Assassin’s Creed 2 first play

Assassin’s Creed 2 isn’t out until next month, but we’ve sneaked up on the historical stealth’em up and had a first play already. Want to know if Assassin’s Creed 2 is a clean kill success or a messy, bloody failure? Read on for our first impressions.

Ever since Assassin’s Creed 2 was outed in detail at E3 earlier this year, we’ve been dying to get our hands on the game: the first Assassin’s Creed, set in Crusade era Palestine and launched back in late 2007, was very well received, but deemed too repetitive by many reviewers, but from our first hands-on, the sequel is shaping up to correct a lot of the problems with the flawed classic.

We played preview code of Assassin’s Creed 2 on the Xbox 360, and the tasks we had a crack at were smaller, quicker and more action packed than the longer chapters in the first game, and it was all the more entertaining for it. On a basic level, gameplay works as before. While the setting has changed to Renaissance Venice, your character, Ezzio, dashes around on rooftops getting his medieval freerunning on in just the same way, and still has to murder plenty of high profile aristocrats.

The difference? Ubisoft is dropping the more tedious investigative elements it fully admits were “frustrating” players and repetitive, and changing the gameplay to many, many more shorter tasks (130, in fact). The mission we tackled saw us hopping on to the roofs of the town and slitting the throats of the archers guarding a greedy merchant before dropping by for a quick meet, greet and stab. It was fast, frantic and while full of stealth, didn’t bore by forcing you to walk slowly for miles through the town’s streets.

As the controls haven’t changed since first time round, Assassin’s Creed 2 will still leave some gamers feeling like it’s all a bit too easy. Sure, you can swim and climb walls faster than before. Simply holding down one button and moving to scale a castle though can sometimes feel like Ubisoft’s removed any skill factor, but the sense of cinematic you get more than makes up for it in our mind. Hopping on top of the Venetian skyline is nothing short of jawdropping, with an incredible draw distance stretching off from every angle. The city looks stunning, and while the characters on the ground milling around don’t feel as animated a community as the folks of GTA IV’s Liberty City, it’s an astonishing, sprawling feat nonetheless.

Assassin’s Creed 2 Black Edition announced

People less fussed about skill will love this sense of the epic though, which the first Assassin’s Creed strived for but didn’t always pull off. Drop down on an unsuspecting guard from the right angle and you’ll get that multiple angle view classy execution. The flying Da Vinci contraptions we saw teased at E3 looked brilliant too, letting you swoop between buildings, Early Modern Steam Punk style, but unfortunately, weren’t available to play in the demo we tried.

We took the time to pump the game’s director, Benoit Lambert, about where he’d love to see a third Assassin’s Creed set – he was keeping schtum on the subject sadly, but he did reveal some tasty facets to Assassin’s Creed 2, which we’ve outed in our feature. Assassin’s Creed 2 is out on PC, PS3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo DS next month, but have a sneak peek of what to expect in our gallery, and be sure to clue yourself up on all the hidden secrets and brand new features in our guide.

Out 20 November | £35 (Xbox 360/PS3) £30 (PC) £25 (DS) | Ubisoft

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