[Amazon] Big name titles of 2009 discounted!

Hey Xbox 360 owners – feel like taking down terrorists with the most advanced weaponry of today and having the line between good and evil blur? Modern Warfare 2 is on sale at Amazon for only $40. And if terrorists aren’t what you prefer shooting at, Left 4 Dead 2’s hordes of zombies will definitely fill that void at $40, as well. Or even shooting people – dead or undead – are not your thing, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 will have you stepping in the boots of your favorite hero/heroine for only $20 (also accounts for PlayStation 3)!

Own a PlayStation 3? Don’t fret! Assassin’s Creed II is available on both systems for one easy payment of $40, too! At these prices, Amazon will surely have gamers leaping across the rooftops of 16th-century Italy, spending rounds of ammunition against the undead, and flashbanging the hell out of terrorists in no-time!


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.