Assassin’s Creed: Unity – Review

(Courtesy of Ubisoft)

(Courtesy of Ubisoft)

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Windows
Reviewed on PS4

ASSASSIN’S Creed Unity is a victim; a victim of poor executive decisions and the internet’s ability to highlight flaws.
The game itself was released in a state that has been labelled as ‘unfinished,’ marred by unusual 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 I have given Unity the benefit of the doubt and have not touched it until the major patch landed.
With this in mind, I jumped in, full of optimism that Assassin’s creed still has the potential to reach the dizzying heights of Assassin’s Creed Two.
From the off, I have to make this clear, Assassin’s creed Unity is astonishingly pretty.
The lighting effects are vibrant and diverse, subtly changing depending on the particle effects.
I frequently found myself climbing the renaissance architecture only to stop on a statuette and watch the crowded streets of Paris breathing beneath Arno (the protagonist).
The map is by far 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.

I frequently found myself climbing the renaissance architecture only to stop on a statuette and watch the crowded streets of Paris breathing

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 I would label him as.
Gone is the rugged roguishness of Edward Kenway and the dangerous charm of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, instead, you must play as 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 story this time is political corruption, a good choice for the French revolution, but I never felt truly engaged.
A love story is woven in between Arno and Elise, his female Templar counterpart, the conflicts between these two characters introduce players to the deeper political ones.
The narrative is not bad, but there does seem to be too much focus on characters that are difficult to empathise with, this distracts from the larger plot aspects.
When the staple of a quality story fails, the game must turn to its gameplay for the thrills.
This is where Ubisoft confuse me the most, every other instalment or so, they change the combat mechanics so that even series fans must be re-introduced.
They stick with the frame of attack, parry and dodge; yet now 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 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’re 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, there is so much going on at any one time that the (mostly) steady frame rate services the game amicably.

It is like riding a tiger; fast, beautiful and exhilaratingly dangerous.

Unity is a beautiful experience that remembers how there’s a thrill in the chase.
Mid-revolution Paris is a great place to explore and easily the best city map in an Assassin’s Creed to date.
Yet a weak story, dis-likable protagonist and (still) over sensitive controls hold this back from being the powerhouse sand box it is trying to be.

+ Lighting
+ Paris
+ Superb Character Animations
+ Stabby stabby
– Opaque story
– Arno
– Twitchy controls

7.5/10

Try this if you like:
Mirror’s Edge, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, Batman: Arkham City, Previous Assassin’s Creed

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