Time in the world of Assassin’s Creed II

Time in the world of Assassin’s Creed II
The launch of Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed II took place a short time ago but there are already talks of extraordinary numbers that, combined with a technical realization of great depth, have pushed us at Digital Foundry to a special treatment for this game. As we have already said in the previous article, one of the new features introduced in this sequel with respect to the engine of the original Assassin's Creed is the alternation of day and night, and we are very happy to test this new entry.

There is no better way to do this than by examining one of our detailed slow motion videos. To better capture the essence of what we are trying to dissect, a couple of special ingredients are needed: to go far and wide the virtual world that is proposed to us, a first-person view without any trace of the HUD and, of course , a lot of patience. In truth, the biggest challenge was to keep the good Ezio still as much as possible ...

What we have collected is a collection of 31 slow-motion scenarios, spanning a full 10 days of in-game time in four city, starting from the charm of Florence up to the Renaissance Venice. He is an Assassin’s Creed II as you have never seen him and as you will never see him. In addition to the options for streaming video, there is also a downloadable version on EGTV, which is also made for viewing on Xbox 360 and PS3.

The thing we found most intriguing is comparing the virtual world developed by Ubisoft Montreal with the one created by Rockstar North for the Liberty City of GTAIV. Both manage to do a great job when it comes to immersing yourself in those scenarios from a gameplay point of view, although the two approaches, when it comes to light / shadow management, are very, very different. Rockstar has worked hard to grasp the life of an entire city: incredible management of the AI ​​of different characters, variable weather conditions and, in addition to the different NPCs, has taken steps to include an unparalleled range of vehicles.

Assassin's Creed II seems to follow a different philosophy, aiming to create a scenario that has an incredible look "on the spot" but which does not aspire to create a total simulation of life lived during the fifteenth century in Italy. Apart from its predilection to rummage in our purse or challenge us in a chase on the rooftops, the AI ​​that manages the rest of the citizens follows a really obvious daily routine (those poor courtesans never seem to attract more "traffic" than usual. in addition, no type of code to be respected for horses or vehicles in the game. A lighter type of approach that is also reflected in the graphic rendering. The alternation of day and night is decidedly superb, but the sky is rendered with a simple 2D covered by a sort of dome that has an atmospheric layer at the end. It is an example of how certain technical compromises can only manifest themselves when the game engine is subjected to a very thorough examination (and this is the real goal of a slow motion video!). During the game phases, however, everything does its duty and runs beautifully.

Apart from the implementation of the day / night cycle, there are other additional features ntive. The developers rarely spoke to the press about AC2's new “Scimitar” engine: a lot of work was done to improve the effects and reflections of light (fundamental for the spectacular panorama of Venice), while the vegetation creation system launched in Far Cry 2 has been reused with a new version. Ubisoft Montreal has made progress in improving the level of detail (LOD), thanks to the use of a new data streaming technology that guarantees a "cleaner" glance even when compared to long distance views.

However, some limitations of the first BC remain, which can be seen in the management of shadows. This, on certain occasions, overlaps two types of shading, so much so that they seem halfway between high and low resolution. The geometric pop-ups, with stretches of scenery that appear and disappear without justification, represent another negative reminiscence of the first Assassin's Creed and continue to recur even after installation on the hard-disk.

Anyway , the technical level reached by Ubisoft is undoubtedly considerable, also taking into account that Ubi itself, for the Xbox 360 version, has managed to keep an impressive multilingual support (and we are talking about dubbing) within a DVD. AC2 has dubbed dialogues in English, French, German and Italian on the same disc. Each of them takes up about 200MB of space on the DVD, without forgetting another 100MB dedicated to the trailer for Avatar, the game created in collaboration with James Cameron. Know, then, that the PS3 version of the game occupies more or less the same size ...

In short, Ubisoft Montreal did a great job of compression but paid for it by falling into the same weaknesses as the original game, such as the dialogues of citizens who repeat themselves to the point of boredom. An element that we would have liked to see improved in this sequel ...

Ubisoft has always been keen to emphasize that Assassin's Creed will be a trilogy, so it will be interesting to see how the development team evolves the plot, game engine and characters in the next chapter of the series, which very presumably will be released in 2011, when the current HD consoles can be exploited to the maximum even if they are now on the avenue of sunset.

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