Here it is, a review I've been wanting to do for a while. Possibly the review for myself of the year...well, can't say "year" as DC has only been up since September. Nonetheless, I've been eager to review the ever-living shit out of this game.
I had a lot of fun with this game. More so than it's predecessor. Scavenging the city for targets is much more colorful with Italy, as opposed to the Middle East and sand. And grey. And brown. There's a lot more to do in Italy's provinces, which you get to hit up Florence, Monteriggioni, Venice, and Tuscan. Monteriggioni - which is a hell of a recreation in the game - is your central hub, where you can upgrade the shops, or open new ones, to increase the value of the city. With this value increasing, you earn 10% of the Villa's value every 20 minutes. Dedicate your time and cash to the Villa and you'll be rolling in the money, which will allow you to earn new weapons, armor and the such. A great addition to the series.
I've never been to Italy, yet I would love to go. But free-running throughout Venice is a treat, as hoping across the poles sticking out from the water to get across the creak, only to continue up the side of a building and further pursue whatever is you've decided to go after. Free-running, the staple of the series, is where I still have issues. There are multiple speeds to run at, varying depending on which combination of the A and RT buttons you have held. It goes in this order: Nothing > A > RT > A + RT. With both held, your running becomes unstable, as holding A acts as a permanent "jump over everything" command. The joystick doesn't help here, as you may make Ezio do something completely different than what you may want him to. Take, for example, hopping across wooden beams protruding from a building. Holding RT allows you to free-run. Holding A allows you to continue jumping. However, with that "always jump" command given, if you don't have the joystick held in the one degree that matters, he'll go off in a different direction, losing your track on a courier that isn't on your map. That really pissed me off.
The combat is a great improvement, over the simplistic, master-in-3-minutes combat from the first game. However, I still found myself parrying all the time, which pretty much reaffirms that the combat is simple. Press LT to lock on. Hold RT to block. As they strike, hit X to counter. Weaker enemies die almost instantly. Stronger ones require this about 3-4 times. Alternatively, you can dodge to the side as they strike, pressing A instead, while influencing which direction you go with the joystick, and striking them on the side, which makes all the most importance late in the game.
Upgrading was awesome. I don't want to spoil anything, but you'll be able to get a badass set of armor in the game by visiting all of the crypts throughout the game. There are 4 levels of armor - Leather, something, Metal and something else - which does give you more health. The health is given by earning more powerful armor or finding codex pages. Return these to Leonardo da Vinci, who will decipher them. Every 4 gives you a new square. Just like Zelda.
Better Free-Running It has gotten a lot better in Italy to run wherever you want to go, as opposed to the Middle East.
Upgrades Being able to buy armor, and upgrade that armor, is a godsend. Armor breaking, causing you to "lose health" is a
nice well-welcomed mechanic. More weapons, and the ability to upgrade your pouches to carry more of your
Less Shit to Collect The Templar flags were absolutely fucking retarded. Even the devs said that those who got them all are crazy. This time around, it's feathers. There's 100 of them, and no map. Great. At least the treasure boxes get maps. Yes, there are the 8 statuettes in Monteriggioni, but those are easy to find. All in all, much better around.
Story The alternate history that Ubisoft provides is a very interesting one at that. I don't want to spoil it, but all I'm going to say on the matter is it is very intriguing, and there may be more going on in this story arc than just the games released so far.
Free-Run Controls It did get annoying sometimes, where Ezio wouldn't run in the right direction, or would start hopping in the wrong direction. It happen few and far, but when it did, it happened at the wrong times.
Seriously, this game makes me want Assassin's Creed III tomorrow.
Assassin's Creed II was played on the Xbox 360 in it's entirety, with 900/1000 GamerScore achieved.