First glimpses of Assassin’s Creed 2 captivated me, and while I generally don’t play games the first day of release, this was an exception; I was determined to play Assassin's Creed 2 as soon as I could. Come hell or high water, I would play it sooner rather than later. Thankfully for me, the omnipotent ‘Rental People' sent me a copy on the release date. I was one of the people that loved the first game, repetitive or not. To be a part of it, to experience life almost 1000 years ago made every downfall the game had seem trivial. I just had a great time. Assassin's Creed 2 only improves on what AC1 had, effectively eliminating those few marks that marred its sheen. The combat system is more varied and fluid this time, there's more information, more things to do, and perhaps most importantly, there are more than just 3 things to do in every location.
The totally arbitrary reasoning behind your lack of weapons in AC1 really broke the realism for me. If I remember right, Altair was a bad, bad assassin and had them taken away from him. Ubisoft gave Ezio (the assassin in AC2) the gift of memory, and instead of suddenly remembering how to do some killing move like Altair, they implemented a more likely means of gaining talents. Following Ezio from the moment he starts his life as an assassin, you acquire new weapons and skills because Ezio has just learned how to do it, not because he has just awoken from a coma and suddenly, randomly remembered, as Altair did.
The story in Assassin's Creed had a solid backbone, as I've come to expect from Ubisoft Montreal, but Assassin's Creed 2's story was on a level that I wasn't even sure existed in the gaming medium. The amount of research that went into tiny bits of story that most people won't even see is just staggering. The difference, in terms of history, between Assassin's Creed 1 and 2 is that there's a lot more actual historical information regarding the Italian Renaissance than the Third Crusade, meaning more potential for poor fact checking. Ubisoft, wanting to dash people’s hopes of saying ‘You’re wrong,’ has invested almost too many resources in fact checking. As far as my history background goes, I saw no conflicting elements in the Italian setting (granted, I would be sleeping with ‘the fishes’ if I had). They took some liberties in the historical 'grey areas,' however the irrefutable facts are present and accounted for. In short, the story is amazing, historically accurate and enthralling.
Graphically, you won’t be let down. Assassin's Creed looked amazing the first time around, and things haven’t changed a bit. Though lacking improvements on the first game, at least there was little to improve on in that realm. I haven't had the chance to play the Xbox 360 version but if you're thinking of purchasing Assassin's Creed 2, and you definitely should, at least check on screenshots of both versions and make a decision based on that if you care about graphics.
Initially I was going to slam replay value, telling you that there's nothing much there, there's only one path to follow through the game. I was GOING to say that, but having finished the game I can honestly say that there's no other game I've posted back to the rental people and immediately wished that I hadn't done so. I want to play through the story again. It might be exactly the same experience, but that's just what it is, an experience. I had more fun with Assassin's Creed 2 than I have with any other game this year. And this is the year I finally got to play Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. Buy it. Buy it now. Definite Game of the Year material.
Short Term: Short play is very easy and very accessible. The game auto-saves after practically everything you do, so there's no worry of having to play a certain amount to get to the next save point. If all you want to do is climb buildings. Do it. Want to look for feathers? Go ahead. Assassin's Creed 2 does everything it can to make it possible to pick it up for anywhere between 5 minutes and 5 days. The length of playtime is your prerogative. - 95
Long Term: I had planned on giving Assassin's Creed 2 a worse mark for long play value, but there has never been a game that I've wanted to pick up and start again as soon as the credits finish rolling. The story is amazing, and even though a second or third play though would be the same, it doesn't stop me wanting to do it again. Couple in the fact that there are literally the same amount of missions that are totally optional AND the glyph and feathers collecting side quests and you've got yourself a very well put together long term gaming endeavour. - 95
Overall: Assassin's Creed 2, in my eyes at least, is definite Game of the Year material. I haven't found a game so far this year that matches it in terms of gameplay and story. Granted, I haven't played ALL of this year’s games, but the bar is set pretty high now. -