Previews

GC: Assassin's Creed II

Impressions: Florence demoed at Gamescom

Assassin's Creed II looks absolutely gorgeous. The demo being shown to press at Gamescom this week sports superb draw distance, detailed crowds in the streets and it's all running silky smooth on Xbox 360.

This particular demo takes place in the Florence area of town, kicking off with protagonist Ezio performing a familiar 100ft leap from the top of a building into a hay car below.

This time around the crowds in the sci-fi, memory-fuelled streets can be an asset to the player and not just an obstacle, says Ubisoft. The rep with the pad demonstrates this with a swift yank on a passing guard's neck, who stumbles into the hay car with Ezio.

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In Assassin's II you can now search for and steal money from guards and civilians, Ubi reveals, which can be used to purchase items in the game's economic system. After you've gunned/stabbed/crushed a guard you can search his body for goodies. Ubisoft emphasises there's a lot more to find in the world this time and plenty of items hidden around the city.

There are also plenty of side missions hidden in the streets; later on in the demo we spot a gold skull marking a secret lair, a Prince of Persia-style linear-temple with plenty of platforming to be enjoyed.

As Ezio clambers up to rooftops we're reminded again just how fantastic Ubisoft Montreal's animation team are; the protagonist skips over poles, hangs on pot plants and swings around corners in an impressively smooth display. As day turns to night the city is illuminated with a warm orange glow. It looks absolutely gorgeous.

One way of finding missions is through the discovery of rooftop pigeon coups, where Ezio finds the name of his next unfortunate victim. Using Eagle Vision - which can now be used in third-person while you're still moving - Mr. Ubisoft quickly tracks down our mark, who's accompanied by an intimidating burly bodyguard.

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The sequel seems to give you the opportunity to be far more clever with your takedowns - and you can even sidestep combat altogether. Ezio can pay street mercenaries to take on guards for him, or in this case force-feed the aforementioned bodyguard a nice dose of poison, before dashing in to deliver the target the good news - with a dagger.

The follow-up is looking impressive. Let's hope Ubisoft can fully deliver this time.

Read our interview with Assassin's Creed 2 creative director Patrice Désilets for more.

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