Assassin's Creed II

Content review for this game:
Pertaining to the ESRB rating.

Content sum up: While blood can be disabled, the killing of innocents is clearly discouraged, and Ezio's enemies are undeniably corrupt, evil men; with the fact that assassinating is gameplay's main draw, thus a normalcy; combat is brutal, along with cutscenes, which are often filled with violent killings; sexual content (including an early "sex" mini-game, a "nun" who runs a brothel, or "Database" material that alludes to rape, incest and sodomy) and language are much more pervasive than the first; players may still complete many morally questionable tasks and can still kill innocents with relative ease; along with the fact that the story's ideological ambiguity and irreverent nature forces players to decide for themselves what is to be taken as right or wrong, it's just suited to older, more discerning minds. So, I recommend this game for ages 17+.

Blood: The blood trails in light spurts—streams admixed—when Ezio punches enemies and/or civilians, his throwing knives and (Hidden Blade) stealth attacks make contact (as blood then soaks the site of their wounds) or Ezio is attacked by enemies himself. And blood jets in heavy spurts, with interspersed squirts, which then fly in trails when Ezio hacks, slashes, impales (prominent *shff*, wettish *squish* and *crunch* effects audible) and pulls his bladed weapons (that are then stained and dripping with blood) from enemy bodies during combat. Blood does not splatter on floors or walls but does stain Ezio's and enemy clothing as they fight—and lingers there; dispatched (bloodied) enemy bodies do linger; and piled bones can be seen scattered about the catacombs. However, blood can be disabled by entering "Options," "General," and "Animus Blood" on to off; this will remove all blood effects for gameplay and cutscenes—the combat's bloody sound effects and (unbloodied) bodies will remain.

Specific scenes of blood (& gore):

(If blood is disabled, the below in-game cutscenes—devoid the CG intro movie before the main menu—would instead be considered "specific scenes of violence." In addition to blood, many of the below scenes can contain intensely violent and sometimes gory elements, although the entries from its "Database" only convey said elements through narration, text and/or still illustrations.)

