Last week, Assassin's Creed II executive producer described the November game to me as a "single-player" adventure. But the revelation of the contents in the game's GameStop special edition suggests there's something curious afoot.
The newly announced Master Assassin's $80 version of the otherwise-$60 game will be exclusive to GameStop and offer Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 owners an 8.5" statue of protagonist Ezio, an art book, a behind-the-scenes DVD and a collectible tin.
More intriguing is that this limited-edition version will offer "two exclusive in-game maps." One is unlockable for anyone who pre-orders the game and is set in the Palazzo de Medici. The other, exclusive to this version, is set in or near the Venetian church, Santa Maria Dei Frari.
The question, which I've shot over to Ubisoft in an e-mail, is: How a single-player game would incorporate exclusive in-game maps?
Any maps I've ever heard of for games are used to support some sort of multiplayer gaming.
Well, cancel any images you have in your head of Assassin's Creed death matches. When I asked Raymond in New York last week if Assassin's Creed II would support multiplayer, I got a pause from her and a quick check with the game's main PR rep before being told that it would be single-player. I questioned their pause and pressed the question. No, it is single-player, they assured me.
So what of these maps?
One possibility is that there will be places in the terrain of the game's campaign that Ezio can explore in his adventure only under the guidance of those gamers who have the extra content. Maybe that will grant players the equivalent of exclusive alleyways that only their Ezio can walk down.
Another possibility is that, like the upcoming Batman: Arkham Asylum, Assassin's Creed II might support non-storyline single-player missions. In the Batman game, each player's performance in the single-player challenge rooms is uploaded to an online leaderboard. That allows competition among players in this ostensibly single-player game.
[UPDATE: Just got this e-mailed statement from the game's Ubisoft PR rep, referencing the big mid-August gaming show in Germany: "AC II is single-player. More details on how the exclusive maps work will be revealed at GamesCom."]