Ezio ora ha una barba impressionante! Quello vale quattro dollari, sì?!
Last we saw Ezio in The Battle of Forli, things weren't going so well for him, both physically and materially, but they start getting better in the first few minutes of The Bonfire of Vanities. In the second set of repaired memories brought to us by Ubisoft, Niccolò Machiavelli helps Ezio against Savonarola, a benedictine monk turned ruler of Florence. In his rise to power, he has convinced several influential figures in town to join his cause, turning Florence into a hellish scene, with various books thrown into the fire in the hopes of returning the city into a state of purity.
[image1]As far as gameplay scenarios go, The Bonfire of Vanities feels much more in place with the main story in Assassin's Creed 2 than The Battle of Forli did. Similar to a few parts in the main game, you'll first have to target nine specific citizens in Florence before being able to focus on Savanarola. These missions range from a simple chase segment to a more complex stealth infiltration on a boat, with flexible options of approach and execution.
Some of your victims are simply bewildered at how easily they were turned by the evil monk, while others are simply giving in to their hidden nature. It's refreshing to get to see more of Ezio's interactions with his fallen victims, even if in the end, he does kill them all. The story in this memory block sets the conclusion of Assassin's Creed 2 well, doing a good job of bridging the gap left by the mysterious file corruption... (sorry, I still can't swallow that excuse).
The Bonfire of Vanities does introduce a minor gameplay feature that is more of a gimmick than anything else. Ezio can now use springboards located in select corners of roofs which help him propel forward to connecting buildings. This addition is nothing revolutionary, and you'll only find one once or twice, like something you wouldn't have noticed if it wasn't included.
[image2]There are two versions of this content pack out at the moment. The cheaper one costing 320 Microsoft Points $4) gets you the core Bonfire of Vanities content, while the more expensive pack at 560 Microsoft Points ($7) also includes three Templar lair locations in the three main cities of the game. This content was otherwise unavailable to those who bought the standard version of Assassin's Creed 2 and was only included in two of the various collector's editions of the game, so get them now through this DLC if you desire them. These lairs act as isolated missions, similar to the assassin crypts you can explore during the main game, and add a little bit more gameplay. One, for instance, gives you the chance to get more backstory on the Medici family a few years before the events in the DLC.
However, this content pack falls prey to the same problem as the Battle of Forli does - its content belonged in the original game in the first place. I simply cannot accept having to play Assassin's Creed 2 by itself, just to experience one hell of a gap between segments right near its conclusion. Even if Bonfire of Vanities has more missions than Battle of Forli, this downloadable content strategy by Ubisoft is exactly the way extra content should not be treated by developer.
If you want (nay, need) to know what happens right before the end of Ezio's journey and don't mind paying for it, Bonfire of Vanities is worth playing through, if not only for the fun, varied missions and the story. Keep in mind, though, this is no expansion pack.
[Note: This DLC can be played in two ways, just like the previous pack, The Battle of Forli. If you have already completed all of the story levels in Assassin's Creed 2, you can find it in the game's main menu after buying and downloading it, but if you are still playing through the game and have not reached memory block 13, the game will automatically load the DLC as part of Assassin's Creed 2's story. I've played through the latter of the options, and in my opinion, it's the best way to play this.]