Platforms
Playstation 4
Assassin’s Creed: Unity Review

In Assassin’s Creed Unity, the guillotine is the least of your worries

Unity_screen_01

Now I’m sure most, if not all of you are aware of the general concept behind Ubisoft’s annual Assassin series. Assassin’s Creed Unity is not really any different. Instead of playing as a person who’s sat using an Animus, you’re playing as a person using the ‘Helix’ system to enjoy action-packed historical games. Yes, that’s right, you’re playing as a person who’s playing a game, how meta. Usually the AC series has you jumping into ancestral genetic makeup and pulling through facts from time; Unity is once again a similar affair, but this time it’s not your genes you’re playing through. Still, the feud between the Assassins – painted as the ‘good guys’ – and the Templars – the series’ take on the ‘bad guys’ – exists and requires you to find certain items and secrets prised as valuable to both factions in the modern world.

Perhaps it’s because Unity still follows the series template, despite trying so hard to break away from it, that the story is really rather lacklustre – especially compared to last year’s fantastic Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. While the city is your oyster from early on, allowing for new protagonist Arno Dorian to take a more free-flowing approach to missions, there are a myriad of problems with this new way of doing things. Decide that you want to just plough through the dull and predictable tale, which has you crossing paths with Napoleon and other figureheads during this tumultuous period of French history, then you’ll discover that you’ll generally be under prepared and should have done some of the rather rote side quests to attain experience and equipment before you move on with the story.

As you can imagine, this adds a lot of bulk to what is generally not a very thick tale. It also doesn’t help that you’ll probably spend a lot of your time trying to navigate through undiscovered streets trying to find a mission marker while extremists chase you down – lord knows why they think it smart to tackle an Assassin. While the roofs may be a smarter way to find your way around, it also exposes one of the biggest foibles with Unity: the new parkour system.

It’s a shame that this is the case, especially as they’ve done a total revamp of the system. While it works reasonably well on the ground, with one button moving you down or under things, and another up or over things, it’s an entirely different beast when climbing or running along rooftops. While the system has been changed to make traversing buildings smoother, it actually feels worse than ever, and the automatic jumping of yore doesn’t feel anywhere near as fluid this time around. In previous AC games I certainly don’t remember pressing jump and seeing my Assassin jump and move in mid-air to lock to the nearest ledge or foothold. Instead I used to see myself fall to the ground and die, or at best manage to grab a ledge after realising my own mistake. It feels clunky and unpolished, and something that certainly needs to be resolved.

Of course, there’s still the age-old problem of Arno not wanting to actually go where you want him to. Want to jump through a window? Nope, clearly Arno fancied climbing the wall next to it or hanging out on the balcony. How about running up a wall and across rooftops to get away from angry soldiers? Nope, instead Arno wants to run into a wall or jump atop some boxes. Some things never change.

One thing that has changed is your out-of-Animus experiences. In fact, they’ve changed so much that you don’t actually ever leave the Animus – or ‘Helix’ – but instead just have your experience interrupted by incredibly annoying hacked communications. It’s during these that you’ll be spoken to by a modern-day Assassin, explaining some mumbo-jumbo story stuff to you before eventually going away. It smashes the fourth-wall, and really does just remind you that you’re doing very little of worth besides playing a game about playing a game. It’s something that happened in past entries, but this time it really throws things off kilter. One minute you’re finally getting hooked on a story thread, the next you’re being told to jump through a time-rift, climbing the Eiffel Tower and shooting a machine gun during a wartime Paris. I wish I was joking about that, but I’m not.

But I can hardly complain about immersion when straight from the off there’s not a single hint of a French accent in the entire game. Heck, I’m not even sure if I saw a baguette and some garlic anywhere either. Of course, I jest with that remark, there’s plenty of baguettes, but it seems peculiar that everyone speaks with the Queen’s English. While the Animus has always explained away why people aren’t speaking in a native tongue, at least Assassin’s Creed II and the other Ezio games gave characters and NPCs Italian accents.

The more I think about it, the more it seems that Ubisoft is obsessed with trying to break immersion for Unity as integrating the mobile app as an essential part of the game continually rips you right out of the experience – and right out of our comfort zone too. The app, which has in-app purchases of it’s own, requires you to spend time working towards unlocking content that you technically already own – you just can’t get to it yet. At times it’s not too far from UPlay integration, but while that rewards you for in-game actions, this seems to keep stuff well away from you until you play by Ubisoft’s rules. But, don’t worry guys! Ubisoft has you covered with in-game purchases and in-game currency to unlock features for those who don’t want to spend time finding things or working towards a sense of achievement. Unfortunately you can’t unlock the companion app secrets, so you’ll need to invest time in spending money in that useful app instead.

It’s not all bad though; no really, it’s not. For one, Unity is visually stunning. Playing the PlayStation 4 build I couldn’t help but enjoy staring at the rooftops and looking up at the highly-detailed buildings and fantastic draw distances. The city of Paris – especially building interiors – is just beautiful. The same can’t quite be said of the citizens mind. They tend to all look rather similar, pop out from the ground, and really do absolutely nothing of use or note at all. They may be the revolutionary force that toppled the French monarchy, but my god they’d be hard pushed to do much in the world Ubisoft has created.

At least multiplayer is enjoyable and works rather well. It’s fun careening around Paris with a friend or three, and it even makes some of the side-quests and missions actually quite enjoyable too. I’m not quite sure if I’d say to a friend “let’s go play Assassin’s Creed” when I could instead suggest the likes of Grand Theft Auto Online or Destiny etc. But if you’re going to play it, you’ll surely have a good time doing so if you invite a friend along for the ride.

It’s also nice to see that some of the side missions have some originality to them. While I did say that most of them are rote and tiresome, that doesn’t mean the ideas behind them aren’t intriguing. For instance, one way to get some of the best weapons in the game is through helping solve murders across the city. These missions hark back to the days of the first Assassin’s Creed and Assassin’s Creed II where you had to spend time stalking your target and finding clues in the environment to make a judgement. They’re fantastic fun at first, but grow tiresome after the first few.

Another great touch is your ability to change Arno’s costume to either different colours or different outfits from previous AC games. You can also upgrade individual aspects of Arno’s attire and thus create your own hero tailored to your ideal play style. It’s clearly a way to help draw in multiplayer play and balanced Assassin’s team, but that’s okay, I’m all up for extensive customisation. It is a little frustrating that some things can only be unlocked through online play, but – just like Ubisoft’s annoying companion app insistence – it’s just a way to ensure you use the features they’ve worked to create.

So, overall Assassin’s Creed: Unity is a visually impressive mixed bag. It’s buggy, boring and broken, but contains so much content, a mostly enjoyable multiplayer experience, and a world that you genuinely want to play in, that it really isn’t a complete pile of tripe. It’s certainly not the Assassin’s Creed title you’ve been waiting for, nor the one you want to play on your still shiny and new consoles. But if there’s one thing to take away from all of this, Ubisoft surely can’t fuck up the series this much again.

TheGamersHub Score
Reviewer: CrazyHookMonster
6.5
10
+ Pros

+ Visually Impressive

+ Fun Multiplayer

+ Some nice ideas

- Cons

- Unpolished

- Full of bugs

- Too much inaccessible content

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