"Assassin's Creed 2," a new videogame from Ubisoft, hits stores on Tuesday in a hotly anticipated swirl of treachery, swordplay, history, and artistry set in scenic Renaissance Italy.
Analysts expect France-based Ubisoft's second installment in the "Assassin's" franchise to be one of the blockbuster releases this holiday season.
"AC2" builds on the original with more options and missions, said Scott Steinberg, lead video game analyst for DigitalTrends.com.
"Assassin's Creed 2 promises to be one of the most ambitious and atmospheric action-adventures of the holiday season with its slick set pieces," Steinberg told AFP.
"Not only does it offer the proverbial six million ways for targets to die, its unique blend of period-specific swordplay and acrobatics truly allows players to get medieval on their opponents in spectacular fashion."
Players take on the role of nobleman Ezio Auditore Da Firenze, a descendent of the Altair character who starred in the original title.
"Assassin's Creed was the first game to immerse players in a believable and mature experience inspired by historical events," Ubisoft videogame producer Sebastien Puel told AFP.
"AC2" builds on its predecessor's winning elements with more gorgeous cityscapes, animations, and 15th century historical settings.
Players will be able to make deals with thieves, mercenaries, or courtesans to act as decoys or accomplices in stealth assassinations.
"Our main focus is to bring diversity and depth to the game play: more variety in missions and objectives, more weapons, more diverse assassinations and a deep character progression," Puel said.
An animated version of Leonardo Da Vinci is Da Firenze's confidant and close friend in "AC2," providing the assassin with inventions such as a flying machine and a wrist-strapped pistol.
"When we created the Assassin's Creed franchise we knew we wanted to talk about pivotal periods in history and the historical characters that defined these times," Puel said.
"So when you choose the Italian Renaissance, you immediately think of Leonardo Da Vinci and all of his inventions."
The stage is set in "AC2" when the hero's family is betrayed and murdered by ruling families of Italy, compelling Da Firenze to learn the ways of his assassin ancestors to obtain revenge.
"To his allies, he will become a force for change - fighting for freedom and justice," Puel said. "To his enemies, he will become a bogeyman dedicated to the destruction of the tyrants of Italy."
"We really want Assassin's Creed 2 to be unpredictable and have the player wonder after each main assassination 'And now, what's next?'" he said.
Puel and his team began work on the sequel when the original "Assassin's Creed" was released in 2007. The first version sold more than eight million copies.
Ubisoft backed its faith in the convergence of videogames and movies with the creation of "Assassin's Creed: Lineage" short films that tell a story of events setting the stage for the sequel.
"We wanted you to understand where Ezio's hate and quest for revenge come from," Puel said of the Assassin's film trilogy. "We want the player to really hate the bad guys even before they start to play."
The Lineage films from the French videogame titan's Hybride Technologies studio in Canada combine live action and computer generated effects and are viewable at leading video-sharing website YouTube.Reuse content