Assassin's Creed Unity Review

By Marc Hollinshead, 2 years ago
Multiplayer. While some gamers love playing against or with other players, others absolutely loathe the very thought of even meeting people online. The Assassin's Creed series began the multiplayer trend quite early on and it caused many to worry. It's had a rocky road throughout the years but has seemed to have planted itself firmly into the franchise to the point that it is almost an integral aspect to each game. This year's new-gen release, Assassin's Creed Unity has now come along to throw a virtual spanner in the works. The multiplayer aspect of the series has now been scrapped and co-op has taken its place. Whereas the multiplayer of past games acted as a separate part of the experience, co-op in Unity works a little differently. With this new feature now in place, does Assassin's Creed Unity feel like a bigger, better game or is it just another title in the series that will be forgotten in a year's time?

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The Assassin's Creed series has given us a wide range of protagonists that have varied in personality and nationality. Unity presents us with an assassin who is definitely worthy of donning the hood and hidden blade, Arno Dorian, a young French man in the heart of Paris on the eve of the French Revolution. He is initially presented to us as a youthful spirit who is surprisingly comical. As the story progresses, he becomes a more serious character, but he is still likable nonetheless. While starting off a little slow, the story does present times when an eyebrow will be raised or an eye widened in interest.

Unity trades in the ships and tropical woodlands of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag for the gargantuan and sprawling city of Paris, full of people on every street corner. Ubisoft uses the locale and citizens to Arno's advantage, allowing him to weave in and out of the massive crowds of people to accomplish missions. Viewpoints are also back and are as joyous as ever to climb and unlock. Only there can you truly see how gorgeous the city looks on a larger scale. Everything looks crisp and clear, and the cutscenes even more so. Simply watching story moments is a delight because of the attention to detail on each of the characters. As the first Assassin's Creed game to come exclusively to new-gen consoles, it does a good job with visuals.

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Traversing the environment has evolved tremendously in the jump to Xbox One; free-running is extremely fluid and doesn't feel nearly as slow as it used to be, so there's almost no frustration when meandering around buildings. What was sorely missing in past games was the ability to climb down as easily as up, but in Unity, that is now a reality as a simple push of a button will cause Arno to find the safest route down instead of an awkward death jump. Occasionally, there is still that annoying moment when you miss a jump and tumble to the ground or run up a wall and find no handholds, but apart from these small nuisances Paris is a very inviting playground.

Paris (a city in the throws of a revolution) also features a ton of stuff to do in Unity. After the reigns have been removed and the city is yours to explore at your leisure, you will gain access to a variety of activities, with some needing a little more story progression to unlock. While some are familiar to fans of the series, others offer a lot more diversity and are more worthy of trying.

New missions will unlock as you renovate different buildings throughout the city (like social clubs), as well as completing miniature missions for citizens around the map called Paris Stories. The Cafe Theatre is the most notable building as it acts as a source of income for Arno and is basically his place of rest. What was perplexing, though, was how Arno became the owner of the place by simply strolling in. Regardless of this narrative contrivance, you'll be coming here regularly to check out your accomplishments, grab any income you've made from the renovations, train your skills or just have a cup of coffee and watch the many performances.

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While most of the activities are fun to try out, it's the brand new additions that are the most memorable. Murder Mysteries go against the conventional gameplay of the series so you'll be needing to use your wits a little more than usual. The series' signature Eagle Vision will help you find clues in crime locations and with them, you will be able to piece together what happened and eventually accuse the suspect of your choosing. If you end up accusing the wrong person, though, your reward will decrease. While different, these new missions are certainly a welcome addition to the series' formula.

Other side missions include solving riddles in the form of Nostradamus Enigmas and wandering in the streets helping civilians who are being intimidated by criminals. These crowd events will come up often and it's up to you if you want to participate in them. You're never forced into action, but I usually found myself doing them as they barely take longer than a few seconds to a minute to complete.

Eventually you will come across Rift Missions which tie Unity into the present day. You are guided through by a young woman and there is something about you being hunted by Abstergo as you experience Arno's memories, but there isn't all that much reason to care. In these small missions, your traversal skills will be tested as you have to gather bits of data worth varying amounts of points to then free a fellow assassin who is stuck in the simulation system before you're gobbled up as well. It ends up being a rather contrived plot point as to why these rifts exist, but they are surprisingly fun with the added incentive of bettering your score. Completing story segments help to unlock more of these missions which are distinctly different from the rest of the game. I won't spoil it, but let's just say the Statue of Liberty and Eiffel Tower are involved in a couple of them.

