Assassin's Creed 2 detailed

Florence, Venice, da Vinci, flying...

Assassin's Creed is set in 15th-century Italy and stars a young nobleman-turned-assassin called Ezio Auditore de Firenze, according to the Game Informer preview teased last week.

The preview, which has been scanned elsewhere, reveals that Ezio is another descendent of the line that gave us Altair and the present-day Templar prisoner Desmond, and collaborates with Leonard da Vinci, Machiavelli, Caterina Sforza and other real-life figures in a similar city-hopping action-adventure that takes in both Venice and Florence.

However, Ubisoft Montreal has sought greater variety this time around, so while players will obviously undertake assassinations, they will be organised by a broader network of contacts, and, in addition, there will be 16 unique side-mission types, which sometimes blend into one another GTA-style.

Ezio has various new abilities over and above Altair, able to spot optimal free-running routes thanks to white cloth markers, fight with his bare hands, disarm enemies with one button and use their weapons against them, and attack with two hidden blades rather than one. Free-running will be smoother, and Ezio can swim, and use the water as a haybale-style hiding place.

He can also hide in any crowd, rather than just fall in amongst the monks, but a new notoriety system will make it harder to avoid detection if Ezio's been kicking up a fuss. On the plus side, it will also alert you to previously inaccessible mission, and you can dial down notoriety by assassinating witnesses, bribing officials and destroying wanted posters.

City environments will also be interconnected by more elaborate countryside rather than the barren Kingdom area that split the first game's cities apart, so there will be lots of extra missions and story content to uncover beyond the walls of Florence and Venice. Ubisoft has also hidden more objects around the world, and each will have in-game benefits.

The story isn't explained in any great detail, for obvious reasons, but we are told that da Vinci is a friend of Ezio's, and - in Game Informer's phrase - "is to Ezio what Q is to James Bond", even providing the use of his flying machine according to a boxout.

There's no update on Desmond's status at Abstergo in the present day scenario, but given the ending of the first game there's plenty of potential, and the preview assures us that the Assassins and the Knights Templar continue to battle it out behind the scenes during the Renaissance...

For more on Assassin's Creed 2 then, look out for the latest issue of Game Informer. We'd also expect more details at E3.

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