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Assassins Creed Unity Review
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Joined: 6th Nov 2014
Rank: Legendary Member
25th Nov 2014
Stunning recreation of French Revolution Paris
Hundreds of hours of content
Control system still isn’t perfect
Still a few bugs to be fixed
Available on PS4, Xbox One and PC
If we can say one thing about Assassin’s Creed Unity, it’s that it is the most beautiful of the series’ entries so far. It’s the first game that has been developed solely for new-gen
consoles and PC and it shows in every pixel. That’s not something that hasn’t been captured in other Assassin’s Creed titles, it’s just something we have come to expect when purchasing an Ubisoft game nowadays.
But Assassin’s Creed Unity takes those aesthetics to a whole new level.
Light bounces off the rivers, carves shadows across the buildings and as it turns to night, you see the Parisian landscape aglow with lamp fire. The buildings themselves are supposedly 1:1 scale and it shows. Walk into the Notre Dame you'll see ceilings arch above you. Climb to the top one of Paris’ many towers or scale the Notre Dame itself and you’ll notice how much detail and passion has gone into building this game and infusing it with life and history.
The streets are packed with more NPCs than we’ve ever seen in a game. They throb in vast numbers in central squares below the Notre Dame or to watch the latest guillotine sessions, meaning you're often pushing through civilians to get to your goal, or using them to blend in and assassinate silently. It’s partly the sheer number of citizens that gives Unity’s Paris its soul. The noise of the crowds’ French voices fill your ears, with the sounds of daily life adding to the soundscape.
But that is undercut by the Cockney or Yorkshire accents of the guards and police respectively. It seems strange that they sound so very British against the French citizens, especially when you hear them call you a “pillock” or asked if you’ve soiled yourself recently.
You will explore Paris and its many delights as Arno Dorian, who is a newly initiated Assassin in the middle of French Revolution Paris. Arno is a strong-headed, cocky individual who has distinct similarities to our favourite assassin, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, from Assassin’s Creed 2 – which is always a good thing.
Unity follows Arno’s life from a young boy to the peak of his Assassin’s career and it's one of the most compelling and strongest that we’ve seen from an Assassin’s Creed game for some time, especially at the beginning. That said, and we won’t ruin it for you whatsoever, you do come away at the end credits a little disappointed – and you’ll see what we mean when you get there.
You won’t see much of Versailles during the main campaign, but it is always there if you wish to visit it. Paris is where you’ll be spending nearly all your time, and a lot of time too. We’ve sunk over 50 hours into the game at this point and it’s hard to see any of the map at a distance for all the markers for available side-missions, collectible, chests, co-op opportunities or other such quests.
It’s the biggest and most densely packed of the Assassin’s Creed worlds, which is in part helped by the fact you can go inside a large number of the buildings. Often chests and missions can only be found tucked away inside the various homes. When climbing using RT, pulling LT will make Arno swing inside windows – often with little success we might add. The fact that the buildings are much more than just shells or building blocks also helps make this the most engaging and realistic Assassin’s Creed yet.
The real focus of Assassin’s Creed Unity is its enhanced sense of freedom. The main storyline missions have been revamped so that you have total control of how you approach missions. Major assassinations now take an open fortress format where Arno perches himself on a nearby lookout point and surveys the area. He’ll mark out distraction opportunities or alternate entrances that you might want to take advantage of, and from there it’s up to you how to handle the mission.
With each mission you’ll be presented with optional objectives too, such as taking out a number of guards from cover or hiding points, performing double air assassinations or sabotaging alarm bells. You’ll need to tick all the boxes if you want to 100 per cent each mission (especially if you’re OCD like us) and if you want to earn the full reward for each one.
Some of these will require specific skills, which are a key part of Assassin’s Creed Unity. In the Player Customisation screen you’ll see a Skills option, where you’ll find a number of skills split into four distinct categories – Melee, Ranged, Stealth and Health.
We found the Stealth skills the most helpful, as it gave us lockpicking abilities for alternate entries into buildings and for unlocking red chests. Plus, you’ll need to unlock certain skills to have abilities that other assassins like Edward Kenway had as standard – environmental blending, double assassinations, double air assassinations and roll recovery for long falls for example.
Skills are unlocked using Sync Points, earned through campaign and co-op missions/heists. Sync Points are just one of the game’s four currencies, which can be quite tricky to work out at first. The main currency is French Livre, which you’ll use to buy weapons, gear and other items. But then you have Sync Points, Creed Points for weapon and gear upgrades and Hack Points. These are the shortcut currency, which can be purchased using microtransactions (sadly) and get you lots of high-level gear a lot quicker. If you unlock all the Social Houses and the Café de la Theatre though, you’ll be raking in the cash in no time, meaning having that microtransaction option really isn’t necessary.
The open-ended missions are a refreshing change for the Assassin’s Creed series. Armed with your customised Arno, you really do have the freedom to carve your own path. This enhanced freedom is also aided by the way Ubisoft has revamped two key areas of gameplay in Unity – combat and free-running.
The control structure has been completely streamlined, making it far easier to traverse Paris at speed. Pulling on the right trigger still puts Arno in free-running mode, but now you climb up or down by pressing one of two buttons. He’ll automatically climb if you’ve got RT pressed, but hold down A (or X on PS4) as well and he’ll jump higher and further with increased skill.
But, the real change comes to climbing down. There’s still bizarrely placed hay bales to swandive into from rooftops, but if you press B (or circle on PS4) with RT then you’ll find Arno descends the buildings at speed, finding handholds and other grip points to quickly get to ground level.
For those familiar with Assassin’s Creed games, this will seem odd at first and take a little while to familiarise yourself with. But, once you have, it’ll feel like second nature and make your Parkour skills – and therefore your stealth abilities too – second to none.
There can still be a few frustrations, though. Although it’s near impossible to accidentally leap to your death, it can be tricky to push Arno from one wall and across a gap to another. Plus, Ubisoft has chosen to add a few animals into the crowds, like dogs and goats, which act as solid, immovable objects that you can’t climb. That means, if you run into one at pace, you stop dead in your tracks and can get stuck entirely.
Also, you can find yourself stranded on a point at times, unable to climb up or down, even by the route you came by. The control system has definitely improved upon previous series instalments, but there’s still a few irks to iron out yet.
Tweaks have been made to the combat system too and for those who have played games like Batman: Arkham Asylum there are definite similarities. You can no longer just spam your defensive move and take out swathes of enemies. The combat is far more challenging in Unity, because you’ll find enemies flank you from all sides. Even if you’ve mastered all the counters and parry moves, you might just find yourself outnumbered and need to use a smoke bomb to make a swift escape.
You’ll need to learn quickly that there are different types of enemies too, which can take you down in one blow if you’re not quick to parry or dodge their heavier blows. That’s where Eagle Vision comes in. It was present in all other Assassin’s Creed games, but in Unity, the technique really comes into its own. In fact, it’s such an invaluable skill that you’ll be hammering Y (or triangle on the PS4) as soon as it’s available
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