Tag Archives: Ubisoft

Doing the assassin thing during the Italian Renaissance

Assassin's Creed 2 early impressions

Yesterday, everyone was all atwitter over Assassin’s Creed: Unity–though not really over Assassin’s Creed: Rogue–mostly due to Ubisoft’s strange limitations on its review embargoes, as well as the resounding conclusion that the newest stabby-stab title for new consoles in the age-ol’ franchise from a multicultural team of various faiths and beliefs is nothing more than mediocre. Naturally, I got the itch to run around rooftops and pierce jerks with hidden blades, so I finally loaded up Assassin’s Creed II for the first time, which Xbox gave out for free many moons ago. Please remember that I played the original Assassin’s Creed and then followed it up with Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, so I’m jumping to the middle chapter mega-late, but that’s all right.

What is Assassin’s Creed II all about? Well, the outside-the-Animus narrative is set in the 21st century and follows Desmond Miles after he escapes Abstergo Industries and relives the genetic memories of his ancestor Ezio Auditore da Firenze. The main narrative takes place at the height of the Italian Renaissance during the 15th and early 16th century. Ezio, a young, charming fellow very much in love with the ladies, is on a vengeance quest against those responsible for betraying his family. That’s all I know so far, having completed everything in sequence 1 and now just running around the map in search of treasure boxes and feathers (when I hear them twinkling).

The game came out in 2009, and it still looks really good, just not in cutscenes. Moving around the world still feels mightily impressive, with a good number of people roaming the streets below, though it is more fun to leap around on the rooftops. However, cutscenes show a lot of dead-eye stares and flat expressions, but it’s not a deal-breaker. I remember Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood fixing a lot of gameplay problems I had with the original title, and I suspect those changes actually started here. Looks like the side missions mostly consist of beating up faithless husbands/boyfriends, racing thieves across rooftops, and killing targets for money, and then there’s the collectibles: hundreds of treasure chests, eagle feathers, semi-mystical glyphs, and statuettes hidden throughout the world. The fact that some of these collectibles appear on the mini-map (after you buy a treasure map) is truly all I needed.

There’s still some open-world jank and lousy platforming to wrangle with, but that’s kind of the same ol’ baggage every Assassin’s Creed carries with it, and the good generally outweighs the bad. However, I do not like trying to climb a building only to accidentally cause Ezio to leap from a window off to the street below and his synchronization death. It’s happened a few times. The combat is not as refined or fluid as Brotherhood‘s was, but still enjoyable to counter a soldier’s sword swipe and knee them in the gut. I’m still early into the adventure, so I don’t have any other fun combat tools at my disposal, but hopefully Leonardo da Vinci can help freshen up the fights.

People are all up in arms over Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare‘s “Press X to pay respects” prompt, but maybe many have forgotten how, early on here, you press buttons to make baby Ezio move his limbs. I’ve also run into a few strange QTE-like moments in Assassin’s Creed II that leave me feeling very uninspired. Every now and then, during a cutscene, there’s a button prompt to do something, like show off your newly acquired hidden blade, but these button prompts are on the screen for less than a second. Generally, I put the controller down during a cutscene, not expecting to be asked to remain involved, and so I’ve missed every single one of these moments. Even when I suspected one might be incoming, I still missed it, being too slow and distracted by my kitty cat. I don’t know, they are strange additions.

I wonder if Assassin’s Creed II will sustain my open-world, rooftop-running itch for a while or if I’ll need to acquire another title down the line. If so, I think everyone likes Black Flag the most currently. Until then, may no one see you stab someone in the neck.

Hungry Shark Evolution wants you to experience life as a shark

hungry shark evolution

I know I’ve covered this before, but if your videogame has a ridiculously weird name, there’s an even greater chance that I’ll check it out. Which leads us to Hungry Shark Evolution, from Future Games of London and, strangely, Ubisoft, the powerhouse behind time-standing franchises like Assassin’s Creed, Prince of Persia, and Rayman. It’s okay to be curious; I know I was the minute I saw the name scroll by on my Windows 8 phone. However, after playing about fifteen to twenty minutes and not really getting anywhere great in this digital shark life of mine, I think this is one strange title that probably shouldn’t have surfaced. Hey, look at that…a totally unplanned Microsoft-themed pun!

The short of it is that, in Hungry Shark Evolution, which I’m playing on my Windows 8 phone, you are a shark that is very hungry. No, really. Like starving. Your hunger meter–which is basically your health bar–depletes extremely fast, and so the shark is never satisfied despite eating an entire school of fish in one gulp. Your goal is to survive as long as you can, which means constantly swimming around, looking for your next meal. This can be easy targets, like tiny fish that don’t fight back, or other sharks…or even unaware swimmers if you head towards the beachy area. Along the way, you can complete side objectives specific to each shark type, and these generally boil down to things like “eat four turtles” and “survive for at least six minutes.” Nothing terribly difficult, seeing as I have already unlocked one of the six total Achievements for the game:


Reef Shark (20G): Complete Super Mission 1 using Reef shark.

To complete the Super Mission, you have to first finish all the side missions and do whatever is asked of you next. For this, it was hitting a high score of 25,000 points. Not too hard. The other five Achievements are tied to the other five sharks–Mako, Hammerhead, Tiger, Great White, and Megaladon–which you unlock by first leveling up the prior shark to its fullest. I’ve got the Mako shark next on my evolve list.

The challenge in Hungry Shark Evolution comes from enemies, like sting rays, other sharks, scuba divers, etc, which attack you and significantly lower your food meter. I’ve found some enemy aquatic life harder to kill than others, specifically the sting rays, and if you miss on your first chomp, chances are the shark is taking a hit of health. If you go too long without eating something, that’s it. Your score and gold coins are added up, you watch your shark’s XP grow, and you get returned to the start mission menu, where you can enhance your shark’s swim, bite, and boost abilities, as well as purchase one-use items, accessories, and treasure maps. Some parts of the underwater map are also gated depending on what shark you are using; for example, the reef shark can only swim down so deep.

