STAFF REVIEW of Assassin's Creed: Unity (Xbox One)

Friday, November 14, 2014.
by Brent Roberts

Assassin's Creed: Unity Box art Utilizing some of the world’s biggest events and most dramatic periods in human history has always provided gamers the unique ability to travel through time and cosmos to experience this for themselves. It’s this definitive staging that has been the backbone to every Assassin’s Creed game, and in Assassin’s Creed Unity the stage is set for the French Revolution. Gone are the sun filled skies in the Caribbean and the woods and fields of the American frontier. Now you will find giant churches that tower over a peasant lifestyle mix together with unrest and violent outbreaks of rioting to blanket as far as the eye can see. In Assassin’s Creed Unity, this would be something of a tremendous undertaking to do on your own, this time you have friends, hopefully. Our blades are as sharp as a feather. Our brotherhood as strong as custard. Welcome to Assassin’s Creed Unity. Vive La France should be changed to Vive La What the ****?

From birth, our main character, Arno Dorian feels like a privileged child. Raised in a noble setting with seemingly not a care in the world, Arno admires his father and while the story is another installment in the ongoing battle between the Assassins and the Templars, it is one that smacks of familiarity but albeit with many more pitfalls than you can escape from. While there is a story, the way you experience it is just a beginning tip of an iceberg that sinks a game that offered so much potential. This is the first Assassin’s Creed game that has decided to take the time tested mechanics and not so much disregard all the elements but rather alter them. Before the movement was a bit complex but fairly responsive and what we find in Assassin’s Creed Unity is a control scheme that has become very complex and less responsive than a catatonic patient. I remember trying to descend down a cathedral wall only to find myself using this new parkour climbing system to fall right past a fruit cart, down through the street, only to freefall for an ungodly long time till the game took pity on me and killed my character. It’s a massive setback right from the beginning when the essential essence of what makes an AC game great becomes something it never was because it never worked. But wait, there’s more.

Speaking of long load times, the loading times are longer than the actual French Revolution itself. This means that you will spend more time loading and preparing ACU than playing the actual game. It almost becomes painful when you also take into account that if you want to unlock every chest, you have to sign up and register on an external site AND download a companion app and go through that, oh and did I mention that there’s an achievement for unlocking every chest? There is. So here we have Ubisoft who now is forcing people to their external sites and apps in order to unlock achievements that they already paid for by buying a digital or physical copy. Seem fair? There are tons of other aspects for the life of me I need to talk about something cheerful with this game. Wait, I got it! The graphics! Wait….. No…. Sorry. There are certain aspects of this game that are quite strikingly beautiful. Really I’m talking graphics that are the Top Gun song “Take my breath away” gorgeous.

Sounds good and hopeful but then utterly gut wrenching when you notice the tremendous amount of screen tearing, lagging, stuttering, frame rate crashing that appears quite a bit through the game. I’ve found that as long as the camera isn’t moving and your character isn’t moving, you can witness some amazing graphic displays, but move the camera or the player and its game over. Going over Notre Dame was absolutely stunning. Venturing inside you could really start to grasp the beauty of the grandeur before you, then you traverse the insides and everything goes to hell.

In terms of any plot in Unity, you will find the traditional sequences to be rather mundane and not that important, however once you get to a Templar assassination at the end, those are the moments that stick out as your OMG moment, but sadly they are few and far between. In the past there has been an emotional connection between the protagonist and the gamer, but you don’t really get the same bond in Unity. I have found times where the sole reason I’m even doing anything in this game is because I’m trying to clear out my map. I’ll be honest I miss the days of old Assassin’s Creed games.

The plot found amongst those earlier entries in the series provided much better quality stories than anything you will find in ACU and the sad thing is that Unity is full retail price while the older, yet better games are now a fraction of the cost. You do the math on value for money there. I never really even bothered to care that I was in the French Revolution because the sounds that permeated my ears didn’t do much to put me in Paris at that time in history, nor did it help at all with the voice acting of Unity, and speaking of that... One strong area where this is apparent is the lack of French language in France. Listen I know the whole “Animus translation” angle of the story, but there seemed to be more authentic Italian feel to the dialects in the older games than in Unity. I don’t know if it’s out of shame or what, but last I checked the French are a proud people and have right to be. But I guess when a French company barely puts in any French language, and sticks to English without a French accent for fear of sounding foolish, you get the same attention to detail as you’d expect from all the other debacles of this game. Nothing like German language to make you feel like feudal Japan right? It makes about as much sense to me.

Enough though, of the doom and gloom, because there is one area that Unity actually shines and that would be the co-op missions. This is where you and up to three of your friends will join in a multiplayer session that varies between Paris and various dedicated missions. This is the only multiplayer you will find in Unity, but instead of just running around looking for people to murder, you join forces in an attempt to complete various missions at various difficulties. This premise does offer a lot of enjoyment and in Unity, is the single greatest mode in the game itself. Forget single player, because when you have three friends all communicating, you can really get to witness what a blanket of death really looks like. Setting off decoys to lure enemies into assassinations, tactical timing and efficiency, and lethal precision all encompass what the co-op missions are all about. Is there a downside to this? Sadly there are a few, and for starters there aren’t as many as you would hope for. Second on the list would be that not all of them are for four players. So you and one other person can technically play every co-op list, but only some will grant you the fun of four player assassinations.

While it goes without question that Ubisoft attempts to deliver a quality Assassin’s Creed experience, all the upgrade systems in the world won’t be able to upgrade the disappointment found seeping through almost every aspect of this game. It doesn’t matter what you wear, what weapon you use, how you improve your skills, because ultimately in the end you have a game that tries too hard to breathe new life into a series only to have it flat line. One little note of mention though is that Ubisoft decided to release Assassin’s Creed Rogue separate from Assassin’s Creed Unity. Unity is released on the One while Rogue is released solely on the Xbox 360. Oh and I have to mention that Rogue is supposed to happen before Unity. So just to clear this up, Ubisoft has released a game called Assassin’s Creed Rogue for the Xbox 360 ONLY which is just a single player event story that leads up to Assassin’s Creed Unity which is ONLY found on Xbox One. So essentially Ubisoft is saying if you don’t have both consoles, you’re up a creek without a paddle and won’t get the whole story. Wow, really? Such a shame.

Overall: 7.8 / 10
Gameplay: 6.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.8 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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