Kotaku AU Games Of 2009: #2

We're nearly there. There are just two games left as we count down my personal picks for the games of 2009. At #2 we find ourselves rolling around in a pile of hay...

2. Assassin's Creed II (360, PS3)

Where Assassin's Creed was so lean in its design you could barely chew off the tiniest morsel, its sequel proved a feast that lasted for weeks. Or, to swap metaphors, Ubisoft Montreal made amends for the stripped back original by taking the kitchen sink approach to Assassin's Creed II.

There was always something to do: my favourites were filling my palatial villa with Renaissance artworks then strolling around to admire them up close, and experimenting with all manner of ways to kill people by carrying out Assassination Contracts. Sometimes you just wanted to get on with the main story. At other times you'd knuckle down, map in hand, to track down every last treasure in the district. Or perhaps you'd get your kicks chasing thieves across the rooftops, deliberately failing in your pursuit so they'd attract more and more guards to your desperate flight.

While some other celebrated releases this year have been compared to a blockbuster movie, here everything plays out like more of a mini or TV series. There are down times, like when a mission asks you to simply walk with someone, but the point is to draw you into the world, to make you feel like Ezio has a life in this place. As I've mentioned previously, taking to the skies in Da Vinci's flying machine wouldn't mean as much if you hadn't been tasked with carting his equipment through the streets all those years earlier.

Yet like any good open world or sandbox game, Assassin's Creed II lets you tackle it at your pace and in your own way. Maybe you'll spend time scouting out the best angles of approach; maybe you'll just charge in blind and trust your ability to improvise. It's never the hardest game, but this lack of punishment allows you to mix things up without fear: you'll try fighting unarmed this time, or bring some mercenaries with me, or perhaps pick them off from distance with your throwing knives. Of course, poisoning random guards in the street is always entertaining.

And then there's the ending, an epic finale of "I can't believe I just did that!" proportions.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the secret tombs. And the hunt for the glyphs, and the excellent puzzles that accompanied them. And the exhilarating races. Oh, and the delightful flashback sequence. And...

OK, I'll stop now.

Kotaku AU's Games of 2009 are my personal picks for the best games of the year. I make no claim to have played everything released this year, nor do I pretend to be any way objective in my rankings. I look forward to debating my choices with you in the comments.


Comments

    Agreed. I'm playing this right now and unlike GTA4 where I rushed to the finish. I'm enjoying taking my time and doing the side missions. Is a truly involving game.

      Can't say I actually read/watched any reviews for AC2, but if I had any idea it was sandbox in nature and you could chillax and do things at your own pleasure, I might've actually bothered with this game. *sigh*

        Not to worry. It is still available for purchase.

    Personally it was my number 2 this year as well but i think if Batman: Arkham Asylum did not come out it would have easily been my no 1.

      gee is arkham asylum really that great? i might check it out one day.

        Yeah mate - it is just that good :P Really even if you have absolutely no interest in Batman it is easily for me GOTY.

        Here was my list by the way:

        1. Batman: Arkham Asylum
        2. Assassin's Creed 2
        3. Dragon Age: Origins
        4. Modern Warfare 2
        5. Dawn of War 2
        6. Unchartered 2
        7. Halo 3: ODST

        Might have noticed that Unchartered 2 was a little down on the list? Well personally i think it is a smashing game and i greatly enjoyed the SP and i liked the MP but really for me it was simply not GOTY. Defiantly a main contender but not GOTY.

        Still i am hoping that in exactly 20 days Mass Effect 2 is already going to be my 2010 GOTY (i know that is a big call with so many big games coming out). I've bought into the hype so much so that i might be calling it RPG of the decade :P

          For me its:

          1. Assassins Creed II
          2. NHL 10
          3. Batman: Arkham Asylum
          4. Forza Motorsport 3
          5. Borderlands
          6. Fallout 3 DLC (Because if ODST counts as a game, then this does too frankly.

          Modern Warfare 2 is nowhere near my list. That was the biggest Abortion of a Single Player Campaign I've played in a long time....and I didnt fancy waiting 10 minutes to try and get into a Party in MP...then get booted and have to wait another 10 mins...

          And I dont have a PS3, so I cant put Uncharted 2 :P

          NHL 10 is up there because despite being an annual sports title, its so goddamned fun to play..its much like Forza with its Sliders, accessible to anyone.

    Good call David, would easily be my number 2 game as well, If not my number 1

    I'm gonna call Arkham Asylum as number one.

    For me, my top five would have to be

    1. Arkham Asylum
    2. Red Faction
    3. Resident Evil 5
    4. The Ballad of Gay Tony
    5. Guitar Hero 5 (first GH game, blown away)

    Yours, commenters?

    The miriad of things to do is refreshing. I'm right with Salmonpie on this one, GTA IV I finished the story with minimal side mission progress, but with AC2 the options are varied and appealing so you can really approach progression at your own pace. I still love the exhiliration of climbing Venice (and the slight vertigo that accompanies it).

    It's still my number 1 of the year.

    #1 for me. I think i forgot to mention it in one of my previous comments and i really have no idea why.
    Its one of my all time favourite games and definitely in the Top 5 of that list.

