the holodeck was his idea, but he certainly singled Gaynor out as an archetypal example of the philosophy. Yet this is stuff Janet Murray was writing about when Doom first came out. So I’m going to correct your diction: “I’m blinded by a Murray-esque sense of being there though.”

      Now, I’m not going to argue with your tastes in level and urban design, but I’m going to explain why I don’t share the same love of AC2. If you play True Crime: NY and GTA4 back-to-back, you’ll see why you don’t literally model a city based upon a map you’ve got in the office. Games engage mental systems in players; the mental processes we use to understand cities, when we’re pedestrians, are synechdoche and asyndeton (this is de Certeau speaking): as we move through a city, we walk in a daze between points of interest; these points of interest we magnify in our mental mapping of the space until they compose its entirety. AC2 has too much meaningless filler in its level design, and it could do with some trimming.

      Onto the monumental qualities of these cities in particular: it is a crime that Rome wasn’t included. Rome has more monuments of note than Venice or Florence combined. St. Peter’s is the grandest structure I’ve ever seen in person, and the last sequence of AC2 doesn’t come near to capturing it. And that’s the basic problem: the Duomo and San Marco are there… they look right, but they don’t feel right. The texture of these cities and these landmarks are completely lost on the designers. They’ve got the scale and detail down, but they manage to avoid conveying the sublime.

      Another fact missing is that the people of Florence are the most sweet-smelling people in the world. I expect a multi-million dollar game to be able to communicate that fact.

      • Michel said, on January 2, 2010 at 9:29 am

        Oh that wasn’t bringing it, just some tired comment. The problem in applying all this thought to AC2’s cities is *we’re not pedestrians*. What does all this real-life theory about paths and nodes mean in a city that is three dimensional? Where there is literally a second aspect to the city you enter as soon as you climb up a building, into that dark grey part of the minimap with its own paths and nodes and edges? It might not even be possible to think of these AC2 cities as actual cities, but some kind of omni-city–what would happen if you took a bunch of facets of a city (as Italo Calvino might describe as he did for Venice in Invisible Cities) and throw them together in a single virtual world? I should probably read Certeau, not to mention Murray. Have you read The Image of the City? I’ll bring it soon in an actual blog post somewhere.

      • Simon Ferrari said, on January 2, 2010 at 9:34 am

        Yeah The Image of the City is one of the few-ish books on the subject in our departmental curriculum. I can see that in theory the verticality of these maps would change my experience of them… but for some reason they seem more like a literally-modelled city plan with some wooden planks sticking out for easy freerunning. I don’t feel like the vertical dimension is well-integrated in the least. But that’s probably me being pissed off about the goddamn archers still.

  6. qrter said, on January 1, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Hugely enjoyable review.

    What is all that malarkey about hugging Leonardo? Is that Leonardo Da Vinci (god I hope so)? What’s all that about? Why is it there? Why, what and whereto?

    • Simon Ferrari said, on January 2, 2010 at 9:37 am

      Yes, that Leonardo! He’s smeared all over this game. It’s just him being cute and buildin’ shit. He says the same over and over again: “Ah, so you found another one! How exciting!”

      Seriously those writers must be shot.

  7. Jorge said, on January 4, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    Just a quick thanks for the post. I really enjoyed the game, but I also completely agree with you. So I went ahead and wrote a post that might explain why. (http://experiencepoints.blogspot.com/2010/01/ambiance-saves-day.html)

    Again, hilarious post. (Sorry for the link spam. But my response was getting too long.)

  8. Daniel said, on January 5, 2010 at 1:41 am

    I was going to write up an actual post like Jorge, but it wouldn’t flow so I’m just going to post a really long comment. Hope you don’t mind.

    I shall now proceed to take apart your post in the nitpicking way that I’m sure you hoped would occur. :p

    “The first is a carriage chase through the Appenines, which I have to admit was the most fun I had with the game.”

    Okay, this is the first point of disagreement. I really thought that the carriage chase was one of the weakest points of the game. Difficult to control, finicky, and a complete break from the rest of the gameplay – a bad ‘palate cleanser’ that devs seem to insist on throwing into their games even if they feel incredibly clunky. For the record, I agree with your thoughts on the flying sequence too. It was also terrible and a pointless inclusion. Like the carriage chase.

    “I can’t remember whether or not Assassin’s Creed was cutscene-heavy.”

    It was. But in a much worse way than AC2. The cutscenes in the original game were supposedly interactive, trying to go all third-person Half-Life. Instead, all that happened was that the incredibly bored player would end up getting Altair to perform pirouettes for minutes on end until the dull sequence was over. Essentially they locked the player to one camera angle for a cutscene but insisted it was still ‘interactive’. Pointless. I’m glad they changed to regular cutscenes for the sequel.