  • The (CG) intro movie shows a masked and costumed man (playable protagonist, Ezio's mark) while he dances at a fireworks-filled nighttime carnival; as he and his partner spin around, from the man's perspective, Ezio appears and shivs the man in the throat with his Hidden Blade, causing an audible *shff/squish* as the man continues to spin (still from a first-person perspective); his view blurs, the sound muffles and the crowd begins to stare. It switches to a shot of this victim standing from the front, stunned, as he grabs at his throat (in slow-motion) and takes a labored breath; it cuts to a close shot of the hand at his throat, as blood begins to seep from his neck into the cracks of his fingers and flow over the top of his hand. People start to scream, as he slowly drops to the ground, revealing Ezio behind him, who pulls his Hidden Blade from the man's back (with a *shff* and wettish *squish*) as his companions then attack Ezio. The first attempts an overhead, two-handed dagger attack, but Ezio counters by directing the dagger into the man's gut (with a *shff/squish*) as he still holds it. Another rushes with a spear, but Ezio uses a stunning punch, pulls it from him, flips it and plunges it into his middle (viewed from the man's back with a *shff/crunch* and out again with the same—slightly wetter sounding—effect) as the man screams. Ezio then proceeds to pursue the last man in the group to an empty alley, using his wrist-mounted pistol to kill the man with one shot; it cuts away to a flock of disturbed birds and then back again; the man falls dead. It cuts to a top down perspective of the dead man lying on his back, zooming to an amulet hanging off the side of his neck; his blood begins to seep from his body onto it and the floor.
  • As Lucy rescues Desmond from Abstergo's facility, in current time, blood can be seen on her clothing, suggesting she had to kill to enter the facility. And as they make their escape, two Templar guards attack, one with a blunt rod; Lucy first disarms him, and then beats both guards with a variety of devastating, lightning fast attacks, finishing each with an uppercut to the mouth as both swing around and fall to the floor—thick streams of blood visibly fly from their mouths.
  • While Ezio (Desmond's assassin ancestor, whom he uses to explore the Animus) revs up his friends to attack a group of rivals, the rivals' leader cuts his speech short by throwing a rock at Ezio's mouth with a *thunk*, visibly bloodying it.
  • After every Templar assassination, Ezio is seen cradling his targets in his arms; some of the men have visible bloodstains around their clothing and necks.
  • After he tracks the corrupt official—once Ezio's father's best friend—responsible for his father's and brothers' wrongful hanging, Ezio approaches said man as he converses with a group of people, and then uses his Hidden Blade to repeatedly (and angrily) plunge into his chest (*shff/squish* effects audible); which causes moderate spurts of blood as it stains the man's clothes and Ezio's blade.
  • A video bio (rewatchable at any time in the "Database") speaks of Ezio's second mark, Vieri De'pazzi, "He (Vieri) was fiercely competitive. Vieri hosted races of all kinds. All of 'em rigged of course. Through some amazing stroke of luck he (Vieri) ever lost, he'd invite the winner's entire family over...And serve them a meal to die for." It closes with an illustrated still of Vieri smiling at the head of the table, three guests face-down in their meals, dead; one with a bloody neck, another holding his throat—his grimacing, bloodied mouth agape in horror.
  • As Ezio tries to prevent the assassination of an upright official and the official's brother during a public procession, he appears to come too late, as the Templar assassin—one of Ezio's corrupt marks—runs into the procession and slashes the official's brother in the throat, causing blood to spurt moderately from his neck, trail from the blade and stain his clothing (along with a *shff* and *squish*), all the while the brother's wife (who was walking with him arm-in-arm) screams in horror. However, the blow to his neck isn't enough to do him in, as he proceeds to fight with this Templar assassin and his companion, all the while his official brother watches in disbelief; as he looks on, a corrupt, traitorous priest working for the assassin (posing as one of the official's procession and currently behind him) takes a blade and jabs it in the back of the official's shoulder with a *shff* and *squish,* causing his blood to heavily spurt onto his clothing and bloody the blade. The scene focuses back onto the official's brother, who fails in holding off his assailants as the lead assassin's companion jabs his neck with his sword and forces the brother to the ground. This now heavily injured brother—lying on his back—pleads for his life, but to deaf ears, as the leading assassin stabs him in the heart where he lays, causing heavy blood to squirt from the wound with a *squish,* staining his clothing and the assassin's blade, as he lets out a scream of pain. This assassin continues to violently stab the man in a rage, punctuating each blow with, "(Italian) Die, die, die!", all the while, blood squirts out in heavy amounts and his bloodstained dagger passes in/out with an audible *squish*; he embeds the dagger in his chest on the last stroke with a sickening *thunk.* The two assassins then turn on the already wounded official (holding at his bloodied shoulder, his smock visibly blood-soaked) as Ezio steps in to help him.
  • "The Pazzi Conspirators" narrated video bio (rewatchable in "Database") shows several gory illustrated stills; a conspirator is seen holding a bloody dagger just after stabbing a man in the neck; the victim's face grimacing in pain, his wound spurting a thick cloud of blood. Another shows a conspirator as he stands over a restrained body, grinning, and presses a lit branding iron into a victim's already severely burned, inflamed and blistered torso. The third still shows as the same conspirator holds a bloody knife over his head after stabbing a man in the back; the man grimaces, his mouth agape in pain as he holds at his shoulder's wound, blood visibly spurting from it. The fourth still depicts a guard about to impale a pleading woman with a bloodied sword in the background, the foreground shows a dead woman lying in the street on her side, her face caked in her own blood. And finally, the fifth illustration shows as another conspirator slashes at a man's neck; the victim's blood coats the blade and spurts from his wound.
  • After tracking the Templar to their secret meeting place, Ezio watches from the distance as the Templar leader and main antagonist, Rodrigo Borgia, voices his disappointment in Ezio's would-be next mark, stating that this Templar shouldn't have allowed Ezio to kill the others. Rhetorically asking what he should do with this failure, and deceivingly placing an arm gently on his shoulder, Borgia takes a dagger with his free hand and plunges it into the elderly member's chest with a *shff/squish* as blood spurts heavily from the wound and soaks his frock—he grasps at his wound, and then stares at his bloody outstretched hands, backs up and pleads for mercy. But none is to be had; a second Templar jeeringly laughs and joins in, stabbing the injured Templar in the chest again, and pushes him to the floor—a close shot from the ground shows his wound squirt geysers of blood as he lies on his back, groaning in pain. Still—barely—alive, this man continues to plead for his life as he crawls weakly on all fours towards the leader, Borgia, who then takes out his blade and runs him through the back of his neck, causing the man to let out a strained yelp, as the spurting blood further stains his frock, along with the blade. At this point, Ezio finds he isn't the only one watching and is dragged towards Borgia by his arms, one guard on either side, prompting you to (in gameplay) press a button, which has Ezio use his double Hidden Blades to kill the guards holding him; one to the throat, one to the stomach, *shff/squish* and spurts of prominent blood included, as the guards gurgle and groan in pain. And as Ezio fights off the remaining guards, the failed Templar can still be seen gurgling, hyperventilating and contorting in pain on the floor all the while—after finishing the guards, Ezio goes over and "shivs" him out of his misery.
  • As Desmond practices his acrobatics in the assassins warehouse, Lucy brings up Abstergo's former assassin captive, Subject Sixteen. He then replies, "Ah, good old Subject Sixteen. He repainted my room you know...WITH HIS BLOOD!"
  • While contemplating how to get up a seemingly unclimbable wall, Ezio watches as a female thief scales the wall with ease, that is until enemy archers guarding the wall open fire; she continues her climb, when an arrow finally strikes her in the leg (just above her knee, with a *squish* and a heavy spurt of blood, which splatters thickly on the wall and soaks her pant), resulting in her grunts of pain, as she rolls off the wall, limps towards Ezio, holding at her bloody leg, and asks for his help. Ezio offers it, as you, in gameplay, escort her to her residence and eventually carry her to safety; once they arrive, Ezio places her on a makeshift operating table as her fellows hold her writhing body down and begin to tend to her wound. The operator proceeds to break the shaft in half while it's still in her leg (with an audible *crunch* and her groans of pain), pulls out the first shaft's side—with a *crunch/squish* and a notable spurt of blood—then the other (with the same effect). Ezio then (in gameplay) assists in her treatment, as you pick up a bloodied cloth and (with a prompted button) swiftly place and press it onto on her leg, which squirts a heavy jet of blood shortly before application.
  • The closing shot in Templar, Emilio Barbarigo's narrated video bio (rewatchable in Database) shows an illustrated still of a dead man's limp, bloody hand.
  • As he tries to prevent another official's assassination by the hands of one of his Templar marks, Ezio jumps through a window into the room that the official and the Templar assassin are playing chess in, just as the official raises a poisoned goblet to his mouth. Ezio warns him, but soon finds his warning was too late—it wasn't his first sip—as the offending Templar tells him as much, falsely informs the choking official Ezio did it, and runs down to call the guards. After Ezio kills the true culprit and the summoned guards, the official is seen walking down the steps, holding at his throat—blood running down his mouth onto his frock—with his eyes rolled up into his head as he babbles, staggers and falls dead.
  • A Templar's bodyguard (one of Ezio's future marks) is seen walking off annoyed and with a bloodied frock after Ezio defeats him in a carnival's fight ring.
  • Ezio's next Templar mark, Marco Barbarigo, is explained in a narrated video bio (rewatchable in "Database"), "A tyrant since he was barely old enough to walk, whatever Marco wanted, he got. There are records here for jewels, entire fleets of ships, all paid for, Marco's wife, Carlotta, used to be married to his bodyguard, Dante Moro...Marco was supposedly his close friend, but get this: Marco decides he wants Carlotta. So, he hires a hit on Dante [who] gets stabbed three times in the body and once in the head (here it displays the illustrated still of Dante lying on his side; bug-eyed, mouth slack, a dagger sunk to the hilt into his temple, with raw, raised flesh all around his wound and thick, gooey blood flowing down his face). But he doesn't die. He recovers with severe brain damage (an illustrated still shows a vegetable-state Dante staring into the distance, a bloodied bandage wrapped around his head wound). Dante becomes like a child. So, what does Marco do? He hires Dante as his personal bodyguard and he gets him to sign a confession annulling [Dante's] marriage."
  • An illustrated still in Templar, Silvio Barbarigo's, narrated video bio (reviewable in the "Database") shows a close-up shot of man holding a bloodied knife.
  • Antagonist, Rodrigo Borgia's video bio (reviewable at any time in the Database) states, "A dark stain on human history, Rodrigo left a trail of blood a mile wide on his quest to unify Italy under the Templar banner. Anyone who opposed him ended up in little pieces inside a sack, or, if he was in a good mood, poisoned." An illustrated still then shows a stone wall; a man's shadow holds a dagger over its head after a supposed strike, evident in the victim's grasping hand's shadow below him, blood spurting in a large jet from off-screen and splattering onto the wall. "Throughout all this public debauchery, Rodrigo was quietly murdering his enemies behind the scenes." This last line is accompanied by an illustrated still of Borgia standing in the far background; a row of bodies are littered at his feet on either side, laying in a large pool of blood; bodies piled in the foreground at the left; Ezio's father and brothers hanging lifelessly from rope at the right. The proceeding illustration shows a closer view of the last, affording a more defined view of the bodies beneath Borgia's feet; bloody tarps cover the bodies, several arrows stick from the corpses, thick blood still pooled beneath them.
  • After taking out and disguising himself as a courier guard, Ezio carries the Piece of Eden as he follows the procession of guards toward the waiting Borgia. When they arrive, a button prompt (in gameplay) has Ezio stab the guard—presenting the artifact to Borgia—in the heart from the back, causing a *shff/squish* and a jet of blood, as it soaks the guard's frock. And after he and Borgia fight, Borgia calls in back-up guards, queuing Ezio's fellow assassins to reveal themselves, as one assassin impales a guard in his back with a dagger (resulting in a moderate jet of blood that splatters about), and another shoots an arrow in a guard's eye; blood heavily jets from his then bloody eye as he falls to his knees, the arrow's full shaft prominently sticks out from it before he slowly falls off-screen.
  • Proceeding a long fight with Borgia—now "pope"—Borgia uses his staff (a Piece of Eden) to remotely lift Ezio into the air and hold him there, as he approaches, takes out a dagger and plunges it into Ezio's side, causing sickening *squishing* and Ezio's grunts of pain as blood flies, drips to the floor and soaks the wound's site—Borgia flees while Ezio recovers; his blood still visible on the floor.
  • In an optional scannable glyph containing "The Truth" puzzle titled, "Bloodlines," Subject Sixteen (previous captive of Abstergo, before modern time protagonist, Desmond) narrates, "(Very distressed tone) I'm holding a rifle, Gettysburg is in the distance, I just stabbed a man and there's blood on my waistcoat!