    And why did u stop, i would have LOVED if you kept going.

    Ac doesn't seem like a game you would play again and again. Maybe twice or so, but for me, forever! RPGs you play again to take a different approach. I just love poisoning people, watching them, then assassinating then and starting some major fight with the guards.

    Tomorrow will be interesting, because either way one of Uncharted 2 or Arkham Asylum is going to miss a place on this list. Unless they're tied of course. But you wouldn't be that soft, would you David? :p

    Definitely one of the top games of '09! I'm playing through it still, just arrived in Venice. I haven't tried any of the side quest assassinations yet either, but after reading this I think I'll head home to try them out.

    I played the original back when it was released but by the third or fourth assassination I had grown tired of the 'filler' quests you were required to complete to advance the story. Assassin's Creed 2 rectified this problem as well as adding a slew of great new features!

    Its looking likely that Batman: Arkham Asylum will be #1, but for Uncharted 2 not to make anyones Top 10 games of last year is quite strange.

    I'm thinking it may be a tie between the two.

    inFamous was a better game in my opinion, although very different. inFamous didnt have the control issues that Assassins Creed II has, really a master Assassin is going to leap off a building instead of grabbing the ledge that is 2 inches away from him?

    Oh and David, I wont be happy if Uncharted 2 isnt on your list and Batman is no 1 considering that Uncharted 2 showed games how to do a real story where as batman the story was mostly told through batman walking and talking into his communicator.

      Stop pressing the jump button all the time!

        That was one thing I didn't like about inFamous, was that you had to repeatedly mash the jump button to climb buildings.

        The climbing is so fluid and smooth in AC2 (most of the time)

          IMO, they screwed the climbing, going from one extreme to another. In AC 1, Altair felt sluggish and clunky at times, but for me Ezio was unrealistic too, since his climbing was usually without fault and he didn't run out of stamina or anything.

        I wasnt!! I swear. Ezio is borderline suicidal in the game I was playing lol

        I agree pressing the button was a bit annoying but i felt a lot more "In-control" of cole than i did Ezio.

        Also it might be a bit petty but AC2 was too easy in the end. You learn to take down massive amounts of guards and that really limited me to a single play through. The only difficulty really comes from the controls.

        inFamous I played through twice and on a harder difficulty. Ended up getting the Platinum trophy as well (something I am aiming for in AC2, which is good since im no trophy whore)

        Its not a bad game but its controls really got to me in the final 2 Tombs. I was just wishing for Prince of Persia style platforming in there.

          Ah, I haven't reached the final tombs but have heard that they call for some advanced moves that aren't explained very well during the course of the game.

          So far though I've found the controls for AC2 to be tight, there are a few occasions where things go awry but the majority of the time it works perfectly and Ezio moves and jumps where I intended him to go.

            It is sill a game and the controls arnt a detriment to that fact, (not to be too much of a pimp) but if you follow my link, yea on my name, yes that on you will find that I personally gave the game a 5/5 rating.

            Having only the feathers to collect for a platinum including having to play to Venice again to get the trophy for kicking the guys off I can confidently say that I have played enough of the game to master the controls.

              Yeah, I wasn't implying that you couldn't work the controls out.

              I've read some posts though saying that the last tombs are frustrating because of the advanced moves that are not mentioned prior and that are really hit-and-miss to perform.

              Ah, the feathers. I really think that any game that has any type of collection items *MUST* have some form of in-game map that shows them.

              Red Faction done it well with the Ore markers and even AC2 does it well with the treasure chests and tomb markers.

              I think that if you complete the main story the you should have some way of displaying the remaining collection items on the mini-map. Its such a pain having to get maps from the net to track them all down.

                Thats one specific thing about inFamous I loved. The blast shards, just click the r3 button and you can see if there are any near you.

                  Ahah, can't believe I forgot about how well it was implemented in inFamous... its not as if we were just talking about it or anything.

              If you plan on getting the DLC, they have flying missions also, so you might not have to play upto that point again...

                Bit late now! Lol.

          You learn to forgive Ezio's random jumping into oblivion moments, cause when the whole freerunning aspect works, it's really fun! But there are definitely moments in which I raged at Ezio.

          Good choice, now I'm wondering. Is it going to be Uncharted 2 or Batman: Arkham Asylum? Both are worthy contenders for GOTY...

          i agree, never had the rage with Cole i did with Ezio, the constant jumping off roofs in the wrong direction, dropping and grabbing even though you didn't press the drop button and you just wanted to jump etc but i have to admit AC2 has more things than infamous to grab on to

    I loved AC2, and it's well worth #2 for me. The feathers were slightly annoying, and weren't worth the payoff in my opinion, but the rest of the game was fantastic. It really was everything AC should have been, and I can't wait for AC3 now. Unlike a lot of other people, I thought the controls/climbing were great - I liked how fluid the climbing was, and it might have been slightly unrealistic, but if we're honest, an assassin climbing an 80m tall building and jumping into a bale of hay is slightly unrealistic anyway.

