Assassin's Creed II GamesCom 2009 PreviewBy Andrew Pfister - Posted Aug 21, 2009
"This is the game I wanted the first time."
That's pretty much all I could think about during my Assassin's Creed II demo today at GamesCom. Creative drector Patrice Desilets gave us a 30-minute run-through of some brand new content that wasn't at E3. Unlike that demo, what we saw today wasn't a pre-packaged sampler platter of the game's features, it was the real deal in action.
We started with Ezio surveying the city of Firenze (Florence) at dusk. With a quick jump down into a cushioning haystack, we were walking among the citizens. Desilets took this opportunity to show off the new pick pocketing system. Instead of creepily (and obviously) stalking behind the target as you did in the first game, all you have to do now is hold down the Pickpocket button and bump into your victim. Your wallet will be credited with the score, no fuss & no muss -- unless you try it against someone who is paying more attention, then you'll get the guards called. You can also now blend in with any group of pedestrians, not just monks, and you have to actively stay close to your group as they move to avoid suspicion.
The money that you successfully stole can be used to heal yourself at a merchant cart, as well as purchase apothecary items like medicine and poison. Poison can be applied to your blades and used as means of quiet, undetectable assassination, as we saw with one particularly awesome side mission. Ezio received message via carrier pigeon that he was to kill a wealthy local, but he must do so without being seen. (Many of ACII's side missions will feature such requirements.) Only problem is that the target is accompanied by a bodyguard. So Desilets waited until the duo stopped near a crowd of people, before walking behind the guard and giving him a quick poke of Ezio's poisoned blade. The stricken guard went berzerk, waved his spear around and caught the merchant in the gut, doing the dirty work for him. And just for fun, he threw some spare change from his wallet towards some bystanders, some of which who bent down to pick it up only to receive the guard's spinning blade in their faces.
That was just the first part of the demo, highlighting improvements to the mission structure (there isn't one anymore, at least not in terms of Assassin's Creed's "investigate, assassinate" repetition), interface improvements (you can now use Ezio's eagle vision without having to go into first-person view, yay!), and combat (you can step around more freely, take guards as human shields, and be attacked by multiple enemies at once).
The second part of the demo was the new concept saved for this GamesCom reveal. Further spicing up the overall entree are new secret locations scattered about the game's Italian landscape. What we saw in Firenze were underground catacombs that were built like Prince of Persia-style obstacle courses for Ezio to leap and bound through. In fact, Desilets used the phrase "like Prince of Persia" to describe it. He wouldn't say just how many of these locations existed in the game, but he did say somewhere around "4-5 hours" worth of content. You don't have to do them, but you can collect seals at the end of each location to get an unspecified reward.
He then ended our demo by making Ezio leap into a nearby canal, and he managed to survive and swim with no problems. Like I said up top, this is looking like the game I wanted the first time.