Between them, the linear side missions should amount to between four and five hours of gameplay, Desilets says, and the fact that this one is over in less than 15 minutes should give you an idea of the volume of extra content Ubisoft Montreal is set to pack into the game. As with the original, there are a variety of collectables and other side missions besides these.
There are other examples of things to do away from the story at gamescom too. Pigeon missions (my suggested name) are assassination commissions with specific rules that Ezio collects from pigeon coops. In this case it's a mission called Caveat Emptor from the aforementioned Medici, who wants Ezio to take out a nearby businessman without giving his presence away.
This gives Ezio an excuse to climb around the rooftops and show off the changes to the free-running system. Although ostensibly the same, Ezio can do a few new things like climbing over ropes tied between buildings, and using hanging baskets to round corners. Because rooftops are higher up in Italy than they were in the Middle East, the developers also sought to create pathways along the middle stories, and designed the city layout with free-running "freeways" in mind as well. Hopefully the team also considered feedback about snagging on objects, although it won't be possible to tell how it feels until Ubisoft allows for hands-on play. It looks fluid enough though.
Back on the rooftops, Ezio uses a musket-style pistol given to him by da Vinci to execute an unwitting enforcer. With his back turned, Ezio has time to train his sights - initially a miasma of Animus-style interference that forms into a straight line to signal dead aim. But then it's back down to the streets, because he needs to tool up. One change to Assassin's Creed II is the money counter in the bottom-left. Players can pickpocket people in the crowd at the touch of a button to top up funds, not to mention loot corpses for weapons and cash, and it's now possible to use traders' services rather than just vaulting over their produce. Today Ezio visits an apothecary, who sells medicine but also, more importantly, poison.
The mini-map shows the pigeon mission target, and upon approach Ezio goes into his Altair-style Eagle Vision, which he can now use while moving. With this he establishes that his target is moving towards a crowd, but worse that he is flanked by a bodyguard. Using the weapon-select wheel though, Ezio can grab his poison, sneak up to the bodyguard in the crowd and inject him, before quickly backing away without attracting any attention. The poison's fast-acting, but it doesn't have the effect you might have anticipated - instead it disorientates the bodyguard, leading him to flail his lance murderously in the direction of Ezio's target. Job done.
Desilets tours through a few other features before we finish. Ezio can toss coins into the street, which prompts people in the crowd to scrabble around on the floor, creating a diversion. Should he find himself in combat, he can also taunt his opponents and move around them more freely, although the emphasis remains on stylish counter kills that make the most of the game's grown-up rating. Pleasingly, Ubisoft retains the tall towers that players had to climb to open up new missions nearby, and you still get to dive off the top of them. We also get to see a bit of Florence at night, and Desilets amuses himself by diving into water to end the demo - something that no longer proves fatal.
There is more yet to see, including updates on what Desmond Miles is up to in the present - although we imagine Ubisoft will leave that to reviewers and players to find out - but while Assassin's Creed flattered to deceive, not quite living up to its hype, the sequel's use of a completely new setting, and design informed by the response to the original, is playing out promisingly. After the last few months' public pronouncements on the game, you almost feel the catacombs level is the development in microcosm: slightly humbler, and more self-conscious, but with no less of the spark and the mystery.
Assassin's Creed II is due out for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on 20th November.