Assassin's Creed II disappoints and my Big Red Potion appearance

Assassin's Creed 2 Screenshot

I sent out a message via Twitter earlier, but in case you missed it, here's a link to my appearance on the most recent Big Red Potion podcast. The topic was Modern Warfare 2 and the connection between games and their portrayal of wartime politics.

Many thanks to Joe DeLia and Sinan Kubba for having me on. Also, props to my co-podcaster Steve Haske from Play. It was certainly an honor, and I hope to do it again sometime.

I've got a few fairly cool features that are being cooked up as we speak, but at the moment I'm spending some time with Assassin's Creed 2. If you caught my review of the first game, then you'll know that I saw it as a huge disappointment. If there was ever a poster child for missed potential, Assassin’s Creed would be it.

In spite of my dismay, I held out hope that Ubisoft would take the copious amounts of player feedback and apply it towards the sequel, finally crafting a title that lived up to the promise. The early word was good, and practically everyone I spoke to said that the developers had seen the error of their ways and had delivered a game that "kept all the good stuff and got rid of all the bad".

I wanted to believe. Oh, how I wanted to believe.

I'm not done with the game, but I've put somewhere in the neighborhood of six or so hours into it so far. Initial impressions were extremely poor… the first four hours or thereabouts were extremely slow and dull, taking entirely too much time to establish a story that's not nearly as interesting as the developers want you to think it is. It also doesn't help that this giant block of time serves as an overly-extended tutorial, dragging out what could have really been condensed into a fraction of what it takes.

Getting through that part was fairly painful, and once I was done with it and got into the game proper, I can't really say that things got much better. Although I'm still reserving final judgment, what I've seen so far amounts to an exact copy of the first game with a lot of stuff I don't care about crammed into it—things like a money system, a notoriety system, managing items, and being caretaker for a property owned by your family. I suppose this is an attempt to emulate Grand Theft Auto, but I just keep asking myself why I'm supposed to care. The game is called Assassin’s Creed, and yet (just like the first installment) I'd have to say that the assassinating is probably the weakest part of the experience.

The controls feel kludgey, the stealth mechanics don't include using shadows (or even ducking), and I'm just not getting any kind of satisfaction with the tasks I'm completing. There may be a bullet-point list of new features that make this game “better” than the last, but from where I'm standing, it seems as though the developers basically left the core experience unchanged—and that's the part that needed the most work.

(Incidentally, Jim Sterling over at Destructoid seems to like it about as much as I do so far… maybe even less. He's written a pretty brutal review which I actually like a lot, if for no other reason than it's rare to see a high-profile reviewer really lay into a "top-tier" game like this one. Jim Sterling, I salute you.)

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