Assassin’s Creed: Unity is the latest game in the now 7 year old franchise and brings you to Paris during the French Revolution. You play as Arno, a suave and cocky young French man whose father is tragically killed by an unknown villain. As Arno grows up, he realizes who his father was and begins to find out who is really behind the French Revolution. It’s a pretty simple plot that pans into a rather lackluster story that fails to get really exciting in any way, shape or form.
It’s not helped by Ubisoft’s relentless desire to shoehorn in the Animus/Abstergo nonsense which, as usual, jarringly breaks up the action and plot progression, killing the sense of immersion that you could be having as Arno running around during the French Revolution. It’s entirely unnecessary and is the franchise’s continued hindrance.
Paris itself, on the other hand, is pretty gorgeous to look at. The attention to detail is fascinatingly obsessive, right down to the finite things like cobbles and loose bricks. Of course, a lot of the city looks copy and pasted in places, as is usual in game development, but you’ll only really notice if you actively go out and search for the similarities. There’s a lot of Paris to explore too, with the map being fairly large for an Assassin’s Creed title, and will take about an hour or so to go round all the sync points. Also added in is the Catacombs of Paris. These act as you’d expect and are underground tunnels that’ll help you escape in times of need. Sadly they’re not as expansive as they could be, but it’s nice to see Ubisoft trying to add new layers of depth.
Speaking of which, Paris is as densely populated as you’d expect, with you having to shove yourself through crowds of people practically all the time. It’s a step forward from the usually dead towns and cities of the previous games and really makes Paris feel like it’s actually alive and bustling. It also gives a feeling that there’s actually a revolution going on, with riots and protests all over the city, which would make the experience incredibly immersive, if it wasn’t for those “real-life” Animus sections. The drawback to having so many people is the dreadful level of pop in and pop out, with NPCs appearing out of nowhere as you run down the street, only for some of them to disappear moments later. It’s a frustrating flaw that keeps appearing in “next-gen” games and hasn’t really been acceptable since the 360, PS3 and Wii generation of consoles.
“But what about the meat of the experience? The parkour and combat?” Well, the parkour has been rebuilt for this title and you can feel the improvements straight away. The parkour system now has a “free-run up” and “free-run down” option, which allows you to control the direction you wish to scale the building. It takes a little bit of readjustment from previous titles but is fairly easy to pick up and makes the experience feel a lot more fluid compared to past titles, even if it is a little clumsy at times.
The combat has also been given a shake up and feels more fluid as well. It’s also a bit more logical now too, which makes the combat a bit easier to understand and therefore execute. I found that I died a lot less in Unity while in combat than in Black Flag or AC3 although enemy gunshots in this game are a lot more lethal than they were before when you first start out.
Both of these things are hindered by the often clumsy stealth mechanics that fail to work properly most of the time or work too well, stumping the apparently idiotic AI. There’s nothing worse than stopping in a crowd of people, for the guard to just stare at you, bemused, and then walk away. While it’s sometimes helpful to get away, it’s often infuriating and leaves you feeling disappointed with the end result of your chase. On the flip side, you may be in a crowd of people and the guards decide they can actually see you, so you leg it to the next crowd of people to hide. Just as you get away and blend in, another pair of guards decide that they can see you too. It’s a frustratingly long cycle at times and can lead to seemingly never-ending chases.
The main missions are, generally speaking, quite fun overall, with many of the missions allowing the player to finally come up with inventive ways to accomplish the same task. It’s a big step in the right direction, considering the linear attitude Assassin’s Creed games often throw at the player in missions while teasing a potential scope. It makes missions more enjoyable, especially in co-op mode where you and 3 others can set up the most ludicrous way into a building to kill off one baddie.
Away from the main missions and chases in the city, there’s a load of the usual things to do. Side-missions are, as hit and miss as they always are, with some being great fun and others being long-winded and boring. There’s also plenty of collectibles to find too, which is great, except for most of the chests. As well as the normal “find and open” chests, there’s also now chest that requires either the companion app, you being online or the seemingly never correct lockpick ability. The lockpick ability is the only really understandable one there, and even then, you just never seem to have the right level of lockpick ability to open any of the chests when you find them. It makes early (or even mid) game treasure hunting a frustrating experience. The companion app chests are a bit pointless because most people (myself included) really can’t be bothered with downloading yet another pointless app that doesn’t really enhance the experience that much. The cherry on the cake is the online-only chests. While most gamers won’t notice, it’s an unnecessary obstacle that hinders everyone who can’t/don’t play with the internet always on.
The real issue Unity has though, is its terrible framerate issues. Want to play on PC? Don’t bother. It’s yet another poorly optimized port from Ubisoft Montreal. You’ll need a pretty expensive rig to run it and with our rig, we only managed to get between 20-30fps on Ultra settings. Bringing it down a peg or two and we achieved about 40-50fps but never quite reaching 60fps. The framerate isn’t great on the PS4 version either and doesn’t seem like it’s able to hold 30fps as well as it should. The Xbox One version seems to be the best of the three in terms of framerates, although there are noticeable dips.
What Unity does well, it does really well. The parkour and combat are fantastic and feels like Ubisoft finally hit the nail on the head in those elements. The graphical detail and liveliness of Paris is superb too and helps with immersing you in the experience, which is helped by the fact that the co-op is fun as well. The problems, however, are too big to ignore and pull the game down from being something that could’ve been potentially awesome, to something that’s just good. And it’s a shame Unity is “just good” because Ubisoft nearly came so close to getting it just right. This could’ve been the definitive Assassin’s Creed game, but falls short of the mark, yet again.
– Parkour is so Fluid
– The Combat is Improved from Previous Titles
– Attention to Detail (When the Game Can Process it)
– Poor Framerate
– Stealth is Rubbish
– Pointless Animus Sections Ruin the Immersion
Rating: Pegi 18
Genre: Action, Adventure
Official Website: https://www.ubisoft.com/en-us/game/assassins-creed-unity