Intense violence: Beginning from where the first left off, assassin Desmond Miles is rescued from the Templar-headed Abstergo by fellow assassin (posing as an Abstergo employee) Lucy Stillman. When the two reach—makeshift—headquarters, Desmond is introduced to Shaun Hastings, a history buff, and Rebecca Crane, a techy in charge of Animus "2.0." He's then informed that they must use the Animus's "bleeding effect" (a result of prolonged exposure to said device) to speed-train Desmond as a full-fledged assassin in time to counter eminent Templar invasion; and in turn, prevent them from learning the locations of the remaining "Pieces of Eden" (powerful artifacts hunted by both factions). To do this, this newly formed team of assassins must dismiss previous ancestor, Altaïr's exploits, and instead, use a more recent ancestor's memories: Ezio Auditore da Firenze (15th century Renaissance Italy); who, after helplessly witnessing his father and brothers hang for crimes they did not commit—as per result of political conspiracy—takes up his father's assassin mantle, and with the assistance of his uncle Mario, begins to hunt those responsible for their wrongful deaths...

After Lucy uploads Ezio's first memory into Desmond's head and they escape Abstergo to assassins headquarters, Desmond enters the Animus 2.0 and begins his experience of Ezio's memories as he street fights (to learn basic combat); runs errands for Ezio's family (for a refresher on navigation and introduction to the city); and—ensuing Ezio's father's and brothers' execution—escape to his uncle's villa to learn the assassin way, thus take up his quest to find the Templars behind the whole conspiracy. And the base gameplay consists of traveling to a city of choice (either by horse through the current city's outskirts, or via rapid transit stations), climbing a nearby high-point (with Ezio's acrobatics, which can be used to jump, grab and cling onto virtually anything in sight) and using "Eagle Vision" to synchronize the map, which will reveal story missions and side-quests, along with a variety of shops/facilities. You'll then start to assist contacts with a number of tasks (rescue and escort their men, help take out common enemies, eavesdrop for intel, etc.), which will bring you closer to a kill...

Once a main mark is located, you'll stalk them to a target location, as you use groups of civilians to blend and avoid guards, hire thieves and courtesans for distraction (you may even throw coins out into the street for the same effect), infiltrate the area your mark is present, and then complete the kill, which entails anything from fighting their guards first (sometimes with the help of ally forces or hired mercenaries) to pursuing a fleeing mark into enemy occupied areas or up tall structures. Upon assassination of your mark, alert guards give chase, forcing you to escape with a variety of methods, like tossing smoke bombs, jumping into water, using the aforementioned distractions, taking refuge in nearby hiding places (hay piles, wells, etc.), or using Ezio acrobatics to simply cross enemy search perimeters. Along the way, Ezio must also seek Codex Pages, which will bring him closer to his ultimate goal (uncovering a map these pages make up as a whole) and allow Ezio to upgrade health, arsenal and abilities by taking them to Leonardo da Vinci, who will then uncover their secrets.

In addition, Ezio will explore the "Assassin Tombs," in which you must reach an area's end by navigating its linear, Prince of Persia-like platforming sequences by activating platforms with levers and then crossing them in the allotted time, and in some areas, sneak past guards, fight them or even pursue and take out stragglers before they call in backup. Once the end of an Assassin's Tomb is reached, Ezio will be rewarded with an "Assassin's Seal"; upon collecting all six of them, "Altaïr's Armor" will be unlocked. Ezio will participate in the odd action sequence, from guiding a horse-drawn wagon to escape pursuing enemies, as they try to hijack it, to steering da Vinci's flying machine through flight extending fires while evading rooftop archers' arrows. And to unlock the secrets contained within "The Truth" files, Ezio must scan glyphs scattered throughout cities with "Eagle Vision," and then solve the puzzle they contain. There are a number of optional side missions you may complete, including (checkpoint) "Race"; "Beat Up" (cheating men for the cheated women); "Courier Assignment" (timed letter-delivery); and "Assassination Contracts" (track and kill assigned targets)...

