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Assassin's Creed: Unity
Assassin's Creed: Unity

PC | PlayStation 4 | Xbox One
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Ubisoft Official Site:
Publisher: Ubisoft Classification: MA15+
Release Date:
13th November 2014
Assassin's Creed: Unity Review
Review By @ 09:07am 12/11/14
A franchise as rich in heritage as Assassin’s Creed, one that divides fans with the length of an intro or the flamboyancy - or sombreness - of a lead character, obviously requires a set of staples addressed with any new release. The elephant is in the room, if you will.

Above all intro and character nuance concerns is the way an Assassin’s Creed character moves through the expansive and detailed environments. I had next to no problems and no complaints with on-foot (or all fours) movement in AC III and Black Flag. In hindsight, this could have been due to a significantly reduced number of buildings throughout the environments, bar the city scenarios of AC III. Unity, set in an extremely crowded Paris circa French revolution, is a different beast and somewhat a return to setting form.

Before I compare the common complaints of old, it’s important to start with what’s been added and look at what this changes. Right trigger movement has some additions which bring more dimension and increased speed and manoeuvrability significantly. Quick slide over and under the likes of tables and low openings at ground level keeps the flow of escape on-track and helps you access alternative routes to objectives. Scaling buildings and rooftops is made easier with a more precise quick climb mechanic and an option for extended jumps to bridge the gap on rooftops -- not only much more helpful getting across a map but also pretty impressive visually.

Continuing the swiftness in traversing rooftops, a slide movement on downward sloping roofs is easily triggered and now getting to ground from ledges and balconies is made much more accessible with a new quick descent capability. This gets our character back to lower ledges and ground level smoothly and eliminates any frustration or damage as experienced often in previous releases. An issue I did came across when navigating an area was directional precision when running and jumping across rooftops, although this issue was corrected using a better left stick right stick ratio over time. Overall it’s a much more streamlined and intuitive skillset, making for near seamless transition in these environments.

Interiors now offer more transition options at ground level or through windows a few storeys up and are a much larger component within the environment. They are freely accessed for exploration, quick escapes and housing all-important collectibles. This expanded element of the city creates a greater sense of immersion within it and, while technically indoors, gives much more room and freedom in the often chaotic Paris setting.

One major problem I came across over and over, however, was when I was left hanging with seemingly no way to move. More than just a few random times I was stuck clinging to a structure with enemies firing and unable to do anything resulting in frustrating deaths. That classic AC gripe of the character sticking to a structure came up more than I could simply shrug off and was quite the opposite to what has been achieved with all the new mechanics. Eventually I became overly cautious and avoided attempting this option in gameplay.

Stealth and evasion have been modified in turn and deliver more fluidity as well. Last line of sight leaves an outline of our character to show players where they were last spotted by enemies (similar to the system in Splinter Cell). It’s great for luring enemies to an area but also helpful when anonymity is called for. Stealth navigating crouches your character to enable sneaking behind cover to remain undetectable. To coincide with this a cover action functions smoothly going into and out of low and corner cover for snap evasion and area surveillance.

While I didn’t mind the drawn out intro of AC III (except that it could have had more playable elements and not been limited in interactions and movement), I did think Black Flag swung the other way without needing to. It was essentially linear anyway and didn’t actually open up many options, so it seemed reactionary to the complaint of AC III. Still, they were both enjoyable in their own right. This time, however, a great balance has been struck. Enough exposition (combined with tutorial components for newcomers) and information on the new capabilities develop as the narrative kicks off and unfolds, all cohesively.

As always with Assassin’s Creed, the narrative is rich and thick; an interwoven web of fiction within the historically factual, combining struggles and complications of our character with plot twists and turns along the way. No need for me to give anything away here but you’ll know from previous games that this is rarely a dull point. As always there is the story at the Animus which looks to offer its own unique spin this time round though.

Synchronisation Points and loot chests return as faithfuls but the chests come with some variations. There are the normally accessible ones, some that require lock picking skills and others that can only be accessed in co-op missions, adding some diversity to the process where in the past it became a bit of a grind.

A much larger emphasis has been put on assassin abilities, coinciding with the more precisely tweaked levelling in the game. In the past it’s been possible to get through a story with limited peripheral upgrades, except ship battles in Black Flag. Levelling is now more closely linked to the storyline with areas and enemies showing respective diamond levels requiring your own character to be levelled accordingly. Completing a variation of missions, buying and upgrading skills and purchasing better equipment along the way all contribute to climbing the assassin rank with Legend at level 31 the epitome. These abilities impact weapon skills, disguise, lock picking, combat and much more -- all of course crucial elements to mission success.

An extra edge can be given with the boosts available in the categories of melee, health and stealth. All offer increased powers in their categories for either three or five minutes, depending on the level purchased.

Appearance customisation has been broken down into separate apparel categories linking back to the abilities and level of an assassin but also offering an RPG element. While Legacy outfits are available and custom colours can be applied, you appearance can be altered -- and upgraded -- in the areas of hoods, chest (coats), forearms (gloves), waist (belts) and legs (boots). Weapons and equipment are also easily purchased (once unlocked where applicable), and upgraded to further a character level.

All these things are unlocked, purchased and upgraded with the Francs, Synch Points, Creed Points and Helix Credits collected along the way. Ample quantities of these currencies and points are attained in due course in the ways you’d expect and I never felt held back by it at all. It’s really unfortunate then to see the presence of microtransactions offered to fast track the game. “Time Saver Packs” can be purchased to instantly reveal mission locations and collectibles and Helix Credit Packs and bundles are offered which in turn can be used to upgrade character customisation items with so called “Hacks Upgrades”. While customisation items still need unlocking, revealing the mission locations and collectibles will significantly fast track those wanting to use that route. I’m not sure why anyone would though. As someone who’s never used microtransactions, the ideas of them being available to fast track the rich exploration and discovery process available in this game really seems out of place.

Combat systems appear to have taken a backseat to the new movement additions this time round though. While levelling does force consideration when deciding to engage enemies at certain levels, that seemed to be the only barrier. Besides that combat was predictable but due to levelling, victory was not always an achievable outcome. More power at higher levels won out even when timed parrys and dodging were incorporated.

Multiplayer has been stood aside to make room for co-op and heist missions which offer between two and four player objective experiences. Each offers unique rewards, some of which vary within a mission depending on the precision of its execution. Not only that but some items on the map, apparel and weapons are only accessible this way. The brief time I got in two player co-op was a lot of fun and I can see the huge potential here for team execution and synchronised plays. It is sure to be expanded upon.

There is so much in this game it’s almost hard to detail everything, including some smaller things I haven’t even touched on here. Expanded mission choice, more cohesive movement options, a wide variety of customisation options all set in an immersive world combine to promote the exploration every player possibility. And not to say it’s without its faults, as noted with some minor, yet impactful, movement snags and a dated combat system. Visually it sometimes seemed as though there were textures in lower resolution, more so in cut-scenes, and I also experienced significant load time a lot which broke the immersion element. The overall experience delivered significantly outweighs any of the negatives mentioned though.

What we liked
  • Additional movement control options
  • Co-op missions
  • Stealth systems
  • Large, open world with seamless interiors
What we didn't like
  • Sticky spots still leave the character hanging
  • Long load times
  • Rudimentary combat
  • Microtransactions
We gave it:
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