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Assassin's Creed II is an action-adventure video game developed by Ubisoft Montrealmarker and published by Ubisoft. It is the sequel to the action-adventure game Assassin's Creed, and was released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in November 2009, with a PC version scheduled for release in 2010.

As in Assassin's Creed, the story revolves around the "Animus", a machine which makes it possible for the player to view the genetic memories of protagonist Desmond Miles' ancestors, a long line of assassins. In Assassin's Creed II, the machine is used to view the memories of a young nobleman-turned-assassin named Ezio Auditore da Firenze in the late 15th and early 16th century in Italymarker, during the Renaissance. The game thus incorporates numerous real-life historic events, places, and people throughout Italian Renaissance history, all of which play a key part in the plot and in Ezio's journey to uncover a hidden conspiracy after the murder of his family.

Assassin's Creed II received largely positive reviews, with critics praising the game's stronger emphasis on open world exploration and interaction, nonlinear gameplay and greater mission variety compared with the first Assassin's Creed. The game was also credited with improved non-player character AI, a new in-game economy for buying items, weapons, and armor, and a deeper, more finely-tuned combat system.

Gameplay

Assassin's Creed II takes place in an open world with nonlinear gameplay, allowing the player to roam freely within several regions throughout late 15th century Italy, such as Venicemarker, Florencemarker, and the Tuscan countryside. The Animus 2.0, a new version of the machine of the same name present in Assassin's Creed, provides in-game context for changes and additions to several game elements. A database is also available, providing extra historical information about key landmarks, characters and services that the player encounters. The health system has been made more dynamic, with synchronization to the Animus and causing the character to recover only from minor injuries. More grievous injuries require visiting a street-side doctor for medicine.

The player may now swim in water,kill 2 people at the same time, and eagle vision – the ability to identify specific people and landmarks – is now used in third-person view. A young Leonardo da Vinci is present in the game, aiding the player by creating new weapons from translated "codex pages" that Altair, the original game's main character, left behind for future assassins' analysis and insight. Within the game, the player will be able to use Leonardo's flying machine (based on real-life plans by Leonardo) while on a mission. The player also has the ability to control a carriage, gandolas, as well as ride horses.



While Leonardo provides the player with new weapons, such as a poison blade and a miniature firearm, there are also a variety of swords, cutlasses and maces, as well as axes, spears and daggers. The combat system is more complex, with the ability to disarm opponents, stealing their weapons. Six additional weapons can be unlocked by connecting a PSP with Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines to the PS3.

The Auditore family's countryside villa acts as Ezio's headquarters, and the surrounding property can be upgraded, drawing income for the player's use. There are several outlets for using currency, with vendors selling items such as medicine, weapons, upgrades, and colored dyes for their character's outfit.

There is now a broader array of methods for hiding or blending in the area. One can dive underwater to break the guards' line of sight, and blending may be performed with any group of people, rather than only a specific type, as in the first Assassin's Creed. The game features a notoriety system, with Ezio becoming more recognizable depending on his behaviour, location, and current mission. This infamy can be reduced with bribery, removing wanted posters, or assassinating corrupt officials. A day and night cycle has been added to the game, giving the game more of a sense of time, in addition to setting missions and events at certain times of the day. There are many ways to interact with non-player characters, with some NPCs available for hire, to serve as a distraction, or to fight alongside the player. Money thrown to the ground may also serve as a distraction. There are also several types of enemies, some more agile or stronger than others.

The missions in the game now have an expanded variety, with different structuring. For example, a mission may have the objective to escort someone, but may change to a chase and assassination. Investigation is less explicit, and instead missions may follow people and/or a narrative. There are roughly 200 missions in this game; about half are part of the main storyline, while the rest are side quests. Cities also contain hidden locations such as catacombs and caves, the design of which have been compared, by the developers, to the Prince of Persia series, where the objective is to navigate the area. Exploring these locations eventually rewards the player with an assassins symbol, six of which allow the player to unlock the armour of Altair.