And Ezio can visit the "Doctor" to buy health/poison refills; the "Blacksmith" to repair and buy armor, weapons and ammo; the "Tailor" to custom dye his outfit or purchase health/poison capacity upgrades; and "Art Merchants" to buy treasure chest maps and paintings for Ezio's villa. Purchasing all the above will increase the value of said villa and its surrounding town, Monteriggioni, which can also be invested in by upgrading a number of buildings. This will further the town's value; the more you invest, the more people will visit, and in turn, the more money can be earned. Other than modern day Templar guards that Desmond fights in two instances, your sole enemy are the cities' guards and their many types, "Militia" grunts; stronger "Elites"; spear/halberd armed "Seekers"; speedy "Agiles"; rooftop "Archers"; and heavily armored, great sword/axe wielding "Brutes," whom you'll be fighting with Ezio's fists (later, Metal Cestus glove); purchasable Long/Short Blades, Maces, Axes, Hammers, and Throwing Knives; Ezio's retractable, wrist-mounted Double Hidden Blade (later armed with a pistol and poison blade); and disarmable enemy weapons (spears/great swords, etc).

The combat system takes an up-close and personal approach, as you use Ezio's many types of Long Blades (including scimitars/rapiers) and Short Blades (knives/daggers) to perform a number of swift slashes to enemy necks, chest and legs, repeated stabs and/or full impalements to their throat and torsos; Maces and Hammers to sweep the enemy off their feet, and then attack with bludgeoning, bone-crunching blows to their ribs and chest; Ezio's retractable, wrist-mounted double Hidden Blade for a variety of one-handed slashes, repeated stabs to enemy chests, stomachs and backs, as well as a number of impalements, including a particularly gruesome move, in which Ezio uses the crossed double blades to fully plunge into an enemy's eyes with an upward thrust. Ezio also has many hand-to-hand moves at his disposal, and if unarmed, you may use grabs, throws (into breakable objects), headbutts, knee kicks to the face, hooks, jabs, palm plunges to enemy throats (with a *crunch*), and even fling sand into their eyes; and then disarm them with a few complicated arm twists...

This will allow Ezio to take otherwise unacquirable weapons, like spears and halberds, which he can then use to perform leg sweeps and deep run throughs, like a finisher in which Ezio uses his weight to slide the impaled enemy toward him, and then stick the shaft into the ground, as the enemy still hangs from it. Additionally, Ezio infrequently puts enemies in sleeper holds and crushes their windpipe, or simply breaks their neck during combat with certain finisher/weapon combos; you can stomp on enemies while they're down; if they're distracted by another foe, you may impale them from behind, cut their throat for an instant kill, or hold them at knife-point for human shields; and when on your horse, you can trample enemies or use your sword to swipe at them as you pass. In all instances, enemies react with screams of pain, grunts and gurgles (or writhe in pain on the floor if solely finished with fists—some might even hit fellows on accident during fights and stragglers may retreat at their end; you can finish them off if you wish), but while it's undoubtably brutal, with no dismemberment (and an option to disable blood), combat never reaches a gratuitous or gory level.

Ezio's Hidden Blade "stealth-assassinations" are used to finish each of his main marks (a dramatic *RING* and pronounced *shff* can be heard on impact each time, as the victim gurgles and gags), and can be used at any time during gameplay to quietly kill guards walking the street or rooftops, with moves that include shivving single targets in the back (through the heart); a tackle from the front to their jugular; and a crossed slit to the throat with both Hidden Blades, along with attacks to two targets, including a variant of the forward tackle, and a move where Ezio positions himself between two guards and shivs each of them in the throat simultaneously. In continuation of stealth attacks, Ezio eventually gains the ability to yank guards off ledges by their waist with his Hidden Blades as he hangs, and stealth kill enemies from high places (with leaps) or hiding places (as he pulls them in); if sitting on benches, Ezio can grab and stealth assassinate passing guards, and then prop them on the bench as if nothing happened; use his—limited—Throwing Knives to silently take guards out from long range; simply shove them into the water and allow them to slowly drown...

And use his later acquired wrist-mounted Hidden Blade's pistol attachment to shoot at enemies from afar (killing them in one hit), or stab them with his poison blade, which will induce temporary madness in said victim, as they swing out at anyone near them and promptly succumb to the poison's lethality (on a similar note, you can loot bodies for money and hide them from guards by dropping them in hay piles, etc). All of this, along with shoving enemies from rooftops, can create distractions, as guards rush to find the culprit and the panicked (childless) crowds run screaming through the street. These options introduce a moral choice of sorts, since all this can be done to civilians, meaning you can kill anywhere, at any time with any of the aforementioned attacks in your arsenal. However, mixed with the Creed's first tenet ("Stay your blade from the flesh of an innocent") and the fact that after killing several, you'll begin to lose "sync" (health) with the memory (as a message cautions, "Warning, Ezio did not kill civilians [in his original memory]"; full depletion will send you to the last checkpoint), civilian killing is not only discouraged, but has no real in-game benefits.

The lack of benefits in doing wrong is furthered by the fact that if you're caught in the act of killing, not only will guards pursue you, but your "Notoriety" meter will begin to rise—which brings about, to a lesser "moral" degree, navigation choice; Ezio has two stances that can be switched to at any time during city navigation, the first, a socially acceptable "Low Profile" allows you to blend in by gently pushing your way through its crowds (preventing, for example, crates from falling out of the hands of the carriers). Or the second "High Profile" can be used to aggressively run civilians down (this goes while being on your horse too), steal money from, grab, throw and even tackle them, which, although some may find it amusing, or tempting (minstrels often gather round and block you, as they [badly] sing your supposed exploits—civilians can be punched without guard intervention), along with throwing guards off rooftops or killing them in the street (both rarely, if ever, needed), is far less useful than staying "Incognito": if Notoriety is maxed, guards will give chase on sight; if empty, Ezio can navigate most areas virtually unnoticed—regardless, the option is still there.

