You wouldn't necessarily think that Leonardo da Vinci, parkour, Templar knights, genetic memory, nonsensical cryptology, and a man named Desmond would be the ingredients for anything other than a crap novel by Dan Brown, but you'd be wrong. Ass Creed II picks up where the original left off in the present day with Desmond on the run from evil Templars who want to kill him because he's the descendant of a bunch of Assassins with a capital 'A' so he joins forces with a handful of separatists who reckon that if they can get Desmond to relive his ancestral memories he'll be able to be an Assassin in real life and stealthily kill all of the bad guys following them.
Comprendez-vous? No? I don't blame you. Just know this: ACII is a wonderful slice of period sandbox entertainment that gives you an excuse for running around beautifully rendered mock-ups of all of the best spots in Renaissance Italy, leaping from cathedral spires, stealing loads of cash, silently thinning out Italy's population of guards and overthrowing a Doge or two.
Gamestation are currently offering the 'special edition' of the game, which comes with an extra bit of map content called the Arsenal Shipyard, for just £19.99. Considering that you can't pick up the normal version of the game on the PS3 for anything less than £23.98 (Gameplay), then this is your best bet by about £4 if you want to step into the shoes of Desmond and his great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great uncle/cousin/grandfather Ezio Auditore.
- Click here to befriend Leonardo da Vinci and go romping around Renaissance Italy with Ezio and friends for under £20.
As I've said before, you can pretty much ignore Desmond's story. It's confusing, alienating and is really only there to let you jump from the Crusades in one game to being undercover at a Venetian masquerade ball at the next without causing too much trouble. Ezio's story is rather more interesting as he finds himself caught up in a tale of revenge where all is not entirely what it seems, and ends up meddling in national politics as the plot thickens.
Ubisoft have done much by way of apology with this game: there's more to do, with assassination contracts extraneous to the main story, couriers to be robbed, collectibles galore, adulterous husbands to be beaten up and, best of all, a series of massive free-running playgrounds in the form of Assassins' tombs that you must navigate and pick clean in order to unlock a seriously sweet reward.
It's still not perfect - the combat is still pretty dire even though they've massively expanded your tool set - but Assassin's Creed II is a vast improvement on its predecessor, and a game that's well worth this asking price.
Thanks to chimpyzak at HUKD