Review: Assassin’s Creed Unity (PS4)

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Title: Assassin’s Creed Unity
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (38.2 GB)
Release Date: November 11, 2014
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Original MSRP: $59.99 / $129.99 (Collector’s Edition)
ESRB Rating: M
Assassin’s Creed Unity is also available on Xbox One and PC.
The PlayStation 4 disc version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was purchased by the reviewer.
PS Nation Review Policy

Ubisoft could have taken the easy way out with this year’s addition to the Assassin’s Creed series by releasing one game across all platforms. It would have been received with much fanfare and sales would have met or exceeded goals as usual. Instead, they allowed the artistic vision of their most talented people to flourish and the result is a beautifully crafted representation of eighteenth century France. Jam packed with enterable buildings, thousands of NPCs, and a litany of missions and collectibles, Assassin’s Creed Unity wouldn’t have been possible on a last-gen console.

Gameplay:
This time around, players strap themselves into the Animus to access the memories of Arno Dorian, a passionate Parisian whose quest to become a master assassin is fueled by revenge. The staple third person parkour navigation of the Assassin’s games has never been quite this rewarding as so many of the buildings, structures, and coliseums of Paris are constructed closely and linked together with ropes, banners, and other navigable connections. It is entirely possible and surprisingly satisfying to complete missions without spending much time on the ground.

Some of the missions that involve assassinating a high-profile target give the player the freedom to approach the kill in a few different ways. Arno will scout the area from atop a nearby perch and highlight any weaknesses in the stronghold. Players can choose to complete the optional objectives that appear on the HUD to create kill opportunities for themselves. Do you help the rowdy group of drunkards in a bar fight nearby and enlist them as a distraction to disguise your assassination? Perhaps it’s a better idea to steal the security plans of your target’s bodyguard so that you know exactly where they’ll be. This mechanic isn’t as fleshed out as its counterparts in Hitman: Absolution or Dishonored but its entry into this series is a welcome addition that can provide some satisfying kills.

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The AI of the enemies and guards has definitely been ramped up and avoiding detection can be frustrating. Gone are the days of simply staying out of the bad guy’s “vision cone” and hiding right under their nose because your indicator claims that you’re “in the dark”. In Unity, the snipers especially will spot you from incredible distances in comparison to other stealth based games. Their range seems to be on par with that of a real person and even sneaking about at a different elevation sometimes isn’t enough.

One thing that has always been subpar in the stellar Assassin’s Creed franchise is the controls. A few nuances have been added into this game to help alleviate the pains of sticky environments and cumbersome weapon wielding. Holding the free run button in conjunction with Circle serves as the input for free run down, allowing Arno to skillfully descend a building or obstacle. It’s a cool idea but, as is the case with many of the inputs, Arno doesn’t always do it when you want him to.

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Because there are so many buildings with accessible interiors and our character has superhuman scaling abilities, it’s only right that we have entrances not only on the ground, but on rooftops and through windows as well. How do we tell the game that we want to enter a window instead of climbing all over its surrounding windowsills and balconies – by pressing L2 of course. It’s a fancy addition to the parkour skill set but again, it doesn’t always work without a meticulously patient player.

The cover system has been patched since this game’s release because it was horrendously useless at launch but as of this writing, it still isn’t the best. This struck me as odd considering that Watch_Dogs, another Ubisoft published and developed game, used a cover mechanic on par with the industry’s best. It would have done Unity some good if Ubisoft had shared this in-house tech amongst itself. Swapping cover is aimless and unintuitive, dresser drawers trump even windowsills in their stickiness level, and you’ll be hard pressed to throw a poison gas bomb anywhere but at your own feet or elbows while peeking from a corner.

The map is so densely packed at the beginning of the game and it’s incredibly overwhelming to look at without filtering for the icons you’re searching for. While the main story missions provide about a fifteen to twenty hour campaign, completing the extras will run well over forty. Murder Mysteries, Nostradamus Enigmas, and Paris Stories will keep you entertained and the latter can provide some intriguing insight into French history.