    #1 could be either Batman or Uncharted. If it were my call, I'd be putting Uncharted 2 in #1, even though I loved Batman.

      Agreed. IRL, if someone tried to jump into the hay, they would most likely kill themselves or at least recieve severe spinal injuries. That and the fact we couldn't pin-point drop into hay every time.

    Best part in the entire game is jumping of some of the highest buildings in Venice into the canals. Amazing that you can dodge all those poles, fences, bridges and verandas, and still do a perfect dive from 100+ meters. All the things zooming by = insane.

    Luke

    Yeah its pretty good. Lots to do but I still feel its a little soulless. The missions are much more varied but they are still a bit generic eg. release 3 people from jail. The cut scenes and story doesn't flow as well as GTA which I feel is still the superior game. GTA knows how to intertwine the story with the action. Assassins Creed 2 is still a great time and a vast improvement over the first one.

      Yep. GTA IV and the Episodes were awesome for me. I'd fooled around with San Andreas on my old PS2, but the story was masterfully woven. Especially with the Episodes tying in everything, that made it awesome.

      And on the other hand you see mangled, overblown stories like MW2. :(

        MW2 had great graphics and bang for buck but the story on first play through I didn't really care to follow. I kind of switched off through a lot of the loading screens. I did like the ending though that stabbing scene was awesome.

    WHOA! Either Batman or UC2 will miss out on a top 10 spot and one will get spot no.1

    That is a massive call David!
    Heads will roll! haha

      That's assuming that they don't both make it. It's D.W's list, and he can mangle it if he wants to.

      If there is a single game in #1, my bet is for Uncharted. Then again, I haven't played Batman yet.

        It'll be Batman, his praise for the game when it came out was huge... if you search for some posts you will see...

        Anyway, on the subject of the game. To this day, I haven't completed the original AC, it just got abit stale and it did have it share of issues.

        AC2 does so much better than the original in all areas, AC was the tech demo, AC2 is the game. Playing through the game it was a very very slow opening... though I got sucked in more in just running and finding all the collectables.

        Slowly I had to push on to open up more areas to find more collectables and thus more and more missions. The story of Ezio is okay but not all that great, the more interesting story is that of the Glyphs and eventually the ending.

        It still has problems though, not sure about others, but the combat was completely useless, found myself in 99% of situations using the same tactic... Block & Counter. That is all, you aren't attacked by more than one person at a time so this will always work. The other 1% was stealing the Brute's weapon and killing him with it. This is the games biggest problem and needs to be addressed.

        Collectable/Mission vs Money Balancing, there is too much money for the amount of things in the game. I was about halfway through and already had everything purchased and it just keeps banking up, over 400,000 forli and have nothing to do with it all.

        Lastly the movement, for the most part is works fine, it's just that it seems that you have to be spot on to where you want to go otherwise you will miss what you are grabbing or grab something that you didn't want. Found this troubling on rooftops, where you started climbing chimeys because you got to close to them, etc...

        These are a few things that were annoying to me, but overall I still enjoyed the game. AC3 will prove difficult to make, keeping the (expected) world balanced. It will be tough.

    I wanted to get AC2 but I just didn’t have enough money for 2 games, I ended up getting Uncharted 2. I’ve got the first one and it was ok. Unfortunately I got it insanely late after all the good reviews and such came out, I think I set my expectations a tad too high. That being said the game was good, a bit more variety could have gone a long way if you ask me. I’m glad the main character was more developed (from what I’ve heard) in this game than the first, I know Altair is a badass but he’s just an interchangeable character skin if you ask me, the game should have given more insight into the man. Seeing as I have no cash and Uni fees are piling up I’ll wait till this goes down in price somewhat (how long can it take before it goes PS3 plat?) and buy it.

    Looking forward to the #1

    My personal #1 game of the year is Dragon age origins, it’s the best RPG I’ve played since Diablo 2, sure it doesn’t really break new ground, but it’s just a whole bunch of fun, and I’m very impressed with the effort being put into the DLC for the game, we have already had 2 DLC packs (assuming you don’t count the free items) with one on the way and a full expansion in just 2 months. Plus I just had a look at the player toolset, it goes beyond just a simple generic create a room type thing, it allows for you to build your own items, characters, cutscenes even add your own voicework. And I heard Bioware will release the user created stuff directly onto my PS3 free of charge.

    ... starts a slow clap for number #1

    what about killzone 2 for GOTY, no chance?

    One of the most over-hyped games I have ever played.

    A wonderful idea, with so many problems that for some reason are overlooked.

    When the controls work, they are a work of art. When they don't, it is one of the worst things I have ever played.

    It got more hours out of me than the first one, but this is one of the few games where I have actively said "I'm done with this game".

    Ooooh, and now there can be only one of Arkham, Uncharted 2 and DA:O there (I'm guessing you're going Arkham). This is going get flamey :)

    Wheres #1 at Dave?

      The suspense is exciting, isn't it?

        I hope the article is justification for the delay ;)

    I'm guessing David will do a tie 1st place between Batman and Uncharted 2, because really...how can anyone seperate the two? They are both beyond awesome.

    Do it Wildgoose, it's the right thing to do.

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