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To complete everything that Unity offers, you will need to be well equipped. Arno is the first assassin in the series who is fully customisable and everything from the weapon he holds to the hood on his head can be changed. Each piece of equipment has stats tied to melee, stealth, ranged and health levels but to be high in one stat, you may have to sacrifice another. Leveling up Arno will be required to successfully take on missions with a higher difficulty, so sticking with the same gear from the beginning won't get you very far. You're encouraged to constantly switch it up depending on your play style. As you progress through missions, you'll unlock many skills which encourage experimentation. Thankfully, all of the upgrade and skill menus are simple to navigate through, but gear can only be changed when you are on ground level and anonymous, which is more of a hindrance than anything else.

As mentioned at the outset, Unity is the first Assassin's Creed title to feature co-operative play, but this feature isn't available immediately. Once it is, though, you will find co-op missions and heists scattered around the map and can either choose to play privately with friends, or begin a search for random players. It's handy that matchmaking is available and the game will search for other players as you go about your business in single player, so there is no interruption whatsoever.

Before playing Unity, Ubisoft indicated that co-op would be a huge aspect of the game. However, it actually doesn't feel integral to the whole experience. Co-op missions are littered throughout the area and once launched, you are required to fulfill a number of objectives with your fellow assassins until the mission is complete and you are placed back in your own game. These missions consist of stealing, killing and defending tasks but they aren't anything particularly special. There are also heists, which involve stealthier approaches in an attempt to steal something. Remaining silent the entire way through these missions nets the maximum reward. Obviously, this aspect of the game is much better with a friend as good communication makes the experience more enjoyable. Creating clubs is also an option if you prefer to stay with a dedicated team but isn't necessary if you just want to dip in and out of co-op occasionally.

What surprised me throughout my time in Unity was how much I found myself not caring about co-op. The missions are always there to access and you can play each one as many times as you wish, but the game plays perfectly fine as a single player title. Considering how much emphasis was given to this part of the game in advertising, it just doesn't feel as major as it was meant to be. It's never forced upon you to play with others and when you do, it's fun, if only for a short time. If you want the optimum experience in co-op, get some friends together.

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There have been reports flying around the web that Unity is riddled with glitches, however I did not come across too many faults with the game. There were two incidents where the game froze mid-mission and Arno clung onto the air thinking it was a building, both of which required to restart the game. One issue that did irk me is Unity's incredibly long loading times. Starting up the game can take an excruciatingly long time and loading a particular mission took so long it caused me to wonder if the game froze completely. Apart from these hiccups, the rest of the game performed just fine.

One area that may split opinion is how the notoriety system seems to have disappeared. Once you have finished your killing spree and escape the guards (which is actually a lot easier than past titles), you can walk right past them shortly afterwards without them caring in the slightest. Whilst very odd, it lessens the frustration as you can explore the world without much interruption.

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The achievements of Unity are not nearly as daunting with the multiplayer mode now absent from the franchise. While part of the list can be done fairly quickly, you'll still have your work cut out for you to complete everything. The achievement list encourages players to try out the majority of the game and the co-op missions will need some attention. Collectibles also return and you will have a big search on your hands to grab a couple of achievements. With the improved free-running, though, it can actually be rather entertaining to race through the streets and across buildings to grab each one.

Summary

When we look at Assassin's Creed Unity as a whole, it's a favourable addition to the series. The new assassin is worthy of the title, the world is huge and filled with life, the game itself looks great and the free-running is better than ever. However, the co-op is more of a "take it or leave it" element. It's fun, no doubt about it, but it just doesn't feel as important as it should have been. You won't be missing out on a great deal if you decide to roam Paris alone but if you have a friend to tag along with, you'll find plenty of enjoyment. For the first title of the series exclusive to new-gen consoles, Unity is a satisfying game and any Assassin's Creed fan should feel right at home with it.
4 / 5
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Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent approximately twenty hours running over rooftops, teaming up with fellow assassins and stabbing many, many unfortunate people while managing to gain twenty seven of the game's fifty achievements. An Xbox One copy of the game was provided courtesy of the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Marc Hollinshead
Written by Marc Hollinshead
To summarize Marc in two words, it would be "Christian Gamer." You will usually find him getting stuck into story heavy action-adventure games, RPG's and the odd quirky title when he isn't raving about Dark Souls and Mass Effect. Outside the world of gaming, Marc attends and helps out in his church on a regular basis and has a not-so thrilling job in a supermarket.