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Review: Assassin's Creed II - The Bonfire of the Vanities (DLC)
by Linford Butler
DLC Information

Basic information
The Bonfire of the Vanities
DLC for Assassin's Creed II
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Released: January/February 2010

PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
If you’re a regular reader (and, by now, I hope you are – we’d feel hurt if you were just using us for a quick fix of games writing now and again) you may remember that just a few weeks ago I reviewed The Battle for Forlì, the first piece of downloadable content for Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed II title. Scoring a very respectable nine on GGTL’s out-of-ten system, it seemed that the sequel to Altair’s adventure in the original game wasn’t going to die without a fight.

When I first learned of the follow-up second piece of DLC for Assassin’s Creed II, The Bonfire of the Vanities, I am willing to admit that I was childishly excited. After Forlì, it seemed that anything which would continue my experience as Ezio was a good thing, and I hastened to apply for a review code of the extension. It was, in my imagination, to be everything that the first DLC was, without the minor niggling flaws; a perfect companion to the game and a quest to keep me at Creed for at least another few evenings.

I was to be gravely disappointed.

Now, I recognise that the above sentence is not likely to fill you with the all-consuming urge to go and splash the cash on this piece of DLC, even if you are an Assassin’s Creed fanatic, as I am. Overall, I may be being a little strict on Ubi when it comes to Bonfire’s flaws; the DLC has got many positive points which will please purchasers. However, the fact is that there are many flaws to Bonfire, and most of them are irritating and repetitive enough to drive you away quite quickly.

Coming to the negative in a moment, however, I’ll take a moment to wash over the positive points which Bonfire does present the salivating Creed fan with. It ties in nicely with the main plot of the story, filling a rather large story hole whilst proving an in-canon continuation of the story in Forlì. The voice acting is as good as ever for the main characters, and graphically the content cannot be faulted, as the graphics are taken over from the original release build of the game. A nice new feature of the DLC are the springboards provided within the is a new area of Florence to enjoy, and slight variation between each repaired memory means that tenuous changes of play style are required, keeping the gamer on their toes and forcing them to adapt to each separate situation.

However, other than those few positive points, there isn’t a huge amount to get excited about in Bonfire. It’s a polished enough piece of DLC, there’s no doubt about that, but in that lies the problem – Ubisoft have polished and released a piece of DLC which not only has major flaws, but also has little bearing on the entire play of the game.

The first, and possibly the most strikingly obvious of these flaws, is the pure repetitiveness of the entire thing. Whilst some gamers might find the sound of ‘nine brand new assassination missions’ exciting, throwing around adjectives such as ‘cool’ or ‘sweet’, I find the idea bone-numbingly boring. The actual DLC, in the same vein as the idea, was boring. Each assassination mission was a dull, repetitive sequence of the same moves and tactics, and none of the assassinations seemed to make any real sense. As the player, I still don’t know why I killed nine people when I could have easily gone straight for Savonarola, the mad monk who Ezio is hunting down). Moreover, the entire sequence was tediously prolix – nine assassination missions, in succession, left me really wondering what the DLC did to add to the game in any way, and why I was spending my Saturday and Sunday bored out of my head, watching cut-scenes of grown men wittering about things not being fair after being stabbed, when they’re still clearly going to die despite the morality of it.

Another addition which failed to impress was the new springboard function. These extremely-fun-sounding launch pads, scattered around Florence, are designed to allow Ezio to launch himself from rooftop to rooftop, whilst a seemingly-unchartable abyss passes beneath him. Upon finding one of these new springboards, I was like a bull in a china shop, crashing over everything just to have a go. After all, springboards are supposed to be fun, aren’t they? Of course they are.

Which is one of the reasons I was so disappointed upon trying one. They are unnecessary, unsightly additions to what was an excellently modelled setting. Even above that though, the springboards are, simply put, useless. They have no impact on the height or distance of Ezio’s leaps of faith from rooftop to rooftop, leaving you often falling to either a death or a few broken limbs as you just couldn’t make the extra few feet needed, despite the help of a springboard.

Lastly, the missions in Bonfire – particularly the mission in which you scale a cathedral in order to assassinate a priest – often require at least some stealth mechanic, which the game just does not possess. Though it is possible to complete the missions after a few tries, it becomes frustrating having to rely on walking everywhere, or having to guess whether you’re in plain view of a guard when hanging off that ledge. Some context-sensitive controls, or at least improved implementation of the contextual camera, would have solved this problem.

Bonfire of the Vanities is far from perfect. Though filling a plot gap which hardcore fans will be happy to have filled in, the gameplay is repetitive and the few aspects which actually add to the fabric of the game are superfluous and aid enjoyment of the game and the DLC in almost no way whatsoever. It is a shame that Bonfire has failed quite miserably in comparison to Forlì which, though with some minor flaws, was overall a very good addition to an excellent game.

Though The Bonfire of the Vanities will provide you with another much-welcomed opportunity to visit the streets and alleyways of Renaissance Italy, unless you’re a die-hard fan or you have an unhealthy lust for assassination missions, it’ll be an ultimately disappointing experience. If you only have the funds left to buy one of the Assassin’s Creed II packs, I implore you to choose Forlì: though Bonfire is much longer, Forlì is the better gaming experience, and you’ll have far more fun.



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- Linford Butler

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