Assassin’s Creed 2

November 20, 2009

Want a quick review? AWESOME GAME. BUY IT!

Still here? Ok, good. This game is absolutely golden. I’m having such a good time with it. I love me a good story driven action/adventure game. And treasure hunting too, as I’m sure I already mentioned in a previous post. If you enjoyed the free running of the first game as well as games like Wet, Mirror’s edge, and Prince of Persia; then Assassin’s Creed 2 will definitely scratch that itch. And scratch it good! And with the addition of DUAL hidden blades you can now climb to the rooftops, sneak up on two unsuspecting archers, and bury a blade up to the hilt into the neck of each one of them. And then watch as their limp, bleeding bodies flop and fall to the ground, to the shock and dismay of the unsuspecting villagers below. I should mention that, because I’m a nut, I’ve been playing this game the past couple days with a hoodie pulled up over my head to help pull myself into the game world. When I get into a good story I like to get as deep into it as possible. 🙂

In Assassin’s Creed 2 you reprise your role as Desmond, using the Animus to experience the memories of a different ancestor which are locked in your DNA. Namely, a 17 year old guy name Ezio Auditore Da Firenze. The time period is mid to late 1400’s, during the great Italian Renaissance. Ezio seeks vengeance for the murders of his father and two brothers, one of which was MAYBE 10 years old at the time. Let me tell ya, watching a 10 y/o swing from the gallows with his father and older brother was a bit disturbing, even for me.

The architecture in this game is simply amazing, and while I’m no expert on the topic, seems accurate to the time period. The game points out the most elaborate/historically important buildings as you approach them, and offers you some colorful details about the building’s past. There are many cultural and historical references to study and enjoy. There are also many classical paintings to view and learn about, paintings I remember from the Art History class I took a few years back. So next time someone says videogames don’t teach you anything, you can point to this game, and tell them to shut up.

There’s even a brief nod to the Mario Bros. early on in the game. I won’t go into detail about it, cause I don’t want to spoil the moment for you. Is it cheesy? Perhaps. Is it disruptive to the otherwise well maintained time bubble of the story? Mildly I suppose, but it lasts maybe 2 seconds, and I thought it was funny. I enjoy it when games make “in-joke” nods to our gaming history. If anything, it simply shows that the industry we know and love is growing up and coming into it’s own. The movie industry does this kind of thing all the time, and you don’t hear complaints when they do it.

A quick caution to you gamers out there with kids: There are some conversations in this game which use language inappropriate for children. Words I have NEVER heard used in any game before it. There’s no beating around the bush here, and I honestly wonder how the ESRB let this slip by them. I don’t mind the language personally, it’s nothing I don’t hear online on a daily basis anyway. I’m just amazed the ESRB didn’t red flag it. Even WITH their M(17+) rating. I mean, have YOU ever heard the word “vagina” used in conversation while playing the story mode of a game before? Most of the other bad language is spoken in Italian, but if you turn on the captions from the options menu it will translate everything for you at the bottom of the screen. So if your kids don’t speak Italian, and are too young to read quickly, then it shouldn’t be a problem. Being from New York I find the cussing to be funny and completely understandable in context to the story, but you may feel differently.

The enemy AI is more advanced in this game than it was in it’s predecessor to be sure. The enemies will now search hay stacks for you, plunging their blades or spears in to check if you’re in there. Of course, you now have the ability to reach out from the hay bails while hiding in them, slit the throat of a nearby guard, and pull his dead body into the hay to hide it; so there’s no reason to be too worried. And if you piss them off they WILL chase you up onto the rooftops, so keep that in mind before to rush into a fight with 4-5 guards.

If you’d rather, there are a variety of things you can do now to avoid a fight entirely. You could throw money to the ground near a crowd of people. They’ll scatter excitedly to pick up the coins, and the guards will focus on them instead of you. You could leave a dead body in the street somewhere to distract guards from what you’re doing elsewhere. Just don’t be near the dead body when they find it or they’ll rightly assume you were the one who killed the guy. You can sneak up behind one guard on patrol and poison him. It takes a little bit to take effect, giving you time to sneak away, but when it DOES the guy will go nuts before he dies which will distract the guards.You could run right up to a group of guards and throw a smoke bomb. This will blind, choke, and confuse them; allowing you to cut them all up quick before they have time to realize what’s going on.