Like Assassin's Creed, characters based on historical figures are present in the game including Leonardo da Vinci, Niccolò Machiavelli, Caterina Sforza, Lorenzo de' Medici, the Pazzi Family, and Pope Alexander VI.

Locations in the game include Venicemarker, Florencemarker, Romemarker, Tuscany (Monteriggionimarker, San Gimignanomarker) and Romagnamarker (Forlìmarker). Specific landmarks include St Mark's Basilicamarker, the Grand Canalmarker, the Little Canal, the Rialto Bridgemarker, Santa Maria del Fioremarker, Santa Crocemarker, Palazzo Vecchiomarker, Ponte Vecchiomarker, and Santa Maria Novellamarker.

Plot

The game continues shortly after the events of Assassin's Creed, where, in 2012, Desmond Miles (Nolan North) has been abandoned by Abstergo Industries after searching the memories of his ancestor, the Assassin Altaïr, in the Animus. Abstergo, the modern-day equivalent of the Knights Templar, had been using Desmond to locate powerful out-of-place artifacts called "Pieces of Eden". Due to the "bleeding effect" from overusing the Animus, Desmond is able to see messages written on his bedroom wall, written in blood, later revealed to be that of an earlier Animus user known only as "Subject 16", warning of the end of the world. Lucy Stillman (Kristen Bell), a former researcher for Abstergo and a member of the modern-day Assassins, frees Desmond and brings him to a secret hideout for herself and two other Assassins, Shaun Hastings (Danny Wallace) and Rebecca Crane. With their own version of the Animus, dubbed the 'Animus 2.0', they invite Desmond to help them discover the memories of his ancestor, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, for two reasons: to train Desmond in Assassin skills through the bleeding effect, and to find other Pieces of Eden.

Ezio, residing in Italy during the Renaissance in the late 15th century, finds his family in Florencemarker the victims of a political plot, and is unable to prevent the hanging of his father and two brothers. His father's final instructions lead Ezio to a chest containing Assassin garments and tools. Ezio's uncle Mario allows Ezio and his mother and sister to shelter in his countryside villa, and trains Ezio in the art of combat. Mario further provides leads to those in on his family's betrayal, and Ezio follows the trail of clues, leading from Florence to Tuscany, Romagnamarker, and eventually to Venicemarker. Along the way, he encounters several allies that assist in his pursuit, including Leonardo da Vinci, who is able to help decode pages of a "Codex," creating new equipment. After assassinating many people involved in the plot, Ezio is able to identify Rodrigo Borgia as the leader of the conspiracy, aimed to bring down the Medici family. Borgia later arrives in Venice with the "Apple," the Piece of Eden that Altaïr originally had found. Borgia believes himself to be the "Prophet" that would lead to the discovery of "The Vault", supposedly containing more Pieces of Eden and other knowledge the Templars seek. Ezio, joined by his allies, stop Borgia, who flees without the Apple. His allies, including Niccolò Machiavelli, reveal they are all members of the Assassins, and bring Ezio into their ranks, telling him that they believe him to be the Prophet that will lead them to the Vault.

During one break on using the Animus, Desmond suffers a hallucination that returns him to the body of Altaïr in Acremarker, who makes love with Maria, a Templar he had earlier spared; when Altaïr departs, Desmond finds the memory staying with Maria, and leaves him confused when he recovers. He also learns of the case of Subject 16, and that Abstergo has been using numerous Animus devices to seek out the Pieces of Eden. When Desmond returns to Ezio's memory after he fought off Borgia, they find several corrupted memories, and instead return to Ezio in the year 1499, where Borgia has since become Pope Alexander VI at Vatican Citymarker. Ezio's memories reveal that he and his allies have completed the Codex and discovered that "The Vault" lies in Rome, and realize that the Papal Staff is another Piece of Eden; Borgia's plan, upon deposition of the Medici family, would allow him to become Pope and gain access to the staff and the Vault.

