Bonfire of the Vanities is the second piece of downloadable content for Assassin's Creed II, after the lacklustre Battle of Forli. Let's hope it's a better use of your time.
Bonfire sees Ezio Auditore da Firenze return to Florence in the year 1497, in an attempt to root out support for the mad monk Savonarola by working your way through his nine lieutenants. Specifically, by introducing each of them to your collection of knives.
So, is Bonfire worth dragging your copy of Assassin's Creed II off the shelf again? Or is it a case of once bitten, twice shy?
Dance With The One Who Brought 'Ya: Bonfires contains nine assassination missions (which you can tackle in any order) and a couple of shorter tasks afterwards, meaning not only is there more content than you'll find in Forli, but it's more in line with what the series does best. You're given nine different kills, from rooftop chases to climbing challenges to crowd navigation, providing more scope for strategy and expression and more variety on the gameplay. You may even, as I did, find a couple of them more difficult than those in the main game (the one on the ship was tough).
That New Florence Smell: Finally, somewhere new to explore. Forli stuck to familiar territory, but Bonfires opens up an all- new area of Florence, over the bridge that in the original game you previously couldn't cross. The new area is dominated by a large palace in the centre (pictured, above), where some of the action takes place (although many other missions will require you to travel all across Florence). It's always nice seeing DLC add new areas to explore, even if the area's main attraction, "springboards" that launch you off beams, are poorly implemented.
Out Of Sync: Like Forli, Bonfires feels…out of place. It just feels wrong to drop you back into a story you've already completed, as it breaks the continuity of what had been a linear single-player experience and leaves you struggling to remember key plot points and context. This isn't helped by an absence of supporting plot; you get some instructions at the beginning of the DLC, and a short, cheap cut scene to conclude it, but in between there's nothing but short mission briefings to tell you what's going on.
There are some other niggles — audio issues like repeated sentences by assassination targets will test your patience — but for $4, I can overlook the odd glitch or wonky piece of production, particularly since I've overlooked them in DLC for other games that cost twice as much.
It's a shame this pack wasn't released first, as it would have gone down much better with the game's fans than Forli's misguided attempts at Renaissance combat. Ezio is an assassin, after all, not a brawler, and provided you've made your peace with the way Ubisoft has approached this game's DLC (which is by no means guaranteed), the nine targets on offer in Bonfire Of The Vanities should keep your sneaky feet (and mind) busy for a few hours at least.
Assassin's Creed II: Bonfire of the Vanities was developed and published by Ubisoft for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Released on February 18. A copy of the DLC was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Completed expansion in around 2.5 hours.
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