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Assassin's Creed II Hands-On

After two years in the development oven, Assassin's Creed II is finally ready to be served next month. To celebrate the game's completion, the development team from Ubisoft Montreal flew out to meet with us in Florence, which is the first city featured in the game. It was a no-holds-barred gameplay session--they let us tear through the first few hours of the game while remaining on hand to answer questions. The game is looking very impressive, with the new locations and the historically accurate setting, and the hours flew by as we played. But, before we begin our preview, here's a substantial SPOILER ALERT: This preview contains some major plot reveals from the beginning of the game.

As has already been revealed, ACII starts out almost immediately after the first game. You take control of Desmond moments after Assassin's Creed ends, and he's lying in his room when Lucy enters in a panic, covered in blood. She has just minutes to get Desmond onto the Animus, the machine that can visualise his genetic memories. This time, though, instead of heading back to the Third Crusade, he wakes up in Renaissance-era Italy. He is literally born as the new character Ezio Auditore, at which point you have to use the face buttons to kick your feet and shake your hands. Just as your father enters the room to meet his new son, Lucy is interrupted and you both have to escape from the lab.

Much has been made about the new setting of ACII, and as anyone who played the first game would expect, the environments look stunning. More than 30,000 images were taken of the real buildings in Italy, many of which have made it as textures in the finished game. The buildings are also much bigger than before, such as the Duomo in Florence, and many of the characters actually existed in the time the game is set. No attempt has been made to hide the seedier side of 15th-century life, either. Characters swear at each other and use extremely crass terminology, and you can hire prostitutes to distract enemies if you so desire.

Assassin's Creed II is set for release on November 20 on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in the UK, November 17 in the states, and 2010 on the PC. We'll have a full review for you in the coming weeks.



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