Ezio and his allies travel to Rome; while his allies distract the rest of the city, Ezio discretely enters the Vatican and attempts to assassinate Borgia. Borgia manages to escape with both the Apple and the Cross, and attempts to use them to open the Vault, but Ezio catches up and defeats him. In Ezio's hands, the Apple and Cross open the Vault; inside, he finds a holographic figure that identifies him as The Prophet that has brought Desmond and the 21st century observers to the Vault to listen her words. The figure, calling herself "Minerva", reveals that she and others were part of a more advanced society that lived alongside humans, though they eventually came to war. However, a natural, celestial disaster had occurred, wiping out nearly all life on the planet; the few remaining rebuilt humanity and had constructed several other temples around the world that will help them prevent the same disaster from reoccurring. As the hologram vanishes, Minerva calls Desmond by name and says the "rest is up to you". As the memory ends, Desmond finds that Abstergo has discovered their hideout, and, with his assimilated skills from Ezio, assists Lucy in dispatching their forces while Shaun and Rebecca pack away their equipment. As the four escape, Lucy postulates that Minerva may have been talking about the Sun's geomagnetic reversal, and with time short, Desmond prepares to re-enter the Animus and continue searching his memories for more clues to the location of the temples.

Subject 16

During Desmond's time in the Animus, he also encounters a series of out-of-place glyphs through Ezio's memories. They are the same ones drawn in blood at Abstergo, and analysis reveals that they contain computer code for the Animus. "Subject 16", the Animus user preceding Desmond, had placed the encrypted code as a message, and Lucy had taken this data when taking Abstergo's Animus' memory core. The encrypted code contains a great number of historical artworks, photographs, and messages, past and present, with information on historical uses of several Pieces of Eden. Unlocking all of the glyphs reveals a brief video, labeled "Subject 16, Session 12, Classified Date B.C.E." A man and woman rush through a garden-like area and a futuristic complex, with a glimpse of the back of a figure holding the Apple of Eden and other people performing manual labor. On the roof of the complex, the woman holds up the Apple of Eden, and she and the man identify each other as Adam and Eve. A flash at the end of the clip shows four lines of Binary code, translating as "Eden".

Development

Ubisoft's Yves Guillemot officially confirmed that Assassin's Creed II was in development on November 26, 2008 during the company's financial performance report. This was followed by Michael Pachter speculating in GameTrailers' "Bonus Round" that game would change its setting to the events of the French Revolution, which turned out to be false.

A promotional video was released by Ubisoft on April 6 showing a skull, some hidden blade designs, and Leonardo's flying machine on a scroll.

On April 16, Game Informer released details of the game, including pictures of Ezio, a new teaser trailer was released, and the game was "officially" announced by Ubisoft.

In an interview, in May 2009, Sebastien Puel stated that the development team working on Assassin's Creed II had increased to 450 members, and the development team's size had tripled since the first game.

On June 1, 2009, Ubisoft released a new four-minute cinematic Assassin's Creed II trailer at E3. On June 2, 2009, Ubisoft revealed the first live gameplay demo, lasting 6 minutes, at the Sony Press Conference. GameTrailers features an exclusive developer walkthrough from E3 2009. In an interview with GameTrailers Ubisoft Montreal creative director Patrice Desilets stated Desmond would be doing more than walking around and discovering clues.

It was announced at the Assassin's Creed panel at Comic Con 2009 that a mini-series of three episodes, Assassin's Creed: Lineage, would be released showing the events leading up to the game and the history of Ezio and his father.

It was also revealed that the humorist Danny Wallace would be voicing a new character in Assassin's Creed II by the name of Shaun Hastings, a sarcastic historian assisting Desmond. The character's face was also be modeled after him. Actress Kristen Bell returned for the character of Lucy Stillman.The game was originally due to be released at the same time on all the three platforms, but Ubisoft announced on September 24, 2009 via Twitter that the PC version would be delayed to the first quarter of 2010 in order to have "a bit more time for the dev team to deliver the best quality game".

