Assassin's Creed: Unity was reviewed on Playstation 4
"'Assassin's Creed: Unity' is very close to being a great game."
As Assassin’s Creed: Unity is the first game in the franchise to only be on next generation hardware and PC, fans hoped it would finally leave behind the long standing issues of the series and build on the promising elements that were introduced in last year’s Black Flag. Unfortunately, although it is frequently excellent, some features in Unity seem to have taken a back seat in comparison to the beautiful version of Paris that Ubisoft have created.
Taking place between 1789 and 1794, at the height of the French Revolution, Unity follows Arno Dorian and his involvement in the Parisian brotherhood of assassins. The story itself is a very predictable revenge story that sees Arno attempt to win back his childhood sweetheart Elise by discovering who murdered her father, and seeking retribution. Its by no means bad, but in comparison to the fun, light-hearted adventure in Black Flag, the soulless characters and predictable ending form a disappointing narrative.
Unity’s main strength is its stunning recreation of late 18th century Paris that players are given the freedom to explore. Although it is one of the smallest worlds in the franchise’s history, with Paris being the only significant setting, the level of detail is staggering. A vast tunnel system runs underneath the city but it is inside the buildings where the detail is at its most impressive. Every painting, ornament or piece of furniture has been meticulously re-imagined, creating a really immersive setting. The addition of large crowds also makes Paris feel like a living, breathing city, and from the top of a building the bustling streets can look very impressive. Up close the impression is not quite the same because the character models are repeated a lot and the density of the crowds can make running through the streets frustratingly slow.
Unfortunately, the crowds and the density of the world also shows up Unity’s technical issues. I have never fallen through the map or seen characters with missing faces, as people on the internet have, but frame-rate drops and randomly appearing crowd members are frequent occurrences. None of the problems are game-breaking, they are just frustrating to see and they disconnect the player from the experience. The issues are more noticeable whilst passing through crowds or when a lot is happening on screen. It feels as if Ubisoft have decided to include crowds in the game without considering the impact it’ll have on the game’s performance.
Subtle tweaks have been made to the combat and free-running, both key parts of any Assassin’s Creed game. At the touch of a button, players can now descend from buildings just as quickly as they would reach the top, meaning that dropping down ledge by ledge is not as painfully slow as in previous games. Its a great idea that ensures leaping across roofs is more fluid than ever… when it works. Unity suffers from a problem that has plagued the series since the first game; your character often refuses to do what you ask. Arno will repeatedly get stuck on objects, leap to his death from great heights and sometimes just refuse to move. It can be incredibly frustrating at times and surely the gameplay tweaks should have fixed this well known and long-standing problem. On the combat side, things have certainly improved, as clearer indicators of when to counter and more impressive animations make it easier and more satisfying to defeat the very aggressive enemies.
As Ubisoft promised, the terrible tailing missions that have littered the last few games have almost entirely gone, being replaced by assassination missions where the player chooses how they want to complete the objective. You are shown a number of possible ways of going about the mission and are then given the freedom to choose whichever one suits you best. These missions can be great fun and get quite challenging towards the end of the main story mode; they are an excellent addition to the game. As always, there are tonnes of side missions to complete and artifacts to collect, meaning there is the potential for many hours worth of additional play after the main campaign is finished. Opening all of the 200-plus chests can get tedious, but when exploring Paris is so enjoyable, its still a good way to pass the time.
The newest feature in Unity is the co-op mode where between two and four players join forces to complete missions that are similar to those in the single player. Co-op missions can either be ‘heists’, where players are tasked with infiltrating a heavily guarded area, or ‘story missions’ where the group has to complete an number a tasks in a certain order. The objectives are varied enough to stay fresh and silently killing large groups of enemies with three other assassins is consistently enjoyable. The standard multiplayer mode is almost the same as last year, with very few noticeable additions. Players who have enjoyed this mode in previous games will inevitably spend hours in it again, but those who haven’t should not expect anything new to entice them.
In short, Assassin’s Creed: Unity is very close to being a great game. Paris is stunning, combat has been improved and there is an incredible amount to do but it is let down by technical issues, unreliable controls and a weak story, all frustrating problems that the series has suffered from before.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity is available now for Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC.