Virtual Time Travelling in Assassin’s Creed 2

“Assassin’s Creed II” (UBI Soft)

Video games sure have progressed in sophistication since the days of Pitfall Harry on an Atari 2600

Melik Kaylan writes:

With the release of Assassin’s Creed II in November, a lot changed. Ostensibly the story of a time traveler who journeys back to the Renaissance, becoming a hooded Florentine protagonist tasked with avenging the murder of his parents, the game is set in Florence, Venice and Rome over a number of decades leading up to the year 1499. The game’s producer-authors chose those years as the most eventful of the era and labored lovingly to re-create the environs as exactly as possible. They hired Renaissance scholars to advise on period garb, architecture, urban planning, weaponry and the like. They took tens of thousands of photographs of interiors and streets. They used Google Earth liberally to piece together the ground-up and sky-down perspectives through which the action flows.

The game’s creative director, a Montrealer named Patrice Desilets, lived in Italy for some years, where he acquired a feel for the vivid intrigues of the Renaissance. He grew fascinated, he says, with the notion that “finally people can control time, and relive the past, through games.” The producer, Sebastien Puel, was born in the south of France, in the fortified medieval French town of Carcassonne, and grew up surrounded by history. The head writer, a Harvard graduate from Los Angeles and former screenwriter, Corey May, was driven, he says, by the challenge of “telling a story that feels real and is set among real people who existed.”

The game’s plot, boiled down to its bare essentials, serves up the standard, if glowingly visualized, perquisites of current pop-fiction narratives—regression through genetic memory, Dan Brown-ish secrets of the Templars, and a central fictitious protagonist, Ezio, who traverses venerable Italian cities with great physical agility hunting Renaissance bad guys. In Florence, for example, Ezio leaps and climbs, in a manner that calls to mind the urban gymnastics of Parkour, over and through such familiar monuments as the Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo and the Palazzo Vecchio. That’s when he’s not crossing roofs or wading through streets inhabited by courtesans, brotherhoods of thieves and Florentine soldiers, all of whom come with little optional windows where you can learn about their customs. Even the faces of bystanders are based on portraits of the time.

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Sounds like a lot of fun, actually. I hope the game is wildly successful and generates many sequels…

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