Assassins Creeds Unity

Stunning visuals killed by technical failures.

Paris in 1798.What a time to be alive. The  streets are filthy with mud, blood, and gunpowder smoke. Starving citizens bully perceived enemies to guillotine stands. Guards  grapple with anarchists. Above burn spiked  heads.
Below, French Tricolor flags lie  stamped into the dirt. Assassins Creeds Unity recreates all of this with astonishing  clarity and sets it within the most detailed  city we’ve ever seen in a game. If Unitywas  about absorbing the ambience of a period  of history, we could stamp a big “YES” on it.
The full story is more complicated.

Unityis about exploring the city, jumping,  and stabbing. The professional killer of this  adventure is young rogue Arno Dorian. Born  of wealth, he’s driven into the Assassin order  by tragedy and there uses his skills to seek  revenge and win the affection of cherished  childhood friend Elise.
Naturally, there’s  also a convoluted plot involving the ongoing  feud between the Assassins and the Templars, who are both manipulating the revolution for increasingly confusing reasons. This is complicated only slightly by the  return of the ongoing Assassins Creeds Unity  metaplot. In this game you’re playing a VR  product created by the evil Abstergo Industries, which is searching for the death site of  a figure in Arno’s life. The best thing about  this is that it’s delivered in brief, infrequent  cutscenes and voiceover skits. No longer are  you pulled from your adventures to roleplay  a more boring person. Instead, the present  day plot influences several quick but very  entertaining interludes that leave your assassin faculties intact. We won’t spoil them.

The French connection of Assassins Creeds Unity

Almost the entire game is set in Parisand the return to a single-city setting reflects  Unity’s desire to strip down a series that’s  entertained many tangents. It’ssimplyabout  assassinationsnow. And they’re great.

The act of efficiently dispatching a target has been incidental to the series for  too long, so we’re glad Unitydoes it justice.
Targets are hidden away in castles, prisons, andpalaces that you have to crack like a violent puzzle. Poised like a periodBatman on  some dark rooftop, Arno assesses the area  to pick out gaps in defences. When the mission starts you’re free to approach the target  however you wish.Manipulating the sandboxesis great fun. We’ve whipped up starving crowds into a frenzy, set fire to sniper  towers, and done other terrible things best  left to discovery.
These missions are facilitated by a new  stealth system.
It finally has the crouchwalk the series has always needed, but there’s a clunky cover system we found far  too fiddly.
Plus there’s a new weapon—the  phantom blade.
It’s a wrist-mounted minicrossbow that lets you kill targets at range  or send them berserk to cause a distraction.
The campaign is padded out with numerous set-up missions.
While these are generally fine, you’re still following NPCs along  dramatic rooftops, stealing things from  heavily guarded areas, and saving civvies  from criminals—familiar stuff.
The close focus on everyday assassin  business also puts more pressure on Assassin’s Creed’s core traversal systems,  and it can’t quite handle the artfully crooked  geometry of Paris. There are now separate  commands for freerunning up and down  buildings, which is useful, but movement in  all directions lacks precision. Simply climbing into a window can be a nightmare.
There are dozens of simple manoeuvres  that should be effortless, but aren’t.
Look  out for the assassin’s greatest enemy, the  small box, which Arno sometimes mounts  as though it’s the highest point in the world.
Sure, 80 percent of the time things work  nicely, but for a game so reliant on traversal  it fails too often. Assassins Creeds Unity has always had these problems, but the complex  streets of Paris seem to compound them.
Combat has been refreshed, too, with  good intent but mixed results. In Black Flag  and Assassin’s Creed 3, you were immortal. Not so in Unity. The counter button has  been replaced by a parry command. Time it perfectly and Arno will execute a countering  blow that will put the enemy off balance and  open them up to brutal kill-moves. But Arno  can only suffer a few blows himself before  being run-through, and can quite easily be  shot to death in the middle of a fight.
We liked Arno’s fragility a lot—combat  shouldfeel dangerous—but it shouldn’t feel  quite so out-of-control.

Ubisoft has said the system is inspired by fencing, but it’s  remarkably sluggish.
Our button presses  seem lost, as ifwe’re shouting instructions  from a mile away.
On the plus side there’s  a good variety of weapons. You can choose  to fight with swords; long weapons such as  spears; or big weapons like axes and clubs.
These slot into an overwhelming suite of  customization options that let you choose  Arno’s hood, gloves, trousers, and coat. Different items confer varying bonuses to your  toughness and stealthiness, but these don’t  make much difference until the twilight  stages of the game.
They’re bought with  in-game money you can earn by completing  side missions, whichvary wildly in quality.

 Beauty and The Beast of Assassins Creeds Unity

You can skip all that and buy weapons and  armor with real money via a microtransaction system that’s opportunistic and a bit  depressing. After buying the game,  you’re invited to spend more money to play  less of the game.
Fortunately it’s easy to  ignore this, but the same can’t be said for  the awful in-game chests and items tied  into Unity’s companion app and Initiates webgame. Initiates chests are littered all  over Paris. If you try to open one the game  minimizes itself, opens your browser, and  attempts to connect to the Initiatessite. It’s  intrusive, shatters the fantasy, and holds  back items and features from players who  don’t want to waste time on apps. Horrible.
It’s disappointing because there’s real  beauty to be found in Unity.
Paris is stunning. We rarely gasp, but one came unbidden when we climbed a spire to see a patch  of golden sunlight moving over the Notre  Dame cathedral.
Whether you’re striding  through slums or royal palaces, Unityrealizes urban filth and glittering opulence with  equal devotion. After finishing the game, we felt like we’d visited another place. That makes us dearly want to recommend Unity, but unless you have a seriously  good graphics card, we can’t.
It’s fluid and  gorgeous on our GTX 970, but on midrange  cards like a 670, expect choppy frame rates.
While our experience has been relatively  clean, Unity is rife with widely reported  bugs.
The game also occasionally pauses  for 15 seconds at random points. Plus it’s crashed a few times. Others have reported  disappearing faces, floating NPCs, and  more severe stability problems.
The other huge failure is co-op. The new  mode lets you summon up to three friends  to run around exploring, or to engage in  missions.
We almost had fun in these, but  not one game has passed without a disconnection error, or a wrongly placed objective  marker, or a target not spawning, or numerous other errors. It just doesn’t work.
If Ubisoft gets it patched up, Unity could become a perfectly enjoyable part  of the Assassin’s Creedcanon. It’s a solid  campaign elevated by quality missions  and an extraordinary setting that might  just push the big number at the bottom of  this review to eight or beyond.
But with a  big selling point out of operation, a raft of  technical issues, performance problems,  microtransactions, plus stilted combat and  freerunning systems, Unity—in its current  state—can only be considered a failed  revolution. What a shame.

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