On December 1, 2009 Ubisoft announced it's first two DLC releases for Assassin's Creed II. The first one entitled "Battle for Forli" is expected to come out in January 2010. The second one entitled "Bonfire of the Vanities" is scheduled to be released in February 2010. They are expected to fill up the missing memory blocks in the game.

Music

The score to Assassin's Creed II was composed by Jesper Kyd, who recorded his score with a 30-piece string ensemble and 13-person choir at Capitol Recordsmarker. A soundtrack was released via digital download on November 16. 14 tracks of the soundtrack were also released on the DVD available with the special pre-order Black edition of Assassin's Creed II.

Promotion

On October 20, 2009, Ubisoft announced a series of short movies to be broadcast via YouTube that would provide additional back story and the introduction of some of the characters found in the game. The shorts, called Assassin's Creed: Lineage, came in three parts and were developed by Ubisoft’s Hybride Technologies, who previously worked on the films 300 and Sin City. The series focused on Ezio's father, Giovanni Auditore, and contained live-action and computer generated imagery. The first of the films was released on October 27, 2009, with the remaining two released on November 13, 2009.

On November 12, 2009 Ubisoft released Assassin's Creed II themed virtual items on PlayStation Home to promote the release of the game, as well as the game Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines for PSP. Assassin's Creed II virtual items and an Ezio costume were also released on the Xbox Live Marketplace for the Xbox 360's avatars. On November 19, 2009, more Assassin's Creed II virtual items were released in PlayStation Home, along with a costume for Ezio, which was released on November 26, 2009.

Assassin's Creed II is the first game to be linked to Ubisoft's Uplay community feature. Progression through the game allows Uplay members to acquire points that can be redeemed for bonuses for use in the game, including a new crypt to explore and an Altair costume.

Reception

Upon release, Assassin's Creed II garnered a positive reception from critics. Review aggregator site Metacritic, gave both Xbox 360 and PS3 versions 91 percent, based on 33 reviews.

In an exclusive review by Official Xbox Magazine, Assassin's Creed II scored 9/10. Its second review was a perfect score from the Official PlayStation Magazine US, while the Official PlayStation Magazine UK scored the game a 9/10.

A German magazine, Computer Bild Spiele, reported that the game's publishers offered to provide a pre-release copy of the game if the magazine would guarantee a review score of "very good." The magazine rejected the request and instead opted to delay their review.

According to pre-official sales estimates, Ubisoft announced that Assassin's Creed II sold 1.6 million copies worldwide during its first week of sale, representing a 32 percent increase over the first week retail performance of the original Assassin's Creed.

Limited editions

There are several different limited editions of Assassin's Creed II. The "Black Edition" contains an Ezio figurine garbed in a black Assassin's outfit and was released in Europe and Australia. Included also are three bonus areas, an art book, and a DVD with music, behind the scenes videos and 2 desktop wallpapers. The "White Edition" contains one bonus area and an Ezio figurine in his standard white outfit. The "Master Assassin's Edition" is the North American limited edition, which contains an Ezio figurine, two bonus areas, an art book and a DVD with music and behind the scenes videos.

Sequel

Discussions on the details of Assassin's Creed III were already present before the release of Assassin's Creed II, with the game's staff noting discussions of possibly having a female ancestor in World War II, or the game's setting based in the Middle Ages, involving King Arthur, or feudal Japan.

References

  1. Ubisoft Makin' Money, Teasin' Assassin's Creed 2, Kotaku.com
  2. Rumor: Assassin's Creed 2 Goes Back To The Future, Kotaku.com
  3. Destructoid: "E3 09: Assassin's Creed 2 footage from the Sony conference"
  4. http://www.destructoid.com/assassin-s-creed-ii-dlc-announced-for-for-ps3-360-156527.phtml
  5. http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/xbox360/assassinscreed2
  6. http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/ps3/assassinscreed2


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