Ways to reduce this Notoriety meter include ripping down wanted poster (or to lessen its meter more swiftly), bribing Heralds and/or killing corrupt officials (who run at the sight of you) responsible for spreading the word on your exploits. However, unlike the last installment, you are given much more choice from a "moral" aspect, meaning it's entirely your decision on whether to bribe, kill or simply, and solely tear down wanted posters. And while killing main marks is, of course, non-optional, it is nigh impossible to avoid killing rooftop archers, and capes you eventually earn for each city will allow you to commit "crimes" without gaining Notoriety, Assassination Contract side-quests, along with anything from intercepting and killing enemy couriers to hijacking gondolas is entirely optional, and with the inclusion of the non-lethal distractions (coin tossing, Courtesans, etc.), it's as equally easy to navigate without useless casualties. Add this, with the fact that Ezio must prevent the assassination of two upright officials, escort a wounded thief to safety, chase down a murderer, and even tackle pickpockets, it does a better job at balancing the line between questionable and justified.

The motivation for assassinating Ezio's Templar marks and the context in which these marks are presented continues this more balanced trend, lacking cutscenes that show the marks performing some unspeakable act on weak, helpless victims—made to give you blatant justification for killing the offender—or the moral-twisting, dogmatic death talks of the last installment. Instead, these Templar conspirators (godless priests and eventual pope among them) are clearly defined as corrupt, evil men whose only want is for power, mince no words, make no excuse for it, and will kill anyone in their way (even each other) to get it—giving a slightly cleaner moral drive to Ezio's actions. But while, unlike Altair, Ezio actually has allies, and is liked by them (often even civilians, who gather and cheer as you fight the corrupt guards), there's still hostility to be had; during city traversal, Ezio's every move is scrutinized and remarked on by onlookers, and aside from using the "socially acceptable" method of reaching rooftops by ladders (even here archers will attack after giving you very short leave to flee) or Ezio's "Low Profile" movements, nearly anything will set patrolling enemies off...

No more is this evident than after killing one of Ezio's main marks, as guards flock to your position, forcing you to ram through crowds (this risks your balance, causing you to tumble—and pursuers to catch up), jump through stalls, scale walls and leap across rooftops with a strong sense of urgency, all the while nearby enemies join the original pursuers in their chase (as the even speedier-than-Ezio "Agile" guard types use all his acrobatic moves with ease), alerted archers fire arrows from rooftops, Seekers poke you from hiding spots, and guards pelt you with rocks as you scale, which causes you to lose your hold and fall from any height. If you are caught, the enemy will surround you in overwhelming numbers, as they counter your attacks (hulking Brutes will block your counters and perform unblockable attacks) grab and push you (if you're on your horse, they can topple it), while each of their hits causes the screen to flash and blur as Ezio steadily loses health and struggles to his gain balance, giving all of the enemy encounters (in both cities and action sequences) a tense, on-edge feel.

As for the story's moral outlook (devoid its obviously fictitious nature, or a disclaimer at the opening; "Inspired by historical events and characters. This work of fiction was designed, developed and produced by a multicultural team of various religious faiths and beliefs") many could find some of its messages offensive and/or off-putting, from the assassin mantra, "Nothing is true, everything is permitted," to the Pieces of Eden, ancient hypnotic devices that are further revealed to be no more than remote controls to dictate human behavior by our equally as imperfect (just more advanced) creators. And continues its fact-bending trend in which all historic events are twisted to suit the conspiracy-driven plot; the Biblical story of Cain and Able is "rearranged" in a bizarre manner; and Altaïr's Codex Page journal reads (among other things) on how he thinks the likes of Jesus and Krishna (according to him, the same person) used the Pieces of Eden to their advantage. But on a more human level, its narrative is handled in a less questionable manner, as Desmond's allies relay that while killing isn't optimal (nor do they enjoy it), their objective of "Safeguarding free will" outweighs it...

(Continue past specific scenes below for the "Intense Violence" section's closing paragraph)

Specific scenes of intense violence:

(Entries from the "Database" only convey the violent, sometimes disturbing elements, through narration, text and/or still illustrations.)

