Sunday, 1 February 2015

Assassin's Creed Unity - Review (PS4)

I had it all sorted this Christmas. I asked for Dragon Age: Inquisition for Christmas,  knowing that it would be the perfect time for me to throw myself into a 50 hour game. So imagine my surprise a month later that I am still only 4 hours into it. The reason for this may shock you and I feel like I should be ashamed of it. I am playing Assassin's Creed Unity and I like it.


It was a surprise gift from my wife this year and knowing the amount of issues the game had and fixes to boot, I slapped the disc straight in the PS4 to start the 6GB patch download going. Unity's issues have been well documented and many.  It turned into a PR disaster for Ubisoft., which ended with them cancelling the season pass, gifting the Dead Kings DLC to everyone who bought the game. I myself knew that Unity might have issues when it was not at EGX in a playable form.



Although, I have had an experience with Assassin's Creed Unity that few have had. I have come into this game after the patches and do you know what it's not a bad game. At times its one of best Next Generation games I have played. Unity takes place during the French revolution with the player taking the role of Arno Dorian, (otherwise known as French Ezio) a man with the usual blend of roguish charm and penchant for bloody revenge. Arno, as a boy (playable of course) witnesses his father's murder and is taken in by François de la Serre and his daughter Elise. From here on in its back to the storyline of previous no games,  so expect a tragedy which leads to the reverse that he is an Assassin, training montage and the inevitable  confrontation with your Father's murderer. Its very reminiscent of Ezio's first outing in Assassin's Creed II.

The similarities to Assassin's Creed II do not end there. After the vast open world of Black Flag,  Unity sees a return to the series city based roots. The majority of the game takes place in Paris,  with occasional jaunts to Versailles. This move may seem a backward step for the series, but for me it is a welcome return. With Black Flag, I quickly felt overwhelmed by the amount of things to do, see and collect over its massive collection of islands. Focusing on a city means that I feel that nothing is to far from my grasp, whether that is collectibles (of a high there are many) or side quests, I can see myself doing the collectible trophies in this, which I haven't done since ACII.

Paris looks amazing,  the detail on the buildings and rooftops is incredible and some of Paris more famous land marks are rendered perfectly in game.  I know this sounds very geeky,  but I have never seen roof tiles this good in a video game ever. Along with the overall increase in fidelity of the city,  the population levels have been turned up to 11. All of the  streets are bustling with life and chatter.  In more open areas of the city hundreds of NPC's gather to protest, shout and fight the authorities.  You really get to feel like you are in the middle of a revolution. Climbing to a roof top and looking down at these plazas,  truly shows the scope of the game. Paris us cast and broken into districts, each district does have its own feel to it.  You immediately know when you go from the affluent districts into the slums.


Of course this kind of scope brings it's own issues. NPC's are not as well detailed as the rest of the world and occasionally glitch into objects or walls. I have seen one deep in conversation with someone who is stuck inside a wooden pillar.  There are frame-rate dips, although throughout my play-through I never experienced them to a degree that ruined game-play severely. The other issue is not so much an issue with Assassin's Creed Unity, but with all Ubisoft games of 2014, there is too much to do. The map is full of thousand of icons depicting collectibles, side quests, story missions, fast travel points and co-op missions. Its too much! Thankfully there is a good map filtering system built in to strip away icons.

Ubisoft gave also tried add and improve parts of the overall Assassin's Creed experience.  The most significant of these is the changes  made to the free running mechanics. Assassin's Creed is well known for not having very precise parlour,  you never know which way your character is going to go. To try and give the player more control,  they gave changed the  intro scheme to allow you to choose whether you are going up or down. Its a simple button change,  but it does work in principle.  Running towards the end of the roof and holding the free run up button,  launches Arno into the air stretching forward for a hand hold on the opposite building.  Hold the free run down button instead and Arno grabs the edge and starts the shop down the side of the building until he reaches the  ground.  Also the range of animations on Arno have increased and the range of parkour moves and assassination moves are fantastic.

Unity now has new types of missions in the form of murder mysteries. These involve using your Eagle Vision to find clues around the scene of a murder, then using the clues to accuse the correct suspect. Its not LA Noire or Sherlock Holmes, but its a nice diversion from the norm. The real world missions have gone and I personally are pleased they have. I always felt the they ruined the immersion of the game. Instead they have included Helix Rifts, little side quest that take place in a different period of Parisian history. These are set in medieval times, Post revolution Paris and World War II. They are a good idea and well presented here as a mini game to rescue trapped agents.

There are improvements to the levelling system with you now able to purchase skills and equipment that actually has benefit to your overall abilities. Normally, the customisation of your character was almost purely cosmetic. Now in Unity, the clothes truly maketh the man. Equipping different hoods, chest, bracers and boots changes your stealth, melee and ranged attributes. It works well in game and also allows you to create your own look, which means that you don't all look the same in co-op.


The big selling point of Unity is its co-operative nature.  Thankfully thus isn't nearly as intrusive as it could of been.  Co-op is split into two types, missions or heists. I have had the chance to play co-op several times with a few mates and when it works it's great fun.  Its just that it doesn't work very often.  Starting co-op immediately sees the world take a nosedive. On my first ever session within 20 seconds I saw a guy stuck in the floor from the waist up. Other issues include not being able to fight or getting stuck in mid-air. It can be annoying, but with that said when these mission work, it really is spectacular. With you and up to 3 friends dashing across rooftops, jumping through open windows to quickly take down guards before teaming up to plan how to execute your target. It really is fantastic stuff and hopefully this level of co-op can be improved upon in later versions.



The only other issue I had with Unity was the Ubisoft micro-transaction model. It is just completely unnecessary. There are chests all over the game world that can only be unlocked by using the Assassin's Creed Unity Companion app on IOS or Android. The only problem was that the chests never unlocked properly in game rendering the whole experience pointless. Also, the inclusion of paid packs to unlock Helix points seems antiquated when other publishers have experimented and failed with similar schemes.

Assassin's Creed Unity has had a rough ride and many people have had a bad experience with this game from launch. I am thankful that I was able to experience a version of the game after all the problems and backlash. I can see that the team have really tried to take the series in new direction for Next Generation consoles and where they may not of nailed it here, the future of Assassin's Creed is certainly full of hope. Here's hoping Victorian England will be the next stop.

Verdict:



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