Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Windows
ASSASSIN’S Creed Unity is a victim; a victim of poor executive decisions and the internet’s ability to highlight flaws.
The game was released in a state that has been labelled as ‘unfinished,’ marred by visual glitches and steep drops in frame rate.
It seemed unfair to judge a game that people have worked so hard on before it is fully realised, so here Unity has been given the benefit of the doubt and reviewed after the major patch.
From the off, it must be made clear, Assassin’s Creed Unity is astonishingly pretty.
The lighting effects are vibrant and diverse, subtly changing depending on the particle effects.
The player will frequently find themselves climbing the renaissance architecture only to stop on a statuette and watch the crowded streets of Paris breathing beneath them.
The map is Unity’s greatest strength, the sheer full frontal deluge of detail is a reminder of what Ubisoft is capable of.
This is much needed as the polish is fading from the other elements that once made Assassin’s Creed shine.
The over arching story that once generated intrigue has faded into fourth-wall-breaking nonsense.
As always there is the narrative dichotomy of the time period’s story against the modern day ‘Abstergo’ story.
Where one fails, the other has the potential to fill the gaps in quality, usually with prize characters.
This year’s heart throb Assassin is Arno, a name that is only two letters different from what he can be labelled as.
Gone is the rugged roguishness of Edward Kenway and the dangerous charm of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, instead the protagonist is a spoiled rich brat who decides 20 years after his father’s death to jump around stabbing people because he met an Assassin in prison and drank a mug of drugs at a Frat party; that happens.
The focus of the narrative is political corruption, a good choice for the French revolution, but it fails to fully engage with the player.
A love story is woven in between Arno and Elise, his female Templar counterpart, the conflicts between the sweethearts introduce players to the deeper political ones.
Yet the chemistry between these two characters acts as more of a distraction from the larger plot aspects, simply because they are difficult to empathise with.
When the staple of a quality story fails, the game must turn to its gameplay for the thrills.
This is where Ubisoft confuse the most, they often change the combat mechanics so that even series fans must be re-introduced.
They stick with the frame of attack, parry and dodge; yet the camera awkwardly avoids giving the scope needed to see an incoming attack, this problem has reared its head before yet it is at its worst in the back alleys of Paris.
The simplified whistle/combat system in Black Flag was arguably TOO simplified and made it an easier game, but it worked and that is surely a higher priority than complexity.
Aside from the combat, there is the signature free running mechanics.
These have always been slightly too sensitive, leading the multiple Assassins to frequently cling to the wrong ledge in a random direction and then ignore the one they are being told to reach for.
The system has been somewhat improved with new smooth animations and Arno being a more compliant assassin, but it is still not perfect.
That said, when it does work it is like riding a tiger: fast, beautiful and exhilaratingly dangerous.
The resolution is set at 900ppi which is more than enough to capture the crisp visuals.
It is slightly disappointing that the game runs at 30fps but far from a deal breaker.
Unity is a beautiful experience that remembers how there is a thrill in the chase.
Mid-revolution Paris is a great place to explore and easily the best Assassin’s Creed map.
Yet a weak story, dislikeable protagonist and (still) over sensitive controls hold this back from being the powerhouse sand box it is trying to be.
+ Superb Character Animations
+ Lots of unlocks
- Opaque story
- Twitchy controls
See full story in the County Times