  • When he enters the Animus 2.0 for the first time, Desmond relives his ancestor, Ezio's, first (brief) memory: Ezio's mother gives birth to him, as midwives tend to her; she takes labored breaths and repeatedly screams out in pain.
  • After he gives his father's official friend the papers that prove his brothers' and father's innocence for the crimes they are now imprisoned, this official tells Ezio that he'll have them cleared of all charges at the morning trial. However, when he attends, Ezio finds his father and two brothers (one only age twelve) already fitted to the nooses for hanging. The official then dismisses the papers and finds them all guilty; they release the platform, hanging all three (a shot that doesn't linger, with no discernible detail); Ezio quickly escapes the same fate.
  • After fixing Ezio's broken Hidden Blade, Leonardo da Vinci informs Ezio he must remove his ring finger to make room for the Hidden Blade's extension; previous assassin, Altaïr, had done this for his. Ezio agrees, placing his hand on a table; Leonardo goes to cut it, but lands the knife into the table, saying he was kidding and explains that the new design no longer requires finger amputation.
  • As Ezio trains with his new Hidden Blade, a city guard approaches Leonardo and demands to know Ezio's location. When he refuses to tell him, the guard pushes da Vinci to the ground and begins to repeatedly kick him in the stomach.
  • An illustrated still in Templar, Uberto Alberti's, narrated video bio (rewatchable in "Database") shows Ezio's father and brothers hanging at the gallows.
  • An illustrated still in Templar, Francesco De'pazzi's, video bio (reviewable in the Database) shows as Francesco holds a bruised-eyed man (who's clearly in pain) down on a table, as he cranks the man's arm behind his back. And a closing still gives an up-close, quite morbid shot of Ezio's father's face as he hangs from the gallows; his jaw slack and his still opened eyes rolled up into his head.
  • Upon Ezio killing his fourth mark, the mark's unknowing men—under his orders to take over the city—begin to riot. To stop it, Ezio informs them of their defeat by hanging the body (garbed only in underwear) from the top of a tower (with a close shot of its lifeless eyes), as the men take its meaning and scatter.
  • As a man guides Ezio and Leonardo on a tour through Venice streets, a group of guards are seen needlessly threaten a man and messing with his stall; the man goes to complain about this to the higher-ups, but is butted in the stomach by a guard's staff, and put into custody for imprisonment under false charges.
  • Templar, Carlo Grimaldi's narrated video bio (reviewable in Database) tells this telling story, "While visiting the head of the council, Ignazio Contarini, Carlo ran into Ignazio's daughter...and aware of [his] trustworthy reputation, she confided in him. Her father had arranged her marriage, but she wanted to run away with the son of one of the servants. They'd been in love since they were children and they planned to start a new life in Milan, where they could be free of her father. Carlo suggested immediate action: an escape by ship that night. The two lovers followed his instructions, and as they climbed the (ship's) gangplank, they were free! That is, until Ignazio appeared on deck. Carlo was rewarded for his loyalty to the Contarini family, while true love...well, see for yourself (here it shows an illustration of her lover's battered body face down, drowned in the river.
  • After Ezio returns to a contact's brothel, he's informed that just before entering, a man slit a girl's throat for supposedly laughing at him (killing her; the body is briefly seen being cradled by another girl), and ran off. As Ezio pursues him (in gameplay) through the streets, the man holds more girls at knife-point, and will kill them if Ezio gets too close—to prevent this, you must end his rampage with a single shot from your pistol. Upon his return to the brothel, the girls are seen crying over the first woman's body as Ezio tells them of his successful kill.
  • At one point in Templar, Silvio Barbarigo's narrated video bio (reviewable in the "Database"), an illustrated still from Silvio's uncle's perspective (who is lying in his bed), shows as Silvio, grinning, stands menacingly in the doorway; two girls, on either side of his bed, each brandish knives, as they creep ever closer.
  • During the last stretch of Ezio's fight with (now corrupt pope) Borgia, you must (in gameplay) rapidly tap a single button to (non-lethally) choke Borgia.
  • In an (optional) scannable glyph containing "The Truth" puzzle called, "Titans of Industry," an archival reel-movie shows an elephant as it's being experimented on with electricity; it begins to react to the effects of said electrocution—but the reel-movie cuts out before the full effect (the elephant's death) is shown.
  • An optionally readable Database entry on one of Ezio's minor contacts, Caterina Sforza, talks on some of her more cruel, unusual ruling methods, "Although she advocated peace, when those around her were hurt, she dealt fierce vengeance, frequently killing (Caterina's) enemies' wives and children in punishment."
  • An optional "Database" entry on a location, at one point reads that, "Executions were carried out in the small interior courtyard for the pope's enjoyment."
  • An optionally readable letter (contained in the "Database") from a man to Vieri's (early target of Ezio's) father mentions how Vieri needlessly exposed his men to dangerous situations, causing many of these men to become "disfigured."
  • An optionally readable letter addressed to a farmer (contained in the Database) questions why the man has been brutally attacking those who tread on his land, "Even going so far as to mutilate a young girl who crossed your farm."
  • An optionally readable "Database" entry on "Thieves," explains the acts on their victims, "Often, strollers were attacked in the dead of night, killed, robbed, and then rolled into the nearest river." It then lists ensuing punishments, "Even if a thief merely stole, rather than killed, the penalties if caught were often...harsh. Torture was common. Thieves were...sometimes even publicly executed."
  • An optionally readable "Database" entry on "Carnival Performers," explains that they often used, "General hijinks, like, you know, killing amuse the public, or rolling pigs in carts down the hill and (lethally) into the river."
  • An optional, readable "Database" entry on one villa reads, "After the conspiracy went south...Salviati swapped his archbishop outfit with [a nearby civilian] who was then lynched in his place, while [Salviati] escaped to his (said) villa.
  • In Ezio's family crypt, later unlocked with "Uplay" points, a message carved into a stone tablet by one of his ancestors partially reads, "When they asked for the Codex, I knew who had sent them. Holding back my rage, I said I had thrown it overboard. They started to laugh. Two held me down, still grinning, while [the author's wife] begged for mercy...Once they were done, they threw her into the sea...My wife’s body washed up on shore the next morning..."

In the Codex Pages, Altaïr acknowledges the irony of his profession, "Here we seek to promote peace, but murder is our means...Here we seek to reveal the danger of blind faith, yet we are practitioners ourselves"; and although Ezio begins with vengeance in mind, by the time he reaches his final mark, he spares his life. As for what age group this is appropriate for, while blood can be turned off, the killing of innocents is clearly discouraged, and Ezio's enemies are undeniably corrupt, evil individuals; with the fact that assassinating is gameplay's main draw, thus a normalcy; combat is brutal, along with cutscenes, which are often filled with violent killing; sexual content (including an early "sex" mini-game, an ally "nun" who runs a brothel, or "Database" material that alludes to rape, incest and sodomy) and language are much more pervasive than the first; players may still complete many (although optional) morally grey tasks and can still kill civilians with relative ease; along with the fact that the narrative's ideological ambiguity and irreverent nature forces players to decide for themselves what is to be taken as right or wrong, it's just suited to older, more discerning minds.

Alcohol reference: (The ESRB didn't mention this in their rating, although it is mild) Civilians often yell, "Has he been drinking?" and "Must have been a drunken wager or something!" as they watch you climb objects; drunks can be seen propped up on back alley walls gulping from jugs of alcohol; after Ezio tells his brother he has no funds to see a doctor, his brother states, "Wasted it on women and wine, huh?"; in celebration of a successful mission, Ezio's uncle's mercenaries wave around and drink from mugs of the substance; at one point, Ezio enters a brothel, where his friend is seen drinking alcohol, acting quite drunk; a "Database" entry on one of Ezio's minor contacts briefly mentions, "a heavy night of drinking"; another Database entry on the gondolas reads on their specific design, "ensuring that the intoxicated gondoliers don't accidentally hit their passengers in the face with an oar while switching sides"; and an obscure stone tablet in Ezio's family crypt—later unlocked with "Uplay" points—partially reads, "The men who found us were drunk, I could smell it on their breath."