    “Now I’ve a limited amount of knives on hand…”

    The original limited the maximum amount of knives to 15, while the sequel eventually allows for 25. To rearm in the original, you had to pickpocket theme or return to the Bureau. In the sequel, you can gain them from bodies, or purchase them from any blacksmith. An improvement, wouldn’t you say?

    I agree with all of your complaints about the tomb sequences – they were terrible, and with a shockingly bad fixed camera which at times reminded me of videogaming in 2001. But I’m almost willing to forgive them entirely for the Duomo tomb. The interior of such a grand church was made for platforming. Entering such a magnificent space in real life, I have always been tempted to imagine what the view would be like from high on a particular rampart, or exactly how vertigo-inducing the building or cleaning process of the building must be. Thanks to the Duomo sequence, I can at least digitally live out this desire. Buggy camera and all, I really enjoyed this sequence and will probably play it over a few more times if I can.

    “You never need to use the gun unless you’re bored, and the poison can only be used in situations where your hidden blade would accomplish the same thing”

    I don’t think this is strictly true. The admittedly silly sequence where you have to kill the random prostitute murderer is best achieved by using the gun, as is the assassination of the new Doge at festival time. And the poison can be used on an indirect target, getting him to kill your target for you, or at least cause distraction enough that your target becomes free.

    “I actually enjoyed the change of pace the Desmond and Lucy story provided in the first game…”

    You were the only one. :p

    “Here we just get an annoying, mean British guy and some inane rambling about how every major catastrophe in human history was caused by the Templars and the pieces of Eden.”

    Yes. The mean British guy was really a pathetic cliche, and I really wished he’d just go away. The “truth” puzzles, though, I found really engaging, as occasionally you had to pick out a theme from connected paintings – you know, actually think – rather than just using guesswork or brute force. As a change of pace, I liked these much more than the modern day sequences.

    If I haven’t responded to a comment, you can probably assume I agree with it, more or less. The game has problems. But, like Jorge, I loved it nonetheless. I think Jorge has something with this ambience argument. There’s just something *right* about the game. When I wasn’t playing it, I couldn’t wait to get back in. Not for the story. Not for parkour. But for the cities. For the flow. For the set-pieces (something I very much disagree with you on, actually. I felt like the core assassinations were really, really well done and allowed the player the freedom to make them as dramatic as possible. This idea I might turn into a full post at some point).

    So, thanks for the excellent read, but none of your points, right as many of them are, are able to even sway me slightly from my real enthusiasm for Assassin’s Creed 2. It’s a great game. You know I’m right. :p

    • Simon Ferrari said, on January 5, 2010 at 2:24 am

      Alright, so both you and Jorge liked the puzzles… and I can admit that I loved all of them except for the later spinning decoder ring ones with the blatant clues inside the historical pictures. The later painting-match puzzles were especially fun, once they stopped highlighting the key-word in BRIGHT RED AND CAPS. I’m remaining stubborn about the voiceover from Subject 16, though.

      Now I remember the cutscenes from AC1. Those *were* totally stupid. But this reminds me of something that I did like about AC1’s “allowing you to do nothing while this crap rolls out”: in the loading scenes you could throw knives and swing your sword around. For some reason it made the wait a little more enjoyable for me… but I’m probably crazy.

      On the carriage… although I liked it, I *did* premise the entire discussion with: “shit like this is a waste of labor.” 😉

      The knives thing… I guess I spent more time on the rooftops in AC1, so I was never lacking for knives. By the time I played this, I totally forgot that I could loot them, so I just stayed off the rooftops. I will concede this point completely, though I still think there were too many archers and not enough rooftop level design variety.

      I still don’t think it’s a great game, but I may be swayed to bump the zero stars up to one star if your post on the assassinations is compelling. I look forward to it, and thanks for the lengthy reply!

  9. Jeremy said, on January 8, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    0 our of 5, eh? Lol. Sterling gives it 4 our of 10; you one-up him by going even lower.

    Sod you both – I’m giving it NEGATIVE FIFTY BILLION out of ten. Oh yeah, the readers’ll flock to me now.

    Seriously, from your text it hardly sounds like the worst game of all time, even if the flaws – and I agree there were flaws – did annoy you. I’m surprised you were more annoyed by the (optional) QTEs than the still-frustrating parkour controls that have Ezio regularly commit suicide by jumping sideways off tall buildings.

    Did the atmosphere of Renaissance Italy really do nothing for you at all?

