'Assassin' explores dilemmas

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The “Assassin’s Creed” series emerged from the dark and stabbed the gaming world at the start of the current generation of consoles.

The first game was a fascinatingly flawed romp through the Holy Land during the Crusades.

Its sequel, “Assassin’s Creed 2,” however, has managed to be one of the most interesting blockbuster titles of the past generation of game consoles.

In a nutshell, the idea of the game is this: You’re an assassin named Ezio Auditore, part of a secret order called The Assassins who theoretically fight for individual freedom for all of mankind. The enemy is known as the Templars, a similarly shadowy secret order that is trying to control humanity according to their own ideals of right.

Ezio needs to travel through rennaisance Italy and take out a number of Templars to thwart their plans.

All of this is presented as a series of “genetic memories” of a man name Desmond in the present day via a mysterious machine called The Animus.

Plus, the games actually do an impressive job of exploring ethical dilemmas that “killing for the greater good” raise — which is more than I can say for most games.

The game is presented as a series of missions in the context of a larger world chopped up into segments modeled on various cities across Italy. The cities are filled with people walking around purposefully, and guards looking to see if someone (you) is making trouble.

The game gives you a surprisingly large suite of abilities: allies you hire to distract guards for you, an ever-growing armory of special weapons, all kinds of interesting things.

Probably the centerpiece of the game is that you start “free running” with the touch of a button. While doing so, you climb on buildings automatically and jump when you reach an edge. In many cases, you’ll need to make daring escapes that resemble nothing less than an interactive version of the opening scene of Disney’s animated film “Aladdin.”

The missions are surprisingly varied and dynamic. At some point, you’ll need to use every one of your tools to overcome the obstacles.

The game resides somewhere between action and puzzle games, requiring both thinking and quick reflexes. Not to mention the head-scratching, code-breaking challenges that give more clues to the larger conspiracies at the heart of the game’s strange pseudo-historical conspiracy plot.

Overall, it is one of the best examples of open-world gaming I’ve yet encountered, combining the mainstream friendly action-adventure gameplay with some surprisingly deep, puzzling and fractal story elements that leave you thinking long after finishing the main tale.

“Assassin’s Creed 2” is for Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC and Mac. Developed and published by Ubisoft, it’s a few years old and prices can vary. Trying to find a bundle with the first game is recommended, mostly for the story elements of the original.

Walla Wallan Noah Hinz is a graphic arts student at the Evergreen State College, working on various art projects and game designs. Email your questions and comments to noahhinz@gmail.com.

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