Assassins Creed 2Another review before finishing a game, but this one is a little more justified, as Assassins Creed 2 is a rather larger experience than Arkham Asylum. A comparison between the two games isn't particularly fair- they have different goals, but generally speaking Assassins Creed 2 is better (more on this later).
This is a game into which some serious effort has been put into making things fun. The main focus of the game will be jumping over roof tops in gorgeous looking levels set around Italy. The controls for this are intuitive and easy, and mostly work exactly as you wish. There is a plot, and while it is your usual conspiracy theory nonsense, the writers understand that the best way to sell a ridiculous story is by making good characters who you care about, and make sure they believe in the story. Ezio's path of vengence is plausible and interesting, and he guides you through the story deftly.
The game is delightfully non-linear in a pratically perfect way. From a few hours in you are able to go off and do your own thing, completing the hugely enjoyable additional tasks that the game sets you along the main plot. When you do get to the plot, the missions are varied and fun for the most part, and can be approached in varied ways.
One of the smartest pieces of design in this game is the many tools it gives you to complete your objectives. If you want to sneak, you can clamber over roof tops, taking out guards before they can say anything. Or you can mingle with crowds, darting between one and another as you approach. Or you can throw money which can distract guards. Or you can hire groups to distract these same guards. Or you can throw a smoke bomb. You could even leave a body a little way down the road and they'll go investigate...
And, if you really want to, you can fight them. Sadly this is the clunkiest part of the game. Theres a lot of options there, but they mostly boil down to holding block and counter attacking at the correct moment, which results in a kill. Arkham Aslyum has a similar system, buts its far more fluid and easier to track when a counter attack should be made, making combat seem more natural and fun. Still, as mentioned, combat doesn't have to be a chore- you can always hurl a smoke bomb and kill people in the confusion, or get hired help to engage them and then stab them in the back.
Spiderman 2 was another game which really captured the joy of darting round a city: its one of the greatest things to do in a video game, but the game play was never integrated into the main plot. Assassins Creed does it perfectly. It really is just a fantastic game.
Other than the combat there are few frustrations. The context sensitive jumping can be annoying occasionally, when you cannot persuade Ezio to do something you yourself would be capable of doing, or he enthusiastically leaps off a building rather than continue climbing as you had intended. You load back fairly quickly, however, and quickly become strong enough to surive all but the most easy of falls. I suppose one might argue that the game is a little easy, but who cares when its this much fun?