    • Simon Ferrari said, on January 8, 2010 at 11:54 pm

      Hey Jeremy. I don’t know who Sterling is, but 4 out of 10 seems like a fair number. I appreciate the witty knock about this being flamebait, but I must assure you that nobody visits this blog other than my friends and the rare interloper. It’s not monetized, and I don’t really care who reads. I try to keep things tl;dr to keep away most people. If you’re looking for hits, my articles about Sonic: Unleashed and Infinite Undiscovery pull in the most—probably because nobody wrote about those games.

      From the text it hardly sounds like the worst game of all time, because the text doesn’t ever say that it’s the worst game of all time. If you look at the note to Charles above, I gave it zero out of five because I tried to model this piece after the hyperbolic work of sites such as action button. That said, there are plenty of other games I’d rate a zero.

      I’ll stop being passive aggressive and answer your questions now. The thing about the dodgy parkour is interesting to me, because while I can see how that would happen a lot during AC2 I actually had the *opposite* experience: namely, Ezio would never fall off the sides of shit when I wanted him to. I played this back-to-back with Uncharted 2, and I can say that after AC2 the climbing in UC2 felt remarkably stiff. It was UC2 where I had the biggest problem with falling off the sides of things—basically, whenever they coded a little outcropping to be jumped off of, it was also really easy to just walk off the side. That was annoying to me. So, yeah, the parkour was annoying but not nearly as much as everything else I mentioned.

      As for the atmosphere, I *can* clarify a bit and say that I vastly preferred the Tuscany and Forli areas to the larger cities. In general I prefer expressive ideals of cities to “realistic” cities in games. For instance, I loved GTA: San Andreas much more than GTAIV. I like the context that countrysides and other external environments bring to an urban space. I like Tuscany and Forli because they’re comprehensible (you can look at them from afar and understand their logic) and unique. Venice and Florence in AC2 look like the same three buildings repeated over and over, punctuated by landmarks. So this adds another complaint: I’m really peeved that you just kind of run through Forli and complete one mission there (“save” a woman stranded on an island) before moving on. It made me even more angry when I found out why this was—they cut out two segments of the game that take place in Forli and turned them into DLC. That’s just ridiculous.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, I enjoyed sifting through the articles on your gaming site!

  10. Jonathan Post said, on January 19, 2010 at 2:48 am

    The Borgias are so cool.

  11. Jeffery said, on February 6, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    I don’t know why you are complaining about the optional side missions and the use of courtesans. I thought they were helpful to avoid having to raise your notoriety. And honestly, I only used them maybe a dozen times in the entire game except for the achievement. Also, I had almost no trouble with the control scheme and camera angles. Sure there were those times where it would shift angles at the most inconvenient moments, but even then I learned after the first time. I don’t know if it’s just that I’m that good or if you are just stupid, but that’s beside the point. The reason that there are so many weapons is so that people with play styles that do not involve timing every action they make can still improve over time and play their own way. DIVERSITY!!! Is there something wrong with it? Anyways, why would you look at all of the negatives of something that hundreds of people spent so much time and money on that was meant to bring pleasure to as many people as possible. The seemingly pointless things that you mentioned I agree, seem pointless, but to others with a completely different play style, they can enjoy this game ten-fold as to if they did not put those things there. I like that you gave your opinions, but you only gave the bad ones. Obviously you don’t care enough about sharing your opinion to tell the whole story. So to quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

    • Simon Ferrari said, on February 7, 2010 at 6:08 pm

      It’s probably both that you’re just good AND that I’m just stupid. Thanks so much for making these things more clear to me, Jeffery. Truly educational.

  12. Nadav Halevi said, on April 27, 2010 at 8:56 am

    You didn’t like the storyline and the main idea, you had the most fun with the carriage sequence and you gave the game a 0 out of 5? You don’t expect anyone to take your review seriously, right?
    “Bah… I stutied for X years about Y and so the game doesn’t make any sense.”

    • Simon Ferrari said, on April 27, 2010 at 9:10 am

      I explain this in the comments above: the score is a joke, buddy! Traditionally, jokes aren’t expected to be taken seriously.

      Thanks for reading.

  13. Syd Self said, on May 13, 2012 at 3:49 am

    Well, I’m not going to critique the scoring, but I will point out one fact error. The poison is actually quite a boon once you figure out all you need to do is reselect it, and it can one-hit-kill anything. Tagging an hvt and then fighting off his men for about a minute waiting for it to work is alot more efficient then wading through mooks and hacking away an overly high hitpoint count. Also, it’s satisfying to use on those damn minstrels. In fact, the minstrels I enjoyed simply from how pathetic they were. Which I feel Ubisoft intended.

    From the same section, no you don’t NEED to use the pistol, but it makes chase sequences alot shorter. Except the stupid tomb ones. Best tomb, hands down? The church in Florence. No camera screw, no unholy chase.

  14. cchiu said, on May 18, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    this guy likes batman way too much for me to actually to listen to his review


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