Ubisoft had created a love-hate relationship with me when I played ‘Assassin’s Creed Unity’. I have never tried so hard to like a game that was making me so frustrated. The highly anticipated launch of Ubisoft’s latest Assassin’s Creed title won’t be winning any awards, instead, it will most likely make fans think twice before ever jumping back into the Animus at launch.
The real battle in Unity wasn’t the epic saga of Assassins and Templars, it was me and the game itself. For every beautifully rendered, backlit chateau, there was a glitch in the jumping mechanic. For every wonderfully crafted cobblestoned street, there was a heaping pile of flesh that I assume was supposed to be an NPC on the ground; it was a nightmare most of the time.
I think if I played 2 minutes of flawless Assassin’s Creed Unity on a PS4 16 months ago, it would have blown me away. I would have walked out thinking that Ubisoft has the ability to create games that surpass all expectations, but after playing Unity, you see everything that can go wrong.
In no other game has 18th century France looked so wonderful or felt so alive. The setting and crowd mechanics of the game are visually stunning, and I felt that the French Revolution was a perfect backdrop for the game after Assassin’s Creed III took us into Colonial America and Assassin’s Creed IV took us on the high-seas.
Of course the game’s mechanics are also what destroyed the game, like Narcissus, it was the very beauty that I admired that killed me (in the game at least). Running along the dusty rooftops often meant that I would be stuck inside one of them, quickly scaling a building could mean I would climb to the top, jump off like a lunatic at any point, or simply get stuck inside the wall itself. Running through the city wasn’t much easier, I would get stuck on rocks that didn’t exist, chug through people only to start clipping through them, or meet an NPC that was hovering above the ground like a spirit. I was lucky if they even had faces at some points in the game.
In Assassin’s Creed Unity there is one thing that drops more than assassinated Templars, that’s the frame-rate. Depending on what system you are playing-on will alter the outcome, but both systems had significant issues keeping up with the game.
Even if you can overlook the game-resetting, mission-killing bugs that are in the game, the story isn’t much to read on its own. You are dropped into, what will be, one of the single most chaotic times in French history, and instead of a powder keg about to go off, what you are left with is a slow burn that fizzles out.
The writers purposefully wrote much of the story to create a few twists in the game which is reasonable, but it’s a game, and that means the areas that lead-up to the twists and plot devices have to be fun or at least entertaining. Almost all of the character information and run-up to the end of the game involves Arno, our lead protagonist, and what could have been a wildly entertaining character filled with passion and resolve to change the world around him, was instead replaced with Arno the quest seeker and free-style runner. Arno was made to be french-vanilla, except for the end of course, which apparently was the only time any real consideration for the story was made.
Arno is set off to kill two people to avenge his family, but on the way he kills dozens of people he doesn’t know or care about. You won’t care about them either, because you meet them when you kill them. Arno is completely reactionary in this game, it’s like Ubisoft just wanted you to play someone at the French Revolution, not someone that helped define it, create it, dispel it, or alter it. His motives are five minutes ahead of him the whole time, and the game loses any sort of traditional storytelling arc because of it.
Outside of the story you have the traditional assassinations, and this is where the game shines. Ubisoft has mastered the stealth mechanic in a game, creating wonderful tricks and steps leading up to the assassination that allows users to create the perfect assassination attempt, without railroading your actions.
The assassination missions are the perfect balance to chaotic rooftop running and guard chases that are offered in the open-world. Everything slows down (if you prefer the ultimate stealth kill) and the game zeroes in on just you and your mission. Ubisoft has come along way in crafting the stealth missions since the first Assassin’s Creed installment, and this game offers the best yet.
The co-op missions were something new added to this installment and they can be wildly entertaining (even if they go wrong) if you are playing with a great group of friends. They are a little more flat than the story missions and don’t offer the same high-stakes and dramatic effect as playing on your own offers.
If you enjoyed the optional missions found in previous games, then you should be happy to know that this title offers just as many options as other games have in the past. Tracking down objects and completing objects earns you outfits and unlockables and gives you something to do if you want to pad out the game, but it isn’t really connected to the story; just something put in to do.
Everything that could be loved about the game however was dashed with the crashes and bugs. Once fixed, I imagine the game will be one of the most enjoyable option out there to settle your stealth-cravings, but as is, I simply couldn’t recommend it to anyone. It just proves that the prettiest game at the ball isn’t always the most fun.