Video game review: Assassin's Creed: Unity, by Ubisoft
Assassin's Creed: Unity
I adored last year's Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. The game wasn't so much part of the franchise as an amazing open-world pirate adventure released under its banner. Building on the series' free-running historical gameplay, it gave players broad access to the wide Caribbean seas, transforming an often limited experience into Grand Theft Auto with scallywags and scoundrels.
Unity, the fifth release in the franchise and the first made exclusively for the next-gen consoles PS4 and Xbox One, feels like a slight step back. It's a massive game without a doubt and, for the most part, takes full advantage by flaunting the power of current-gen gaming. Gamers again take on a somewhat underdeveloped assassin character, as he charts his way through the Brotherhood, this time thrown into the fray of Paris during the French revolution.
The 18th-century French capital is a treat to explore, with every palace, church and household recreated in painstaking, almost obsessive detail. And within its streets, the city teems with life: the impressive crowd system can be awe-inspiring and overwhelming.
But for all its surface-level additions, the gameplay feels a little staid. Much of it follows the tried-and-tested path of parkour running and standard assassinations, although there are some worthy additions. The "organic" elements so hotly hyped by the developers are just mid-mission options for a greater sense of choice - but they do take away the endless frustration of having to complete things to a T.
More useful is the RPG-like customisation, the chance to "level up" your preferred skills being a welcome addition for a series increasingly putting the focus on in-game abilities. There's also a new co-op mode replacing the multiplayer, and while it's an interesting option for exclusive missions, it's not wholly developed yet and at this point, nothing more than a buddy system.
Ultimately, Unity feels as if it has sacrificed the ambitious scope of previous entries for added scale.
Thankfully, Ubisoft has hedged its bets: released simultaneously with Unity is Assassin's Creed: Rogue, a semi-sequel to Black Flag. It's only available only on last-generation consoles PS3 and Xbox 360, and reviews say it suffers because of it. But generally positive gameplay feedback means it'll probably be bumped up to next-gen sometime in 2015. The countdown starts now.