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Visuals:
Having always been a series that pushes the visual boundaries of the hardware that runs it, I’m happy to report that Assassin’s Creed Unity doesn’t only utilize the new-gen powerhouses for a more fleshed out world. The detail in the character models is incredible as every strap, buckle, and lace of Arno’s loadout is fully represented in-game (see Online/Multiplayer).

The uncanny realism of approaching a sunlit doorway from a dark room is almost unnerving. There were a few parts during which I had to stop playing and just admire the digital craftsmanship. Running along a rooftop with the sun beaming down on me caused real time shadow projections on nearby streets and buildings, moving at perfect pace with Arno.

The different districts of eighteenth century Paris are aptly diverse, ranging from slums to palaces to underground catacombs. Each area is unique in its traversal accessibility and therefore distinct in its look and feel. Staring up at the impossible heights of the byzantine ceilings of the key historic sites adds reason to spend hours in this remarkable world.

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Audio:
I did notice a few quirks in the sound design of Assassin’s Creed Unity. There were a couple of instances where a guard would be shouting at me upon detection and the volume of his voice did not match his distance in relation to Arno. He’d either be too loud from rooftops away or too quiet while standing a step or two away from me. There isn’t anything as noteworthy about this game’s audio as the pirate shanties in its predecessor, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.

Everything about the voice acting however screams Triple-A as the very talented cast brings their respective characters to life through accurate accents, passionate purpose, and believable backgrounds. A highpoint occurs during one of the story missions when an enthralling representation of French opera sung by a choir of what sounds like hundreds echoes through the streets of Paris.

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Online/Multiplayer:
The introduction of co-op missions into the Assassin’s Creed series brings with it a few welcome mechanics popularized by online play: namely upgradable skills, gear, and weapon loadouts. These additions integrate themselves beautifully into the single player campaign with story missions that unlock skill points and co-op play that unlocks even more. Many of the cooperative missions allow up to four players and your character’s rank consists of four statistics: melee, health, stealth, and ranged. Consistently, there are four weapon classes and four unique active skills that can benefit the whole group. Ideally, you can build your brotherhood of four people that you regularly play with and have each of them max out a different stat, utilize a different skill, and have all bases covered for any situation.

There are unfortunately only seven heists and eleven missions with some of them allowing only a maximum of two players. A friend of mine (PSN ID GodOfWar0928) and I were co-op trophy hunting, trying to perform ten sync kills. I suddenly appreciated the magic of it when we each selected our own target on our respective sides of the map and counted down from three to simultaneously, silently murder our prey without raising a hint of suspicion. We did however encounter a bug that I also faced in single player. The map highlighted a target that didn’t exist and there was no way to progress without restarting. With the new co-op mode of Assassin’s Creed Unity, expect the same fantastic gameplay that the series was built on and sprinkle in the ability to enjoy it with another person.

Ubisoft has layered in some extra content that extends beyond the boundaries of the game through Uplay, AC Initiates, and most importantly, the Assassin’s Creed Unity Companion App for smartphones and tablets. Players can be immersed in Arno’s world even when unable to play the game and your mobile brotherhood will help you unlock everything from in-game currency (if you don’t have enough from the microtransactions) to exclusive outfits.

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Conclusion:
Although Assassin’s Creed Unity definitely shows its new-gen freshman flaws (seems to be the theme this holiday season), it offers plenty of promise pertaining to the amazing places the series can go from here. The glitches, bugs, and hiccups I encountered were few and far between and none were game breaking. Ubisoft issued a public apology for the game’s condition at launch and they have since been delivering on the promise of improvements and have definitely enhanced stability while relieving popular grievances.

My thirty plus hours with this title have yielded minor annoyances that pale in comparison to the impeccable visuals, intense gameplay, and incredible amount of content. Everything I love about the series is here in spades, coated in pretty new-gen skin and enjoyable with friends. Assassin’s Creed Unity isn’t the best game the series has to offer but it’s a worthy contender in the third person, open world adventure catalog.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Emrah Rakiposki

Emrah Rakiposki

– Food
– Video games
– Rap music
It has been my life’s work to properly order the list of this world’s greatest pleasures. There is no right answer.

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  • johnnyp70

    I see now what Josh was talking about re: the screen shots-very pretty. Well done!

  • Great stuff. I bought this…still havent played it yet lol your review makes me want to though