Eyes-on at E3 / Assassin’s Creed II

So, I’ll tell you the full story because I think it’s pretty good and it gives you a glimpse into the oft-mentioned “E3 experience.” On Day 2 of E3, myself and photographer Charlie Suh went over to Ubisoft’s booth for our appointment. When we met with our rep, Andrew, he asked us what we wanted to see, as long as it wasn’t Assassin’s Creed II related, we could see it.

“You’re sure we can’t see Assassin’s Creed II?,” Charlie asked. At that point I’m thinking, great, we just met this guy and Charlie is already pushing our luck. I mean he said he couldn’t show us AC2 so I’m not going to pester him about it. But, wait, what’s this? He told us to stay where we were and he’d be right back. Charlie and I glanced at each other quizzically, and a moment later Andrew had returned with two plastic Ubisoft passes in his hand. We followed him, winding through the different displays and people, until we arrived at some sort of special Assassin’s Creed II booth that was roped off and had two PR reps standing by the entrance like bouncers. Andrew handed them our two passes and pointed at both Charlie and myself, and we were both waved to go in. With one more quizzical look at each other we walked in and immediately saw something that made both of our jaws drop.

Standing five feet to our left was Jade Raymond giving a demo of AC2 to Hideo Kojima. At that point I was thinking that I had no right to be where I was. I mean, I’m from North Carolina, I make retarded little videos about videogames that showcase how strange I am, and yet here I am being escorted behind the scenes about to get an exclusive look at Assassin’s Creed II by the lead level designer. I was having an overload of biblical proportions. If you think I was exaggerating about the whole bouncer thing and roped off entrance, our own Dennis Lesica, whom I had texted just before entering the AC2 sanctuary telling him where we were, told me later that it was like getting into Fort Knox to try and meet up with us inside and watch this demonstration.

The demo started out with Ezio sitting on a bench next to two shady looking characters. To the right there is some sort of outdoor masquerade ball going on. A guard walks by the bench and starts looking at Ezio. After a few moments he exclaims, “It’s you!” But as soon as the words are out of his mouth the developer who was playing the game in front of us had Ezio stab the guard in the stomach and then sat him down in Ezio’s spot on the bench. What’s even better, the two shady looking guys not only stayed quiet about the murder, but actually helped Ezio set the body up on the bench so that no one could tell a murder had just taken place. We were told that in AC2, you can actually befriend local thieves in the area to help you with instances such as this.

After this kill we were then shown an example of just one of the contraptions made for Ezio by his dear friend, Leonardo Da Vinci. Pictured above, you can see it’s the classic flying contraption that you saw in your history textbooks when learning about Da Vinci. Seeing that in Assassin’s Creed II collided two of my worlds, and gave it a very, very cool feel. The flying device is on top of the roof and Ezio has to make his way across the city to get to his assassination. You can get there the standard way (climbing along rooftops) or you can use this device Da Vinci has left for Ezio. Since it’s obviously not self propelled, you have to find fires and sources of heat to get yourself back up in the air on the way to your destination. This part didn’t seem quite as intuitive and almost looked like it could get aggravating after awhile, but damn does that Italian setting look good at night flying around.

Once Ezio arrived at the location (his contraption is shot down by archers with flaming arrows), he is perched on a rooftop with two guards standing side by side unaware of his presence. As the developer had Ezio climb some kind of statue the men were standing under, he told us that now in Assassin’s Creed II players can kill two enemies at once if they are close enough together. With that, Ezio leaps off the statue and digs his dual wrist-blades into each of the guards. That move got a good reaction from Dennis, Charlie, and myself. We were also told that players will be able to time kills, so that if two guards are patrolling and happen to walk by each other, you can swoop in and take them both out at the same time.

After the stealth kills, our dev wanted to show us the combat system in action and how it has changed since the first game. Unlike Altair, Ezio has no weapons other than the wrist-blades. That means that during combat your first objective is going to be to disarm the opponent and use their weapon. Once this is done, the player can then attempt to do an instant kill but will then lose their weapon. For example, Ezio steals a polearm, he then gets an opportunity to jam it through his opponent vertically. Obviously, he’s not getting that weapon back, but the heavily armed guard is awesomely dead. We were told there will be around 30 weapons each with unique kills like this. I’d like to say how much better I love this combat system, even in theory, over the awful combat system of AC1 where you could win every fight by countering attacks over and over.

The presentation we were given for Assassin’s Creed II lasted about 20 minutes and left each of us buzzing about the game. And when I say “buzzing” I really mean we were telling everyone we met at the show about how awesome it looked and how it’s going to be one of the most fun experiences this year. As someone who was very critical of Assassin’s Creed originally, I feel that this sequel really is going to improve on all the things that made the first one so mundane and repetive. The developer specifically mentioned how they read all the blogs and took into account all the feedback from players after the first game, and really want to make all those things better with this new game. Time will tell for sure, but I’m ready to pick this game up yesterday.