Partial nudity: (The ESRB didn't mention this in their rating, although it is mild) While assembling "The—optional—Truth" puzzles (which are found as glowing glyphs hidden throughout cities; left by Abstergo's last captive, Subject Sixteen), many of the puzzle "pieces" are famous classical paintings; the paintings do contain full and partial front and back nudity of both the male and female form ("The Fall," "Birth of Venus," etc). And many of these classical paintings can also be bought by "Art Merchants" for Ezio's villa, which can be viewed freely on the walls in both third and first-person. However, said paintings are in the classical style, meaning their contained nudity is not erotic in nature. Lastly, once all twenty of "The (again, optional) Truth" puzzles are completed, a video unlocks; a male and female are seen bounding through a futuristic landscape, garbed only in skintight, flesh-colored suits. This affords several shots of what appear to be their bare behinds and the woman's breasts from the sides and front. However, with the video's hurried cuts, its flared lighting, the suits' luminescent material and its brief runtime (under a minute), no details can be discerned.

Sexual content: (Much of the below also contains "Suggestive themes." Entries from the "Database" only convey the Sexual content/Suggestive themes through narration, text and/or still illustrations.)

  • As per the time—Italian Renaissance—all of the female characters are garbed in bustier-like dresses with deep necklines, which reveal moderate cleavage.
  • As Ezio and a rival exchange insults (in preparation for a street fight), the rival says, "Afraid to handle things yourself?" as Ezio responds, "Your sister seemed quite satisfied with the handling I gave her earlier." And after their fight, Ezio's brother tells him he needs to have his injured mouth looked at by a doctor; Ezio says he has no money for the doctor, prompting his brother to state, "Wasted it on women and wine, huh?" Ezio answers with, "I'd hardly call it wasted."
  • After Ezio reaches his girlfriend's window, he calls out to her; when she opens it he asks, "May I come in?" she answers with, "Fine, but only for a minute" as he replies, "A minute is all I need. Wait, that came out wrong." He then climbs into the window and approaches her (she is dressed in modest undergarments, save for its low-cut bustier top, which reveals moderate cleavage) as a mini-game of sorts begins, prompting you to (in gameplay) press a button to kiss her, as Ezio then does this (the camera focuses in) and with another button press (while the camera focuses closely on her back) slip off her dress by its shoulder straps. A wider angle, still focused on her (now bare) back, shows as they fall to the bed; it pans to a candle, which goes out with a final button press, and fades...
  • Ezio's sister, Claudia, informs him that her boyfriend's being unfaithful, and that she wants Ezio to go rough him up for it. When Ezio reaches this man, he finds him in public with the other woman; they flirt shamelessly as he playfully slaps her behind, they embrace and begin to kiss; Ezio makes his approach...
  • While they wait for their friend, Leonardo da Vinci, to gather his supplies, Ezio's mother tells him he should find outlets for his talents. He states that he already has plenty of outlets, but she quickly retorts, "I meant, besides vaginas."
  • After Ezio delivers a letter to a shifty-looking pair, the man, seeing how Ezio is looking at them with an unsure expression, states (in reference to the prostitute reminiscent female), "Don't worry boy. We're not contagious, least I'm not."
  • Courtesans (prostitutes) can be seen standing around every city in small groups (as they wave their fans; giggle; lean down, hold their cleavage and shake back and forth; turn around and slap their own behinds; and beckon in a provocative manner) and garbed in what look to be bustier-style, dress-like undergarments that reveal moderate—pushed up—cleavage. These girls will flirt as Ezio passes by (along with many of the female civilians) and may be approached then hired at any time, but not for sexual reasons; instead, they're used to distract guards and keep Ezio anonymous—as to bypass guarded areas undetected or to escape after a kill. Ezio's uncle's town may also be renovated with buildings to bring up its value, including a brothel. But this only results in the Courtesans being seen on the street; Ezio cannot interact with them or their brothel otherwise.
  • The cites' guards will infrequently warn Ezio to, "Behave or I'll have your balls!"
  • After Ezio dispatches of his second mark—with the help of his uncle's men—they celebrate, as one man mentions how they may have time for "whores."
  • When Desmond's Ancestors' memories begin to bleed into reality (brought on by overexposure to the Animus), Desmond finds himself in the role of Altaïr, who's pursuing an unknown target through a nighttime city. After following the target up a tall tower, the target reveals herself to be Maria, the woman who posed as the main villain's double (during the first installment) and the only person Altaïr sparred. Their relationship has, at this point, become a romance, evident in the fact that she beckons him with a playful wave of a finger; Altaïr approaches, as they embrace and begin to kiss—it fades. It opens again with a tight shot of her lying in a hay pile, Altaïr lies by her; he caresses her face, kisses her forehead, and then stands as their hands slowly slip apart. He jumps from the tower while she still lies in the pile, smiling, as the perspective suddenly shifts from Altaïr's viewpoint to her womb—suggesting they conceived his child that night.
  • As Ezio enters a brothel, he finds his thief friend with a Courtesan on either side of him, one of which is briefly seen having her exposed cleavage kissed by said thief. Ezio's friend introduces him to the woman who runs this bordello, Tedora, whom he sees by her dress, to be a nun. Upon seeing this, Ezio asks his friend, "I never imagined you as a religious type." Tedora replies, "It depends how you understand religion, my son. It's not just men's souls that call for soothing." And later, Tedora inquires, "What is it my son? Do you want to ask me something?", Ezio says, "I do. Forgive me, but - why is it you wear a nun's habit if you aren't one?" She responds with, "Well whoever said I wasn't? Indeed, I am married to the Lord." Ezio: "And yet you are also a courtesan? You run a bordello." Tedora: "So? I see no contradiction. How I choose to practice my faith - what I choose to do with my body - these are my choices to make." She continues, "Men must know how to love in order to reach salvation. My girls and I provide that to our congregation. No church would agree with me, I realized. So, I created my own. It may not be traditional, but men's hearts grow firmer in my care. Ezio fittingly ends the very unorthodox subject with, "Among other things. I'm sure."
  • In order to access the carnival party of his next mark, Ezio must steal a golden mask for entry by completing and winning four carnival games; one entails Ezio bumping into women to steal their ribbons, as they flirtatiously giggle.
  • After he successful dispatches of his mark, Ezio returns to Tedora's bordello as several of the girls approach and begin to giggle and handle him in a flirtatious manner. Tedora enters and says, "You must be exhausted. Come. Relax. You've worked hard, my son. I feel your tired body is in need of comfort and succor." He replies, "But I have such aches and pains, sister, I may need a great deal of comfort and succor" all the while he runs his hand along the top of her exposed cleavage. She gently lifts Ezio's hand from her chest and answers, "Oh, that can be arranged. Girls!" as several then drag him off, while they moan and giggle in suggestive tones; it fades, as Ezio then appears outside the bordello.
  • At one point in antagonist, Rodrigo Borgia's, narrated video bio (rewatchable in "Database"), it says, "And then there's the rumored x-rated atrocities: hundreds of courtesans brought to the Vatican by the cartload...[or his] close "friendship" with his illegitimate daughter, Lucrezia—which is accompanied by an illustrated still that shows him kneeling down by the little girl with a hand on her shoulder; he directs her to a bed in front of them, grinning in a devious manner.
  • In an optional scannable glyph containing "The Truth" puzzle titled, "Bloodlines," Subject Sixteen (on the Animus's bleeding effects, which have caused him to go mad and experience ancestor memories at random) narrates, "I'm at the opera, the soprano is beautiful. I'm in bed with her, she cries as I f*ck her."
  • An optional courier mission's letter, readable in "Database," gives directions for the place a cheating woman and her lover will soon meet for their tryst.
  • An optionally readable "Database" entry on Mercenaries speaks on their code of conduct (or lack of thereof); at one point, briefly mentioning that, "The soldiers, many of whom had no code of honor, would often rape and sack freely."
  • An optionally readable Database entry on one of Ezio's contacts, Catrina Sforza, says she was engaged to the pope's nephew at age 10 and, "They consummated their marriage when she was 14." It goes on to a later point in her life, reading, "Catrina was captured and sent to Rodrigo Borgia...who kept her imprisoned for a year and is rumored to have raped her alongside his (Borgia's) son.
  • An optionally readable Database entry on another of Ezio's contacts reads, "Her parents owned a jewellery store, and Tedora was apprentice to her mother as a shop girl. A 1462 wrote: bought a pair of diamond earrings today...A charming young girl helped box them. When she handed me [them], our fingers touched. I had to leave the shop at once. Oh Lord, I wish I'd never married." It continues on with, "By the time Tedora turned 17, she was doing far more than just touching. She engaged in adultery with a married man, and his wife alerted the Venetian courts." On Tedora leaving the nunnery, her note nailed to a door, "She wrote that life in the cloisters was sterile and 'earthly', and that only in the 'partnership with another' could one 'truly enter the arms of God'...[she] opened La Rosa Della Virtù the same year. According to...poet Pietro Bembo...frequent customer, her bordello was 'The church for a new sect of Catholicism.'" On the same note, an optional Database entry on Tedora's bordello states, "Located at the crossroads where sex and religion collide, La Rosa Della Virtù (The Rose of Virtue) was run entirely by former nuns." It goes on to say the pope attempted to shut it down, "But it remained open until a fire in 1516 consumed it. Although the church [claimed] divine intervention, jurists found the fire to have been set by a disgruntled bishop who wanted to lie with one of the girls for free.
  • An optionally readable "Database" entry on Leonardo da Vinci partially reads on da Vinci's ambiguous sexuality, "Accused of sodomy in 1476, he was most likely a homosexual. Salai, his (Leo's) assistant, was accused of stealing and spending too much money on clothes, but was also probably Leonardo's lover.
  • An optionally readable Database entry, quoting a 15th century poet on places to visit in Florence, Italy, briefly reads that, "There halfway down the street stands a happy whorehouse which you will know by the very smell of the place."
  • An optionally readable "Database" entry on a certain church reads, "Shockingly, [the church] has no tower, although in San Gimignano, The City of Towers, such an act of celibacy coming from a church was probably a smart move."
  • In Ezio's family crypt, later unlocked with "Uplay" points, a message carved into a stone tablet by one of his ancestors reads, "They (invading pirates) started to laugh. Two held me down, still grinning, while the rest cut off my wife’s clothes. She begged for mercy until her voice gave out."

