Gaming

Assassin’s Creed: Unity Review; The Four Musketeers

The first of the current gen (PS4 and XB1) Assassin’s Creed games came out a few months back and unfortunately suffered crippling bugs at launch.  Ubisoft has since apologised in the form of free DLC for those who bought the standard version of the game and a free game from their catalogue (even including The Crew) for those who bought the deluxe season pass edition.  This was decent of them and it also served the double purpose of anyone accepting these offers to not be able to sue Ubisoft for a broken game.

I hate to say it but even after four major patches it is still buggy, although not nearly as bad as when it first came out. I finished recently so I thought it would be good to put a few thoughts down and give it a review now that the majority of the bugs are fixed.

Unity 4

Just look at that detail.

The visuals are amazing.  The motion capture and detail found in this game is nothing short of staggering.  The facial expressions are so close to being real, I was suitably impressed.  The main setting this time is Paris during the French Revolution.  It is a suitably sordid and bloody backdrop and a great setting for an Assassin’s Creed game.  You actually start out as a recent purchaser of the Animus system in your very own living room.   So effectively the animus technology has a closed beta of sorts and you are one of the willing participants to give this incredible new technology a go.

This is quite clever and serves a purpose.  Firstly, the game doesn’t bog itself down with modern day subterfuge while you try and defeat the Templars using your wits and hacking various computers.  Assassin’s Creed: Unity actually finally allows you to spend most of your time in the setting, not spending boring amounts of time in the modern world.  The second good reason for this is it gives you a back story to how you are able to do something never done before in an Assassin’s Creed game: play co-op with three others in various missions.

Co-op is definitely a lot of fun.  The missions are often designed with multiple players in mind and you will find yourself splitting up quite a bit to make sure you meet the objectives before the time limit runs out.  You can’t play any of the single player story missions but there are many co-op and heist missions littered throughout the map.  There is nothing better than a couple of you running into several guards, one throwing down a smoke bomb while the other dispatches the distracted foes with ease.  You both feel like expert assassins when you pull off these coordinated moves together.  If the single player story doesn’t grab you completely, take solace in the fact that the co-op is good fun and I urge you to try the mode out.

Unity 3

Co-op is definitely worth a go. It is a lot of fun.

Speaking of the story, I found this one to be pretty generic and all too familiar.  Compared to Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed 2, the single player storyline is just not that interesting.  I found myself having a distinct sense of Deja vu.  Inexplicably most of the voice over work had English accents.  If there was a plot device that explained this I would probably be a bit more understanding but there seemed to be no explanation why all of the main characters spoke with an English accent instead of French/English, although you could play the game with French voiceover with English subtitles.

A great feature that stands out in AC: Unity is the scale.  There are literally hundreds of AI crowds almost wherever you go, with very impressive draw distances, particularly when you are up high on Notre Dame for example.  It really does look amazing and you can see why both consoles were limited to 900p (1600×900) resolution.  There is just so much being shown, all with their own specific physics attributes, that it is completely understandable why Ubisoft kept it a slightly lower than 1080p resolution.  Unfortunately, even after being patched, there is still the occasional frame rate drop.  This isn’t game breaking and it disappears after a second or two but it can be distracting.

I believe because of all this impressive architecture and scale that another problem seems to be a little bit more annoying and noticeable; getting stuck on the walls.  Like previous Assassin’s Creed games you play a character who in time, is meant to traverse and parkour his way through the environment with ease.  This in theory is great, but unfortunately in AC: Unity it doesn’t quite work.  I found myself getting stuck and some objects, even to the point where I would have to reload.  Other instances might be where you are running and you hit a slight deviation in the elevation of the floor and your character stops and peeks over the edge, as if he is on a tall building.  This doesn’t happen that frequently but when it does it is incredibly jarring.

Unity 5

Arno has some decent moves up his sleeve. The combat is still suitably brutal.

The whole system has changed and overall I actually like this system.  It feels more like a RPG now than ever before.  Each mission has a diamond rating (one to five stars) and it gives you a good indication as to whether you are likely to have trouble in that mission or not.  As you complete missions you unlock more gear and weapons that you can purchase.  This means that the enemies get a lot harder too when you play a five diamond mission.  The combat has changed quite a bit too from the previous Assassin’s Creed games.  It is substantially different because if you run into a group of enemies they will all attack you now, not waiting one at a time like previous games.  This makes it harder to string along counter attacks and combos, but feels more rewarding when you pull it off.  You actually have to employ more assassin type tricks now and I found myself using my smoke bombs a lot more in this game.  It is quite easy to die when the opponent AI is at the higher scale.

Two more new features I did really enjoy were the portal in time missions and solving crimes.  During the main campaign a portal would open up which Arno would have to enter and it basically puts him in another time period.  These missions happen several times during the campaign and they are exhilarating and fantastic.  The level design on these missions is amazing.  One such mission has you visiting occupied Paris during World War 2.  This was definitely a highlight for me.  The other decent new feature is the introduction of solving crimes.  There are side missions available where you have to look at clues, talk to suspects and basically become a Sherlock Holmes of Paris.  I found these side missions to be quite engaging and a lot of fun.

Unity-2

Probably my favourite moment: entering a portal into occupied WW2 Paris.

So would I recommend this first foray into current gen gaming?  I think if you can pick it up on sale or you plan on playing it with a few friends, I can recommend this as a game to play.  If you are looking at playing single player only this isn’t the most engaging story and I think pared back, it has returned to its roots a little as well.  For those of you who didn’t like the ship combat of AC: Black Flag, you will love this.  For those seeking an engaging single player Assassin’s Creed game I would probably wait until it is on sale before purchasing.  I am looking forward to playing more co-op and I haven’t regretted making this purchase because I can see the risk Ubisoft were taking in changing the direction.  I just hope the story of this franchise will be more engaging next time.

Reviewed on Xbox One.

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