You can also hire 3 different groups of 4-5 people to help you out. Each group has it’s own set of skills and will follow you around after you hire them, until you focus on a guard and tell the group to attack/harass him.

(1) There are the Thieves, who will run up and harass the guards, then run away. The guards will run after them, leaving behind whatever area they were guarding. The thieves are also the only group who can follow you up onto the rooftops, but they aren’t as good at free running as you are and are prone to falling off rooftops and dying. You’ve been warned.

(2) Then there’s the Mercenari, or Mercenaries. Hire them and you can order them to go and fight a group of guards. They’ll start a fight and it’ll continue till either they or the guards are all dead, giving you time to sneak past and get whatever you were after.

(3) Last but not least, there’s my personal favorite, the Courtesans (aka Prostitutes). Their groups are versatile and multi-purpose. No pun intended. 😉 First, they can help you stay anonymous while following you around if you simply want to walk down a street full of guards without being detected. Stay in the middle of their little group and no one will even know you’re there. However, if a group of guards does get close to you, one or two of the courtesans will break off from your group and personally distract those guards with a dance or the like. So keep an eye on your crew so you’re not surprised when they’re all gone and you have to search for a new group to hire. Secondly, they carry daggers and they’ll fight along side you if they have to, but they’re not very good at it. So don’t expect them to last long against a group of the better equipt guards. And the final thing they can do for you is a big group distraction. Point them at a group of guards and press the “Distract” button and the girls will work their magic. The guards in question will walk a little ways away from your target to hoot, holler, and make cat calls and rude gestures at the courtesans; completely ignoring you so that you can sneak past.

It may just be the way that I’m playing the game, completing all side quests and finding all hidden treasure chests, etc before moving on to the next city, but this game feels a lot bigger than Assassin’s Creed 1. I’m a completion-ist to be sure, but still. The cities are huge, and incredibly detailed. Venice in particular is simply MASSIVE. Speaking of Venice, I gave myself a row boat tour of the city last night for the hell of it. I figured this was as close as I’d ever get to seeing the real thing, so I should see it the way it was meant to be seen. 🙂

I’m about halfway through the game right now, and I believe my save file says I’ve logged around 32 hours. So even WITHOUT a multi-player experience Assassin’s Creed 2 is well worth your money.

The other aspect of the game that’s worth mentioning are the puzzles. The save file that is being used to help you access your ancestor’s memories have been hacked by a mysterious character known only as “Subject 16”. He was another person that the evil Abstergo corp. had put through the Animus experiments. In the machine for days at a time without food or water, the man lost his mind. He started seeing ancestor memories without being connected to the Animus, and went crazy as a result, losing the ability to tell what was real and what wasn’t. How someone like that has the ability to hack Abstergo’s operating system and insert files into your memories is beyond me, but I enjoy the puzzles anyway.

The puzzles include basic ciphers, picture puzzles, word associations, and hunting through images for hidden content. I’ve even found a few hidden ciphers in some of the pictures, and while they weren’t necessary to solve the puzzles, they added an extra glimpse into the story and it’s interpretation of some major historical figures and events. Besides, I enjoyed decoding the secret messages, made me feel like a secret agent.

I give Assassin’s Creed 2 a 9 out of 10. If they would fix the glitch that keeps causing ghost objective markers to linger on my HUD’s map I would gladly change my score to a 10 out of 10. It’s a small glitch, and the only one I’ve found, but when you’re doing a mission and there are 3-4 ghost assassination target icons on the HUD map that don’t really exist it’s really damn frustrating.

~Penguin out.

Red Faction: Guerrilla

November 2, 2009

I had rented this game months ago and never had a chance to finish it. Just picked up a used copy last week and I’m still having a great time with it. I missed my sledgehammer. There’s just something downright magical about being able to take a sledgehammer to everything you see and reduce it to rubble. This game is massive, and as I just said, damn near anything you see can be destroyed in a remarkably life like way. The buildings, bridges, etc. all react to structural damage the way their real world counterparts would. Want a building to go down fast? Take out the support beams and the load bearing walls first. When you start to hear things give out, that’s your cue to get the heck out of there as quick as you can. Oh, and try to get to a safe viewing distance. Watching the taller buildings collapse in on themselves is beautiful.

