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E3 2009: Assassin's Creed 2 First Look

You will believe an Assassin can fly.

2009-06-02
A few years back, Ubisoft wowed many with the debut of Assassin's Creed. A large, fully scalable world with the promise of dynamic assassination missions was too good to be true. And as it turned out, the first Assassin's Creed didn't live up to expectations. Two years later, Ubisoft Montreal has learned from its mistakes and is ready to provide a better and more complete experience.

Assassin's Creed 2 has you once again playing as Desmond, a modern-age descendant of some of history's greatest killers. But Altair, the ancestor Desmond inhabited, is not a part of the sequel. Instead, Desmond has a new ancestor's history to play through. Ezio is not an assassin at the start of AC2. And he might never have done anything notable in his life, but when his family becomes entangled in a conspiracy, Ezio is called to action.

The E3 demo takes place in Venice, in 1486. It's nighttime and there's a festival. People are dancing in the town square, laughing, enjoying the bright evening. Even though Ezio is among the crowd for a few seconds, it's clear that the people are more interactive with one another and that they have more to do than just walk around mindlessly. There are no monks just chilling out waiting for you to slip into their group. But don't worry, it's going to be a little easier to hide amongst the crowd. So long as there are at least eight people in a group, you can blend in and hide in plain sight.

While old Jerusalem was a fascinating place to explore in the original Assassin's Creed, it had a drab color palette. Obviously, this is due to the setting. In Venice, there's color everywhere. The skies are alight with fireworks and the people are dressed in festive garb.

Ezio's mission is to assassinate Carlo Grimalde, one of the most powerful men in Venice. In the original AC, you'd need to gather three sets of intel in order to unlock the ability to take out Grimalde. These tasks were somewhat menial and were a common complaint among critics. Ubisoft Montreal obviously agreed with the criticisms, because they threw that entire system out the window. That's right, you won't go to a handler to get a mission, then perform repetitive tasks to gain information that doesn't really assist you, kill the target and then have to return to that same handler. The mission's are a little more structured this time and any intel you need is going to be gathered as you progress towards the assassination.


Watch our in-depth analysis of the Assassin's Creed 2 teaser trailer.

Leonardo Da Vinci is Ezio's best bud and has a new invention waiting for him atop one of the roofs. Something that will help Ezio gain access to Grimalde. The ascension up the Venice rooftops is quick and easy. The climbing controls are unchanged from AC1, but you'll be able to perform longer acrobatic sequences, some upwards of half-a-minute. There's also a ton of new animations being added, though the demo didn't showcase many of these. Regardless, it still looks incredible.

As before, you have both high and low profile kills. So you can climb up a chimney, leap off and slam your blade down into a guard's back or take a stealthier, less flashy approach. Still, some of the stealth kills are pretty flashy in their own right. That's because Ezio has two hidden blades. You can sneak up behind two enemies and stab both in the back. Or casually walk between two guards and you can knife them both in the throat. Ubisoft is putting a lot of focus on the enemy AI this time around, but the short demo didn't really get to showcase much of this. What was shown fully was the device Ezio uncovered on the rooftops.

Leonardo created a flying machine, a winged glider for Ezio. You get to test it out. Ezio flies over the rooftops and canals of Venice, swooping down low over some areas on fire in order to catch a draft and continue his flight. All the while, archers are firing flaming arrows at you. There doesn't seem to be a way to dodge these. Or at least in the demo it didn't seem pressing. After a quick and thrilling flight over Venice, Ezio crashes atop the roof.

Getting to Grimalde won't be easy. Ezio didn't come in quietly and the guards are aware of his presence. Even leaping into a bail of hay won't help, because now there are seekers who are smart enough to check these types of hiding spots -- sometimes with a jab of the sword. Fortunately, you can kill from your hiding spots.

The basics of combat are the same, but there are different enemy types. You have seekers, the regular guard and even some brutes. Each requires a slightly different tactic to take down, which should make combat a little more challenging since you'll be fighting a mixture of different types of enemies throughout Assassin's Creed 2.

The big change to combat, though, is the ability to take weapons from enemies. See a halberd you want? Snatch it from your foe, then use it again him.

Eventually, the guards all fall and Grimalde is all that's left. Kill him and you get a similar death bed conversation as in AC 1.

With the assassination complete, it's time to escape. Ezio can't survive a battle with a dozen guards. Fortunately, he has smoke bombs, which act as a distraction. The demo ends with Ezio running towards the docks and then leaping into the water. Yup, you can swim and use boats in Assassin's Creed 2. Epic gondola chases have not been confirmed.

Assassin's Creed 2 comes to PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 November 17.

©2009-06-02, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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