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    Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Review

    I am going to get this out of the way: if you haven’t heard all about the bugs in Assassin’s Creed: Unity yet, you’re probably living under a rock. The Internet has, in gaming circles, been aflame with complaints and criticism aimed at Ubisoft for releasing a game that is plagued by numerous glitches and serious errors. Perhaps the vehement vitriol comes from a different place, though releasing a title in a buggy state is not like Ubisoft at all.

    But the truth is that these bugs can be almost ruinous from time to time. Spending time painstakingly sneaking past guards and stealthing towards a goal can be wasted when the game decides to have you fall through the world or get hung up inside a wall. And they can crop up without warning, making for a potentially extremely frustrating experience.

    Bugs and glitches, however, can be fixed, and it is perhaps prudent to take a look at how Unity works, when it does work (based on the fact that Ubisoft are feverishly working on solving every problem in one of their biggest releases this year).

    Unity presents that player with a massive playground. Revolutionary Paris is massive, and it comes with personality. Several, in fact traversing the city will show the nature of the different areas beautifully, from gilded palaces to back street slums. The transitions between the areas aren’t jarring, either, creating a believable urban flow. Moving through the city has its ups and downs, quite literally. The player’s character (and the new AC lead) Arno is adept at movement, thanks to a new
    traversal system that Ubisoft have worked into Unity. The player can select either up or downward movement (which makes getting down from high places without a leap of faith a much simpler, safer prospect) but this also means that the player will have to get used to some new control ideas. In addition, sticking to the rooftops as much as possible is often the best bet for speedy travel,
    because the Paris of Unity is really crowded. There are more NPCs on the ground than you could shake a stick at. It creates a beautifully vibrant setting, but they can get in the way during a mad dash. And the old movement problem of the character hooking up on the wrong thing or climbing when you don’t want him too is back… well, actually, it never left. This can lead to frustration, particularly when precision movement is required.

    This playground is rich with activities, providing the player a ton of stuff to get up to besides the main story plot. And that’s a good thing, because the main plot is a little lacklustre. It’s a revenge tale, by and large, and it seems much less grand and sweeping than the tale told by the likes of Assassin’s Creed 2. Arno, as well, feels flat when compared to characters like Ezio or Black Flag’s Edward
    Kenway (although he beats AC3’s Connor hands down). He isn't particularly likeable, and the player’s investment in him becomes a matter of time spent upgrading the character, rather than giving a damn about his motivations.

    Yes, that’s right, Unity has an upgrading system, complete with unlockable skills and tons of upgradable equipment. New equipment is bought with cash, which is earned in various ways, while upgrades are bought with experience earned for doing Assassin type stuff, like disappearing from sight, aerial assassinations and using inventive traversal methods. While it is unlikely that you’ll get hold of every piece of equipment, finding the right bits for your play style and upgrading them
    shouldn't prove too taxing.

    And that’s a sweet aspect of Unity. It lets the player play to their strengths. While the game occasionally shoe horns the player into a particular play style generally a stealthy one it does open up the main assassination missions which complete every memory sequence rather nicely. That’s been a niggle for a while, but Unity addresses it well. The player can, for example, decide on a stealthy approach, based on options available in each particular mission, or can decide on a riskier full frontal assault. Or anything in between, really. It is this freedom in main missions that is one of the better aspects of Unity.

    Combined with a rich setting and side quests that range from Parisian urban legends through toi murder investigations, there really is a lot to get on with. Added to all of this is a set of co-op missions that are great fun to play, and require a good level of player co-operation to get right (because if just one party member dies, the mission is a failure). There are also co-op heists which can pad the character’s bank account nicely, but they too require players working closely together.

    Visually, the game is breath-taking. While initially it doesn't look quite nextgen, closer inspection reveals that the game’s visual style is what’s behind it’s softer look, rather than poor coding or system incapability. It features massive views of the setting when synchronising, and the detail that goes in on ground level is so fine that you can almost smell the stench of the city.

    The controls offer a new take on things too, with the player being less able to rely on the counter kill system that cropped up in AC3. That said, a well timed counter can see Arno dispatch an enemy rather swiftly, as long as the player keeps their timing good and maintains their wits. It’s pretty easy to get overwhelmed in Unity much more so than the previous two titles. But after a few upgrades and equipment purchases, Arno becomes a real bad ass.

    Assassin’s Creed: Unity might easily have been the best Assassin’s Creed game to date. It has all the elements that are required: a massive, intriguing setting, tons to do, great traversal systems, free assassination mission, character upgrading and a well reworked control scheme. But it also has a
    less-than-stellar plot, an uninspiring main character, the same movement issues and, of course, a truckload of bugs and glitches. This last problem can (and undoubtedly will) be fixed by Ubisoft before too long. But some of the other issues are becoming solidified in the series, and the developers need to address them before They become too damaging to the franchise.

    Still, when it works, Assassin’s Creed: Unity is a very enjoyable game to mess about with, and it will keep more forgiving players going for a good long time particularly if they take advantage of the new multiplayer ideas. But you will need to be prepared for a lot of sizeable patches in the near future as Ubisoft try to undo the damage that has already been done by all the bad press the game has been getting. Knowing them, the next Assassin’s Creed title will be a massive improvement. Let’s just hope that the franchise hasn't been marred too deeply, and that this unusual faux pas on Ubisoft’s part remains the exception rather than the rule.


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