Ubisoft's slow roll out of Assassin's Creed II information continued at Gamescom, with the game's creative director Patrice Desilets highlighting additional ways the sequel has improved. One major addition is a series of "secret missions" that feel Prince of Persia-esque.
Assassin's Creed II's killer, Ezio, accessed that mission by showing off one of his new tricks. Between him and the entrance to that mission, set in the catacombs of the Santa Maria Novella church, were four guards. They were too heavily armoured for Ezio to kill, even with his new dual-wrist blade double kill technique. So Ezio hired a quartet of mercenaries with some of the money he'd pick-pocketed and had them distract the guards.
As that four-on-four fray played out, Ezio simply sneaked by, turned a skull shaped lock and slipped into the opening that appeared beneath him. There were no crowds in the depths of the Santa Maria Novella, just bats.
Actually, after a bit of platforming and exploring—that's where the Prince of Persia and Tomb Raider feel came in—a handful of templars made an appearance. They didn't spot Ezio, who was skulking about high above them. Desilets waited for the group to split up before attack two of the templars at once, both with wrist blades direct to the neck. A third spotted him, who Desilets incapacitated with what appeared to be a smoke bomb, and Ezio made chase after the fourth.
This sequence highlighted some of the improvements to the game's free-running platforming, which now includes a 90 degree swing turn, helping Ezio speed through corners. The remaining templar sprinted through the catacombs, slowing Ezio down by closing a series of gates, forcing Desilets to find alternate paths. The entire sequence played out smoothly, better fulfilling the promise of graceful free-running with high intensity platforming.
Desilets said that we should expect about four to five hours worth of gameplay in these secret locations. Only the one demonstrated is mandatory—it wrapped up with a cut scene that ties into the game's plot. It's also the simplest, he says, with others featuring more in the way of "big puzzles" along with bigger challenges.
In addition to those secret missions—a gameplay addition that makes a lot of sense for downloadable content in the future—we got a look at some of Ezio's deadly new tricks.
One is rather blunt, as Ezio can pack a single-shot pistol in his sleeve. We watched Desilets take out a sentry on a rooftop with the gun. The weapon is lethal and quick, but comes with a catch, as lining up your shot isn't as simple as point and shoot. When Ezio aimed the pistol, there was a bit of a delay, as the firing reticule—initially a wide cone—slowly shrank until it was aimed directly at Ezio's prey. Good for kills, but probably not something you'll want to use in a pinch.
Ezio's other new assassination tool is a vial of poison, which he can purchase from an apothecary. Desilets used it during a mission that showed off Assassin's Creed II's new "Eagle Vision" which can now be used during play and in third-person. Ezio's target was a man protected by a bodyguard and the mission requirements specified that no one could be alerted to the kill. The solution was to poison the tip of Ezio's wrist blade, prick the bodyguard and back off.
When the poison began to take effect, the bodyguard doubled over and appeared to start hallucinating, swinging the pike he was wielding wildly. He then took a fatal, accidental swing at the man he was supposed to protect, keeping the heat off of Ezio. For good measure, Desilets threw some of his coins on the ground, distracting the crowd from the violence with pocket change.
All the Assassin's Creed II onscreen action we saw looked impressive, both visually and from a creative gameplay perspective. In addition to the new gameplay elements we'd already seen in our previous coverage of the game, we're becoming increasingly excited about Ezio's adventure.