Assassin’s Creed II

Assassin’s Creed II is the long-awaited sequel to the 2007 blockbuster Assassin’s Creed. Though the first game boasted beautiful graphics, stunning presentation, and intuitive controls the game itself was plagued with shameless repetition and a convoluted plot that failed to explain anything – setting up for the game we have today!

Assassin’s Creed II opens up EXACTLY where the first left off. Desmond Miles hops in the Animus 2.0 and assumes the ancestoral memories of Ezio Auditore during the Renaissance.

“Oh Snap!” Moments
Ah yes! Assassin’s Creed II is filled with moments like these. Most of it stems from the fighting – which has been improved significantly over its predecessor. Times when you utilize the dual blades to assassinate two people at once from above, disarm a guard only to finish him off with his own weapon, and when an enemy happens to break your pike in half and you decide to impale him with both ends.

Engaging Storyline
Assassin’s Creed II’s story is quite the “page turner”. A vast improvement over its predecessor, the narrative is a personal one surrounding Ezio, his family, and the role he is to play. Not to mention that government overthrows and prevention of political assassinations play a role in the main story. Exciting!

Beautiful Environments
Major props to Ubisoft on capturing one of the most beautifully artistic and technical games of the year. Though the character models are beginning to show their age from the original game, the environments are top-notch!

Exploratory Tombs
Ezio becomes the proverbial tomb raider as it becomes your interest in collecting items from assassins past in order to unlock the armor of Alta├»r (the best in the game). The tombs themselves aren’t all that difficult to complete, but they add refreshing new gameplay and require you to use Ezio’s acrobatic abilities to the fullest.

Quick Loading
Apart from entering a new area, Assassin’s Creed II streamlines your experience to where you can explore a huge chunk of the world without having to wait for the game to load. Especially surprising when realizing how intricate, complex, and large the game areas are.

Recruitable Allies
The ability to hire these specialists adds some nice variety to the mix of assassinating a target or eluding the armed guards. From courtesans luring away a target’s protection to mercenaries going toe-to-toe with guards, there are plenty of different scenarios where their aid will be well worth the price.

Money Usage
The idea of obtaining money (or florins) in this game is sort of a joke – as it is really easy to make. However, the purpose for it is nothing short of a stellar addition to Assassin’s Creed II’s gameplay. From purchasing new weapons, armor, and hiring out courtesans or bribing the town criers… there is a whole other factor that comes into play when using money.

Practical Stealth Mechanics
The new crowd blending mechanic is a enormous improvement over the original game’s. Now instead of just hiding amongst the religious folk, players can now mingle with a group of 3 or more citizens and still appear invisible to the guardsmen. A feature that can really be overlooked, but provides just what the franchise needed in terms of stealth gameplay.

Weapon Variety
The breadth of weapons and inventory items has significantly improvement. This also comes as a stellar addition to a game whose predecessor lacked any sort of variety. All weapons come with their own animations and statistics, and are also accompanied with poisoned blades, smoke bombs, and a wrist pistol… yes, a wrist pistol! Good times!

Villa Management
Later on down the line players can manage and upgrade Ezio’s family villa and residing town. The mechanic is a little on the shallow end, but utilizing this feature comes with its perks and gives you something to blow your money on.

Glitchy Free-Running
Though it is the best example of free-running in a game to-date, Assassin’s Creed II suffers from some detection problems in the form of Ezio leaping in the direction you didn’t want him to. Though this doesn’t happen to often, it seems to occur in the most inopportune times – namely, when you’re getting chased by Venetian guardsmen. With that said, some of the mechanics could definitely use with some fine-tuning.

Buggy Ledge Detection
While scaling certain buildings, you’ll find it ridiculously frustrating sometimes when Ezio just doesn’t want to grab that ledge 3-feet from his head. This inconvenience can be remedied by shifting Ezio around and trying to reach for the ledge again. Again, this does happen at the most inopportune times – namely, when you’re getting chased by Venetian guardsmen!

Weak AI
Sometimes the AI can show its short-comings in the way of guards giving up chase when I’m within arms-length or when they make their rounds only to fall off a 7-story tower. Even more so when my gang of free-running thieves follow me into the canals of Venice, only to drown because they forgot they cannot swim – there goes my 150 florins… *sigh* it can get weird at times.

Mild Repetition
Though Assassin’s Creed II remedies most of the repetition and tediousness of the first game, there is still crap to sift through when it comes to the side-missions and having to reach those damn lookout points!

Questionable Voice Talent
The common people inhabiting the world of Assassin’s Creed II are horrible to listen to. The performances are so bad… I can’t even think of analogy! Sure, not all games have top-notch voice acting. But a AAA-title like this deserves to have the same caliber of talent as games like Grand Theft Auto IV or Modern Warfare 2. The way the delivery comes off is as if the actors are not taking their job seriously, almost like a joke.

Out-of-Context Puzzles
A sub-plot to the game is finding out what Subject 16 (Desmond’s predecessor) had discovered before his passing. This comes in the way of discovering symbols across the land of Italy and completing… odd puzzles in order to decipher code to a video – all of which will be in random order until you discover all of them. These puzzle range from ridiculously easy to “how the hell was I supposed to figure that out without a two-week course in religious studies?” Sure, some can be fun, but… well, I guess you can see for yourself sometime.

Still Confused
So just what did you learn by the end of Assassin’s Creed II? Not much, I’m afraid. There are still plenty of questions to be answered and information to learn.