Strong Language: There is under a dozen uses of hell, bastard, sh*t and the f-word, three or under uses of a**, d*mn, d*ck and God d*mn, and one use of b*tch and God in English. Animus characters speak partial Italian during dialog, thus there are under a dozen uses of hell, bastard (bastardo), sh*t, a** and the f-word (c*zzo, etc.), three or under uses of SoB, d*mn, Christ and God, and one use of God d*mn, "c*cksucker" and penis (bischero) in Italianand if Italian dialog is to be understood (this is helpful to overall dialog comprehension), subtitles must first be enable, which will display all of this Italian spoken profanity in uncensored English text. Other than the main script, civilians will state things like, "My God! Has his mind snapped?", "What the hell is he doing?!" and "D*mn street performers!" as they watch you climb...

Along with, "Dear God!" and "Sweet Jesus! What happened?" when they find discarded bodies; "Kick their sorry a**es!" as you fight the corrupt and disliked city guards; and crate carriers will say "Sh*t!" when your movements cause them to drop their crates. Enemies guards will tell you to, "P*ss off peasant!" and "You stupid little sh*t!" when you try to approach guarded city areas; they will say, "Sh*t! I lost sight of him!" and "D*mn it! He's getting away!" as they pursue you; and use the occasional, "D*mn!" as you fight. Fleeing pickpockets will repeatedly spout the f-word in a panic as you chase them, but solely in Italian (c*zzo); enemy rooftop archers often uses the same Italian word when they warn you to get off the roof; and guards will infrequently spout, "Die bastardo!" as you fight—however, unlike cutscenes, there are no subtitled translations for these lines in gameplay. There is no option to turn language off.

Content review posted: 03/06/10

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