Much like in Throne Together, I’m finding my finger to be a hindrance to performing a great run. To move the shark, you simply press on the screen and move your finger in the direction you want it to swim. I find it easier to keep my finger in the middle of the screen, because if I move it too far over to the right then I risk the danger of hitting one of the buttons to return me to my phone’s home screen. Keeping it on the left means my wrist is now covering the screen. Again, my finger ends up obstructing a good portion of my view of the shark. Also, while moving with one finger, you can tap the screen with another finger to perform a boost of speed, which is easier said than done, considering I’m using my other hand to cradle the phone in place.

It’s a strange game, for sure. It looks nice, with cartoony, World of Warcraft-like graphics that help flesh out a colorful underwater realm. And it is teeming with puns, like when you eat a scuba diver, the words AQUALUNCH pop up, or VITAMIN SEA after gobbling up a bunch of fish. I think I even saw SUN SCREAM when you leap from the water onto the beach to steal away some clueless sun-tanner. As a cartoonist that lives and dies on pun-related humor, I can’t help but squeal and smile at all this. Goofy name and goofy humor currently outweigh all the free-to-play elements here, which, so far, are easy enough to ignore.

Life as a reef shark was fairly perfunctory, so I’m looking forward to what I can do as a Mako shark. At some point, I also need to Google whether Megaladon is a real shark or one from dinosaur times; it looks ridiculous.

Games Completed in 2011, #5 – Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: Xbox 360 [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PC
Genres: Stealth, action, historical timefunk, silent stabby stabfest
Modes: Single-player, online multiplayer
Hours clocked: Around 15 to 20 hours

Well, I honestly didn’t expect to complete Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood as quickly as I did, but basically once you’ve reached DNA Sequence 7, the game pushes forward at a tremendous pace, allowing no pauses or breaks or wild meandering across Roma. Sucks to be Ezio, I guess. Sucks even harder to be Cesare Borgia.

Anyways, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is a direct sequel to Assassin’s Creed II, a game I did not play, and I think I suffered a little bit from missing out on Ezio’s original adventure. Not a ton, mind you, but enough to get me wondering what some of his remarks meant and why he trusted person X or distrusted person Y so vehemently. A string of events take Ezio to Roma (or Rome, as I call it), and it is here that he will begin to build his own guild of assassins to take down the continuing Borgia threat and steal back the Apple of Eden from Cesare Borgia. On the flipside, Desmond and the other Scooby-Doo people are trying to get a password out of Ezio’s memories to find out where he safely hid the Apple. It’s a decent story with some possibly interesting characters, but a lot of folk are dropped and forgotten about after their sole mission. A shame, really, especially when concerning Ezio’s sister.

There’s a lot to do in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. I’ve discussed this before. In fact, there’s so much that I did not get to finish it all before being forcibly pushed forward to complete the game. Thankfully, after the credits roll, you’ll be able to return to virtual Roma to continue burning Borgia towers, collect flags, and open up shops. This is good; this is very good. Now I can play and run around the world without quests getting in the way. That might seem like a weird thing to say, but the worlds Ubisoft constructs for its Assassin’s Creed games are just so wonderfully dense and detailed that it is fun just living in them. Don’t need to do anything special. Heck, that’s why some of my favorite missions were when Ezio had to follow a person around the city without being detected; sitting on benches never felt so great.

Having never played Assassin’s Creed II, I can only compare this new outing to the original. The controls are much smoother, but having Ezio jump in a specific direction is touch-and-go; sometimes he does a cool leap, and sometimes he just leaps to his death. The fighting…has actually been made easier, which is a letdown. Once a killing animation begins, Ezio can basically chain together five to ten more instant kills with the touch of one button. Sure, it looks freakin’ fantastic and shows off the uniqueness of every weapon, but it makes fights a little on the bland side. I failed more missions from being detected than from dying in a fight, especially since you can loot medicine from fallen soldiers’ bodies.

Upgrading Roma is an addicting thing. The minute I see a closed shop, I need to buy it so I can increase my income. If it’s under the shadow of a Borgia tower, down goes the tower. Some shops even have quests, which require you to find a specific number of items from hidden treasures and rewards from assassin contracts. And speaking of contracts, man…having your own brotherhood of assassins is great and crappy. The great comes in from summoning out of nowhere to do your bidding; the crappy refers to the, uh, text-based minigame of sending them off to do contracts to gain XP and level up. It’s a neat idea, but it’s presented uninterestingly in menu form only, and I can guarantee that people stop actually reading contract text before long.

So I have a few flags, shrines, and Borgia towers to unearth yet, as well as Subject 16’s puzzles. After that, I probably won’t head back into Roma, but I definitely will give the Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood multiplayer much more devotion. Currently, I’m a level 7 and loving it. Have only played the Wanted mode, which is a cat-and-mouse game of hunt and be hunted, but it’s a blast. Unlike anything else I’ve ever played online. Considering I love just walking around and blending in with crowds, it’s perfect for me. That said, I’m not great at it. Haven’t figured out how to do a stun yet, but I was able to assassinate a target from hidden in a hay pile. Will write about that and more multiplayer musings in another post.

All in all, I was surprised by the quality in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, as well as the amount of things to do. It may be a sequel to a sequel, and even just a torso for the multiplayer legs, but it’s still a wholly entertaining experience. Considering I got it for sale at $39.99, I’m pretty satisfied. So, Assassin’s Creed III…where’s Ezio off to next?