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Assassin's Creed: Unity Review

Assassin's Creed: Unity Review
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I didn't believe Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag to be the return to form for the series as some thought it to be. Its naval warfare quickly grew wearisome and the less said about the interminable tail and eavesdrop missions, the better. As far as new-gen Assassin's Creed is concerned, I'd decided to pin my hopes on Assassin's Creed Unity instead, but it's not quite the game I hoped it would be.

Unity starts promisingly enough, with an opening that points to the return of the cloak and dagger intrigue of previous Assassin's Creed games, yet all too soon it settles in to a story that's not only severely lacking, but also fails to push the series on in any meaningful kind of way. Narratively, it seems entirely disposable.


Sun's out, guns out.

You assume the role of Arno Dorian – 'pisspot' to his friends – a brash and privileged adolescent who finds himself inducted into the assassin's order when it transpires that he can read wriggly lines only visible to those with the gift and stuff. As a bit of an arrogant twat, it's hard to like Arno, but then it's even harder to like the bickering authoritarian figures of the assassin's order, who make being an assassin feel more like being a naughty child. 'Everything is permitted' has seemingly been crossed out of their assassin guidebook.

There's the flicker of a love story between Arno and his childhood girlfriend Elise, but this aspect of the story never really goes anywhere, which is largely true of the rest of the narrative itself. You simply go from big baddie to big baddie, assassinating them as you see fit, before facing Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars at the end. There's a clear thread running throughout the game's generous running time, but I found it hard to care about what was going on.

Unity's glut of side quests are far more enjoyable, with Murder Mysteries offering a modicum of logical thinking to reach a solution and Rifts transporting you to alternate versions of Paris in a bid to collect data and free entrapped assassins, just because your present day hackers told you so (the only time the game touches on present day happenings). You're able to renovate the Cafe Theatre too, where your base of operations is housed, on top of the assassin's underground lair no less, and like any AC game worth its salt, there are roughly 580 million trillion collectibles to track down.

Content-wise, there's no faulting Assassin's Creed Unity. There's bloody loads of it, but it's of inconsistent quality. But at least the game plays well, right? To an extent it does, with traversal now allowing for controlled descents as well as the usual impossibly nimble climbing shenanigans. Combat is now far tougher, with Arno only able to take on so many enemies at once. He'll fall under duress very quickly, being run through or shot to pieces in a pinch. It's brutal, in a good way. However, Paris is so confined and tight in places that it's all too easy to get stuck when you're trying to escape an insurmountable situation. Being shot in the back while you flee only exacerbates the feeling of desperation, making you feel less of an assassin and more a bumbling idiot.


Crowd surfing! Wooo!

What's more, I encountered a whole litany of glitches. I fell through the world no less than three times, had the game crash on me twice and saw comical sights that included a man gliding across the floor, a woman walking through the air, two people holding a conversation suspended inches off the ground, an enemy soldier flying off into the sky and a raving protester appearing as an unwelcome guest in a cut-scene. While some of these glitches are funny, falling through the floor in the middle of a perfect run during a mission is not.

It's also worth noting just how intrusive the game's online features can be, with the game asking you to log in to an Initiates account to access certain bonus content, or to unlock additional weapons and clothing through Uplay, or via the game's companion app. After the umpteenth time, it starts to feel a bit ludicrous. For a while, I was unable to access my map because I had an annoying Initiates notification on the screen that refused to go away. It's another overt example of Ubisoft needing to pare things like this right back.

Unity is certainly an ambitious game. That much is clear in the hundreds, nay thousands, of NPCs milling around on-screen at once, the massive and intricately detailed world, and Ubisoft's concerted effort to inject some depth into the series through customisation and what not. You can purchase and upgrade a whole slew of Arno's weapons and apparel, and as you perform various assassin-y acts, you'll also earn Creed Points that advance your rank. This is a nice positive stride in the right direction for AC.

As you level up and acquire better equipment, you'll be better suited to more difficult missions, as denoted by each objective's diamond rating. Things you've taken for granted in previous Assassin's Creed games are now additional skills you'll have to unlock using skill points, so double assassinations, increased health, lockpicking, expertise with long or heavy weapons and even doing a little recovery roll when you land needs to be earned as you progress.

Your bespoke Arno will go with you into Unity's much-vaunted co-op mode, which consists of straight-up missions and heists for up to four players. Join up with your team, and you can roam Paris together before jumping into some co-op action, and it works rather well, even if the frame rate can stutter somewhat when things get too busy. Like any good co-op mode, communication is the key to success, as you tackle various objectives and lay into swathes of enemies on the streets.

Co-op isn't massively open-ended, comprising primarily of taking on tasks as they're spoon-fed to you, but hats off to Ubisoft for making assassination missions massively open-ended, enabling you to strategise your own point of entry and approach. More of this kind of thing would have been enormously welcome. As welcome as an inventive achievement list.

The achievement list is as dull as dishwater, consisting almost exclusively of accumulating a certain number of things or actions. Completing a Murder Mystery and a Nostradamus Riddle is something you'll want to do anyway, while the usual story-based achievements are fine, but it's the slog of gathering collectibles and grinding out the numbers that makes this a boring list.


Ooh, purdy.

I really, really wanted to like Assassin's Creed Unity. The French Revolution setting is brilliantly evocative and drenched in rich detail, but it's marred by an incredibly shoddy execution that's riddled with glitches and bugs. It's especially galling, because Unity feels like it's a hair's breadth away from greatness, displaying moments of genuine brilliance. However, with a protagonist who's a bit of a dick, a story that struggles to be compelling and no real advancement in terms of the series' core gameplay, Assassin's Creed Unity is a bit of a non-starter.

Assassin's Creed Unity is for all intents and purposes, more of the same, albeit without the stinking eavesdrop nonsense. The smattering of RPG-lite elements are a nice touch and co-op is good, clean fun, but it's high time that Ubisoft either went back to basics or just bulldozed the franchise and start over. Until then, Assassin's Creed Unity is just about worth a punt, despite its numerous shortcomings. Pisspot.

 

Unity's soundtrack is excellent and the sounds of the baying lower classes gives Revolution-era Paris its sense of place and time. Looping lines of dialogue during missions are crap, but otherwise the voice work, despite being comprised of regional British accents for some reason, is solid.

Frequently jaw-dropping, Assassin's Creed Unity looks stunning when it's not bugging out and hurling silly glitches at you. Character models are generally good, but some NPCs look flat and generic. Quantity trumps quality here.

It could have been so much better were it not for some shonky game mechanics and irritating combat. And guess what?! Unity's many bugs will no doubt spoil the party for you at some point too. Eagle Vision has cooldown now though, making it less open to exploitation, which is nice.

Unity is a vast, vast, unbelievably vast game, even if it is mostly grey slate rooftops, drab palace exteriors and muddy cobbled streets. You'll find activities by the boatload, as well as far too many collectibles to find, if you're so inclined. And if you can face some pretty long loading screens.

Collect all of the things, complete all of the things, do all of the things, and you'll get all of the achievements. Boring.

Assassin's Creed Unity makes me sad. Boasting moments of excellence, it falls way short of being the new-gen Assassin's Creed game that I wanted. Regrettably, it's no French Revolution. It's still fun, but screw it. Off with its head!

 
 
 
Game Info
Developer:
Ubisoft Paris
Publisher:
Ubisoft
Genre:

Release:

US November 11, 2014
Europe November 13, 2014

Price: $59.99USD
Collection:1545
Wishlist:103
 
 
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