Tuesday, January 5, 2010

AirstrikeRhino's Complaint Department: Assassin's Creed 2

Assassin's Creed 2 has been around for a few months now... if you played it, you undoubtedly liked it. Everybody liked it right? And why shouldn't you? It's an improvement over the original (so they say) and it's among the last of the big blockbusters for the year. It let you use all kinds of different weapons to slay your enemies... you got to climb around on building, use smoke bombs, use throwing knives... I mean you're an assassin, what's not to love, right?

Well, no game is perfect, and I'll list some of my complaints here. I'll be honest, I found more flaws with the game than the other members of the Axis. I'm toning down my hate in hopes of striking some kind of reasonable debate... or some noble shit like that.

1. Maaaney, Maaaney!

The inhabitants of the city speak a weird form of Italianglish (the Italian version of Spanglish). I'm sure on some level it borders on offensive... but to me it was just annoying. The biggest criminal here was the voice of a citizen screaming "maaaney, maaaney" every time Ezio threw money onto the ground to distract guards and those God-awful lute players.

2. Those God-awful lute players

Yeah, fuck those guys

3. Parkour Learners Permit

Moving Ezio around the world seems like it should be an exciting experience. He's able to climb any building, jump between rooftops, and balance on even the narrowest of beams and posts. This sounds like a formula for greatness... however, for me, it was a formula for utter frustration. I think the last time I even had the urge to throw a controller was at or around the age of 9. I'm 27... and the free running in Assassin's Creed 2 almost brought me back to those 8-bit days of rage (almost... I'm an adult for crying out loud and controllers aren't cheap nor is anything I'd likely hit with it). When moving slowly Ezio was, for the most part, manageable. However, there were many story quests and side missions which required you to move quickly to chase a target or run from pursuit. It was in these moments I would often find Ezio being launch in random directions to fall to his death. I'm still not sure if this was because the controls were too precise or too loose. It seemed like at crucial moments... say, when approaching the edge of a rooftop, the camera would shift ever so slightly. When precision was needed to make a jump at high speed, this would make adjusting difficult. It just seemed to me like the camera rarely stayed directly behind Ezio when free running... which would have allowed for you to simply press forward to hold your bearing when coming to ledges.

Also I understand the desire to show off their physics... Ezio, though super human in his strength, moves much like you would expect a person to move while climbing along walls and dropping from one hanging spot to the next. My problem with this is that I would expect a person trying to perform these super human feats to move very slowly... which Ezio does. He feels more like a lumbering giant... the controls feel very sluggish as you try to climb walls and jump between ledges. Like I said, I understand the desire to show off some realism... but we're talking about a game in which you're reliving the memories of your ancestors via a machine that decodes your DNA (which apparently stores all of your ancestors' memories), you can openly walk around a city wearing a giant assassin's emblem on your belt without drawing much attention even after killing noted city officials, the templars are still an active organization bent on world domination, and wanted signs are placed in locations that nobody but the wanted party will ever see. So, I think we can take a few liberties with the climbing physics for the sake of game pace and frustration reduction.

4. Keep Your Fancy Menus To Yourself

This may be getting nit picky... as I'm sure most of this post is given how well this game reviewed... but one of my biggest pet peeves in a game is slow menus and pause screens. Assassin's Creed 2 tries to add the Animus flare to the menus, but all it does is slow everything down with stylish animations as you click through each page. I don't know much about how these menus are designed, or the programming that goes into the transition from game play to menu browsing. What I do know, is that a lot of games manage to make it seamless so I know it's possible. This is a game in which you bring up the map fairly often to check for mission locations, set way points, and search for treasures. So, a faster transition from game to map/menu would have been greatly appreciated and something I think would have been worth the extra attention.

5. I Didn't Say You Could Keep The Fun

When it really came down to it, I just didn't find myself having much fun while playing the game. The issues with the controls during free running were by far my biggest complaint. At times it left me dreading the next mission for fear of having another chase sequence. I tried to stay away from race mission altogether (though I do appreciate the option of skipping most of those). Walking around the world in general was boring, and having to run back to fast travel stations in order to move between cities, though better than riding that fucking horse everywhere, still seemed unnecessary. I think much of the pacing of the game just seemed too slow for the type of game it's trying to be. Even the parts that were "fast" managed to mess up the pacing with sluggish controls. This made parts that should have been fun, frustrating instead.

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