Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft popular franchise is back this year to compete in the market for Christmas sales. According to the developers, this year’s offering of Unity has been created from the ground up specifically for the next-gen consoles. Last year when Black Flag was released on the PS4 and Xbox One, the game was pretty much a port of the PS3 version with just a few tweaks to the visuals. While it was good, it kind of lacked the feel of previous titles. So let us without delay go to Paris and take a look at the latest in the series.
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: 11 November 2014 (US) / 14 November 2014 (UK)
PS4 version is being reviewed.
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.
I have always been a fan of the Assassin’s Creed games. So it was nice to see that 2014 was the year that Unity was a next-gen exclusive rather than the same title ported across all formats. I was a bit concerned about how the game turned out after Black Flag, but I am happy to report that the game is quite good. This time around you are accessing the memories of Arno Dorian, who was born in France and to a father that was an assassin. After his dad is killed he is adopted by family that has a strong link to the Templar Order. Arno later finds out that his adoptive father is a Templar Grandmaster. And no storyline would be complete without a love interest who just happens to be Elise, the daughter of his adoptive father.
Like all previous games you are using an Animus to explore the memories of Arno. This is a different take than used before. With the first three Assassin’s Creed games you played as Desmond, a present day assassin who used the machine to access his ancestor’s memory. This system was flipped in Black Flag and you worked from an office with access to the machine. Now in Unity, you as the player get to take control of the Animus and after a while you get approached by the Assassin Order. They need help to figure out problems in the present by going into the past memories of Arno.
You play in the traditional third person view of the franchise. Playing as Arno, you unlock memory sequences by completing the objective set up in the mission. These are your main missions and their difficulty varies as you advance. This means that you get to explore open-world Paris on your adventures and you will be forgiven for just admiring how stunning Ubisoft have made the virtual 18th Century Paris look. Another noticeable thing in the game is that there are a lot more people within the city. There are also bigger crowds of citizens and also the devs have added more realistic AI, so you get the feel that there is an actual atmosphere with the gathering of the masses.
As most will probably agree the control schemes of the earlier Assassin’s Creed games were simple and worked. Over the games they added on a few new features and made some simple things even more complicated. So Ubisoft have gone back to the basics and removed most of the stuff added on since the first game. So no more sailing ships or running though grasslands and forest, everything takes place on land in the city. A nice improvement though is that in freerun, you can press X or O in conjunction with R2 and run upwards or downwards, especially when coming off a top of a house. Combat is also another side that has been altered and now there is a more unpredictability of your opponents attacking you. More tactics and stealth is needed as with no block, outcomes are not certain anymore.
The game difficulty is progressive and this means that your enemies get tougher as you work through the memories. The level of hardness is indicated by a star rating as you unlock each sequence, so make sure Arno gets his upgrades or you will struggle later on in the game. There are also side missions you can do, but these are more a distraction than anything useful to complete. This time there are various co-op opportunities since the competitive multiplayer has been removed. Unfortunately at the time of writing, there was much in the way of online action due to the game not being released, so can’t really offer much insight in this aspect.
I know I touched on it before, but the actually graphics are stunning. Everything looks so sharp and realistic that this could have been what Paris looked like back then. The buildings have lots of details down to the windows and curtains. All open world so it can be explored and every building can be climbed. The people of the city are even realistic, even though are NPC’s and definitely the game shows what the next-gen is capable off.
Assassin’s Creed Unity is a great game and generally plays well. I did encounter some glitches, like getting stuck in the air once after jumping and the framerate did drop at times, but this should be something that can be addressed with a software patch at some point. But it is not as bad as some reports made out and I only observed problems twice. If you are a fan of franchise and the older titles, then this is definitely for you.