You play as Alec Mason, a man who’s come to mine the surface of Mars. When he gets there he discovers that Mars isn’t the cake walk he thought it was going to be.  The oppressive control of the Earth Defense Force (EDF) and the mega corporations running all the mining operations on Mars keep the miners under their heel.. You discover that your brother is a member of a rebel group trying to fight the EDF for control of the planet. Alec doesn’t want to get involved, until the EDF kill his brother. From then on you’re on a personal quest for vengence.

The missions are varied, but the treasure hunting aspect can get annoying if you don’t go print yourself a map off the net. The world is just so damn big that searching for ore deposits, EDF propaganda, and radio tags can get frustrating.

The multiplayer is a refreshing change of pace from my usual Halo3 matches. There’s quite an array of different levels and modes to keep you interested, and the downloadable map packs include extra game modes as well so they’ll be well worth picking up. The weapons are varied and clever, as are the backpacks that allow you to do things like fly, go invisible, blast your foes with sonic shock waves, you name it.

I’d have to say this is easily one of the best games of the year and I’d give it a 10/10 without a second thought.

Ok, so while wandering around some gamer sites just now I saw an advertisement for Assassin’s Creed 2 that I found to be a bit disturbing. It said “Pre-order now for an exclusive in game map!” Now, I’ve only been gaming since like 1985-86 so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about here, but isn’t an in game map something that should come standard?!? Especially for a game world as big as I’m sure this one will be. If the size of the first game’s world is any indication I DO NOT want to wander around a world that size without some sort of in game map to keep from getting disoriented.

Am I crazy? Is our whole gaming universe going to shit at the hands of greedy corporate MF’rs or is it just me? This is getting way out of hand. I’ll pre-order a game if you include something cool. Hell, I bought the Legendary edition of Halo3 just for the replica Master Chief helmet. But asking me to pre-order your game so that I can have access to the only thing that would make playing a game this size feasible without hours of wandering around lost and frustrated? That’s extortion kiddies, and extortion is bad. These corporations are really starting to piss me off. We need a revolution, we need to take back gaming. Before it gets to the point where main characters start walking around with company logos for faces.

I REALLY hope I’m blowing this out of proportion and the map offered to pre-orders is a hidden item map or something. I’d like to think that my hobby isn’t being controlled by complete pricks. But after seeing what Microsoft plans to dish out with the new 360 dashboard update… I just don’t know what to think anymore. Other than that, the only prick I can think of off hand that makes games is “Cliffy B” wunderkind uber-whore extreme. I’m sure if I weren’t so tired I could probably think of at least one or two more.

~Penguin Out.

The Beatles: Rockband

November 2, 2009

This should be a pretty straight forward review. Especially since this game did not star the voice acting of Mark Hamill. 😉

All in all I’d have to say this game was a pretty solid and enjoyable experience. A decent addition to the growing library of Rockband titles. The story mode seemed to be just the right length, so it stayed enjoyable without getting tiresome. I found most of the tracks to be an absolute blast to play, especially with 4-5 friends there to enjoy them with me. Everyone has heard classics like “Eight Days a Week” and “I Saw Her Standing There”, so there’s little worry about having a band member feel left out because it’s the first time they’ve heard the song you’re playing. If you’ve played any other Rockband game there’s no learning curve because the game is basically set up the same way. Only difference is that you unlock period band pictures for getting 3-5 stars on each song. Each picture also comes with a small factoid about The Beatles, so they serve as an interesting distraction when/if your hands start to get tired from all the rocking.

The only problem I encountered with the game occured while singing. I had a hard time activating “Beatlemania” (star power) while trying to sing several of the songs. My only guess as to why would have to be that the songs in question didn’t offer much time between verses with which to actually ATTEMPT to activate it. But the ability to sing harmonies with my friends DID make for an enjoyable party experience.

I grew up listening to oldies radio stations with my father, so I thought I had a pretty good idea what The Beatles were all about, but apparently I was wrong. I had never heard most of the songs from the latter half of the band’s career. I’m assuming that’s because the average “oldies” fan isn’t a big fan of hippies. I’m sure they’ve got scientists wasting taxpayer money researching this as we speak. But sadly, we may never know the truth. Either way, you cannot deny that the Beatles’ songs from the mid to late 60’s got quite… trippy, for lack of a better word. If you enjoy that time period in the band’s history then rest assured that the game’s visuals are just as psychedelic.

All things considered I think I’d give it an 8/10 score.