When all is said an done, I think you’ll notice that I’ve stated in several pros that Assassin’s Creed II adds many features that enhance the game and remedies some of the crimes of its predecessor. For those of you who shun the first game, you have a reason to… but not so with this game. This sequel does so many things right that it should at least be tried out before any sort of judgment is passed – even if they leave you hanging by the end with the story.

Review based on Xbox 360 version.

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REVIEW // Modern Warfare 2

Perhaps the most highly-anticipated title of the decade has been released. The direct follow-up to 2007’s critically-acclaimed and commercially-successful Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Infinity Ward had an uphill battle in bettering the formula of the original for Modern Warfare 2.

So as a direct follow-up to such a successful game, is Modern Warfare 2 everything its predecessor was (and possibly more)?

Infinity Ward's new Modern Warfare is a safe move.

Set 5 years after the events of Call of Duty 4, Modern Warfare 2 has players assume the role of “Roach” of Task Force 141 to pursue a vile Russian terrorist known as Vladimir Makarov, who plots to pit the superpowers of the United States and Russia against one another. Once the fighting starts, players also assume control of Army Ranger James Ramirez who is tasked to put up arms against the Russian Ultranationalists who have initiated the first foreign nation’s attack on American soil in 100 years…

The change of scenery is a welcoming change to the desolate deserts of the Middle East.

Hollywood-caliber Presentation
Infinity Ward’s inspiration for Modern Warfare 2 had indeed come from top action-flicks, like: The Rock, Ronin, and Tears of the Sun. There is remarkable detail in the direction of the single-player, from the environments presented in-game to how character models react to the world around them.

Mesmerizing Set Pieces
It was inevitable that the set pieces in the game were made to accommodate the explosive action. The scripted action and exotic locales will certainly make players feel that they’ll soon be knee-deep in enemy carcasses and ammo casings. From Washington DC to Rio de Janiero, there is no shortage of epic vistas or awe-inspiring views.

New Weapons & Gadgets
New weapons are always a plus in my book; especially when they consist of the FAMAS, SCAR-H, Steyr AUG, and the new Riot Shield! Items like the Predator Missile console and Sentry Turret are welcoming additions and add to the diverse gameplay.

Robust Multiplayer
The unlockables are a-plenty and the variety of gametypes are sure to prove time-consuming for the average FPS fan. The new signature feature provides players with a semi-unique identity in the world of online play, and unlocking all of those precious graphics are sure to be an achievement in itself.

Top-notch Graphics
“Solid” is a word that comes to mind. The mere fact that the visuals can uphold so greatly against the quick action and pacing of the game’s gameplay is enough to warrant award for the developer’s hard work in refining the experience.

Fast, Frantic Action
The gameplay remains solid and functional. What made Infinity Ward’s last installment so loved and hailed is still intact.

Spec Ops
Have a friend on- or off-line that you want to partner up with and dislike the idea of other players fighting along side you both? Go for Spec Ops! This mode offers a great break from the loneliness of the single player and crowded servers of the multiplayer. In here, you and a buddy can take on missions to either take on wave-after-wave of enemies, provide support for one another in a chopper, eliminate an enemy-occupied position, and much more!

Riot shields: A tactical wild card... and a pain in the arse to deal with!

Over Before You Know It
When the game came to pass, I was flabbergasted. I checked the time and had realized that I beat Modern Warfare 2 on Veteran in less than 8 hours. How can this be!?

No Party Chat
Not a dealbreaker, however, it can be a major inconvenience to have to mute the undesirables in certain matches… I’m looking at you “URa ReTaRD 94”!

Glitchy Online Functionality
There appear to be hiccups here and there within the multiplayer LIVE servers for Modern Warfare 2. Issues pertaining to involuntarily dropping from a lobby, getting shoved into a “private” match, bugs allowing abnormally fast-paced action or infinite ammo and care packages.

Uneven Gameplay Balance Online
Players will find out right away just how lame it is to get fragged by that one lone ranger on the other team who dual wields Model 1889s with the Lightweight and Marathon perk… yeah – it sucks. Not to mention the low-caliber UMP 45 ammunition being able to penetrate through a vending machine AND a solid concrete wall.

Get Ready To Pre-Order Modern Warfare 3
Let me just say… things don’t necessarily get “resolved” in Modern Warfare 2. Sure, you’ll get the “bad guy” as it were – however, the conflicts and issues are far from over.

What's next for "Soap" MacTavish and his gang?

It is definitely safe to say that Modern Warfare 2 is an excellent follow-up to Call of Duty 4. However, though the narrative showcases what to do in a single player campaign… it also shows what not to do. That is, deliberately show that the storyline will continue on to another game. It is grossly obvious that the story was cut short to provide something for Modern Warfare 3.

Though the single player itself was satisfying, the real star of the Modern Warfare 2 is its multiplayer element. So much time can be devoted to the many unlockable weapons, graphics, killstreak rewards, and accolades. There so much to be done, and with more maps on the way there is sure to be plenty of fun to be had.

Spec Ops mode also provides for a co-op that was severely lacking from the first game. Though in some cases a co-op campaign mode would have been a nice addition, Spec Ops fills the void by adding plenty of hours of two-man buddy action.

Essentially, gamers are paying $60 for a robust, bustling online multiplayer experience. If you liked Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, you’ll like Modern Warfare 2. Plain and simple, it’s more of the same – only better! If you like shooters, might as well try your luck in renting it to see if the game clicks for you.

Review based on the Xbox 360 version.