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Assassin's Creed Unity Review

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Overall Rating:       9.0






Ubisoft Montreal

Number Of Players:




Release Date:

November 11, 2014

Update: Please read the retraction editorial in addition to this review.

They say you have to hook your reader in the first few lines. Okay, here goes: Assassin’s Creed Unity could’ve been the best video game we’ve seen in years. It strives ever so hard to elevate open-world games to another level. Most impressively, it includes every conceivable item – necessary and optional – for the noble trek up a metaphorical Mount Everest. The adventurers thought of everything; they packed all the right gear, considered all the eventualities, and above all else, exhibited that singular drive and motivation required to reach the summit.

But it’s like these brave adventurers tackled the quest without first checking the equipment.

All this being said, consider the following: We revere explorers and adventurers who made the ultimate sacrifice to further the reaches of mankind. Sure, video game developers can’t really be compared to the great explorers in human history. But the analogy, at its most basic level, remains. Shouldn’t we applaud those who try to pave the way for the future? Let’s face it, the new Assassin’s Creed doesn’t run very well. There are serious frame rate dips, collision detection issues, clipping, and the occasional comical moment (like a stuttering civilian on a rooftop). When things slow down, we grimace. When it affects the gameplay – and it can – we’re annoyed.

However, it wouldn’t do the game justice to end the graphical analysis on that note. This fictional recreation of Paris during the French Revolution is the most ambitious, historically authentic virtual environment I’ve ever seen. There aren’t just dozens of people in the streets; there are hundreds. There aren’t just a few decorative details on the buildings, there are countless details. Don’t just run around and over something like Notre Dame; slow down to look at it. Far too many critics aren’t stopping to smell the roses. When you do, you’re just blown away by the sheer scope and attention to detail. We haven’t seen anything like this before, plain and simple.

The audio is perhaps the biggest highlight, as the ambient sounds of Paris are just intoxicating. There are so many different voices and so many varying city sounds; it helps turn the landscape into a rich, fulfilling environment. The voice performances are perhaps the best we’ve heard to date in the series, and that’s saying something. Arno is particularly strong and convincing and even minor characters offer professional acting. The soundtrack is beautiful, as the carefully selected music enhances and even entrances. Battle effects are crisp and resounding and they often tie in well with the surrounding commotion of the streets. Play it with a decent headset, that’s all I have to say.

Yes, it overreaches. Even the new consoles can’t really contain this mammoth vision. That’s why the game chugs; the hardware simply can’t keep up all the time. And that was a mistake; a critical mistake that kept the game from scoring a 10. Oh, the building blocks are here for a 10. Trust me on that. Unity goes above and beyond any previous entry in the franchise and in fact, outstrips any other open-world adventure game – including Grand Theft Auto V – in terms of depth, variety, and ambitious intention. Some gamers might remember when Ubisoft laid the groundwork for the franchise with the original entry. Know what’s enlightening? Compare that to this.

Sometimes, I honestly believe we’re too spoiled to even appreciate such an incredible effort. We’re too wrapped up in specs and technical performance to let the atmosphere wash over us, filling us with a palpable sense of wondrous immersion. If you never stop free-running and fighting; if you’re just blazing across rooftops and forcing your way through crowds, you’re not getting it. You’re missing the game’s true appeal. Just stand for a moment and look up at the buildings. Watch the civilians and soldiers and listen to their conversations. Look, listen, feel. That’s what the designers wanted you to do from time to time. Maybe it’s folly to ask the technically inclined to have some artistic sensibility, I don’t know.

The game introduces you to the new protagonist, Arno, and you first steal an apple as a boy. Saying that this is the tip of the iceberg is the understatement of the century. You don’t really grasp the full gamut of upgrades and expansive nature of the gameplay until you’ve become an assassin. This doesn’t take very long and I recommend that everyone get there as soon as possible. That’s when the entire game opens up and leaves you breathless. You can equip your entire person; head, chest, waist, and legs. There are dozens of pieces of equipment right out of the gate and each can be upgraded. There are short, long, and heavy weapons, along with pistols and rifles.

Everything has an impact on your statistics; what you choose to equip will affect your health and stealth, for instance. Some pieces of equipment will lessen the amount of noise you make, while others will boost your resistance. There’s a lockpicking skill now, which is not only necessary for locked treasure chests, but also for unlocking doors that might make certain missions easier. Speaking of skills, there are plenty of great abilities that can be unlocked and learned, and each gives you more alternatives in the field. As for missions, there has never been a wider assortment. We’ve got separate “Paris Stories” that offer various rewards, puzzle-based quests, and even murder investigations.

On top of it all, there’s the social and multiplayer aspects. You can embark on co-op missions with a friend, and you can renovate Social Clubs within the game to expand your friend network. Some chests in the game can’t be opened unless you complete some Nomad missions in the companion app. Everywhere you look, everywhere you go, there’s something to do. The days of simply climbing a viewpoint, doing a bunch of assassin and pickpocket missions, and moving on to plot-advancing stuff are gone. There’s so much more to do from a gameplay and character customization standpoint.

Basic control is similar to previous AC entries but now, you press X to ascend and jumping mostly happens automatically when free running. This change makes the character much stickier; it’s a lot harder to accidentally launch yourself into the abyss and die. It’s also easier to drop from great heights; hitting Circle allows Arno to descend most buildings very quickly. He moves realistically and with purpose, although there are times when you’ll want him to climb or enter a window, and he won’t do anything. The more you play, though, the more you’ll begin to understand the intricacies of this newly streamlined mechanic. Combat has also been much improved.

Before, fighting was basically just a counter-fest. Wait for an enemy to enter an attack animation, hit the counter button, and that’s it. You could string attacks together after a kill but that’s about it. Now, the Parry has replaced the Counter, and while very similar, it feels more realistic. You also can’t sit there holding a block button, fending off twenty guys. You have to keep parrying and dodging, or you’re toast. And at the start, you’re quite vulnerable; a few solid strikes and you’ll probably drop dead. The more you play, the more you unlock and learn, and therefore, the more powerful and agile Arno becomes. It’s the role-playing concept within an open-world structure and it’s what I’ve always wanted.

Unfortunately, the AI still needs help. It’s a lot better than it has been but it still fails the next-gen intelligence test. Some foes won’t see you when you’re right on top of them, while others will get confused and wander off. The camera isn’t perfect, either, and in fact, it can be more problematic with so much going on. With such an immense presentation of NPCs and buildings, I think the default camera view needed to be a bit farther back. Then there are the minor control issues, which may seem more significant to those who aren’t familiar with the franchise. All of this contributes to that lack of stability I mentioned before.

There are a few lingering problems and of course, one must consider the technical failings. There’s no avoiding these issues. However, it’s critical to remember that just about everything has been improved upon. The scope, depth, customization and variety is at the forefront, leading the charge, but all aspects of control, combat and general interaction have been upgraded as well. This is a gargantuan, epic undertaking that simply overstepped the bounds of the system’s technical capability. They didn’t try to do too much; they tried to make a legendary, memorable product. It’s like the video game representation of the Icarus story, but without the same disastrous outcome.

Assassin’s Creed Unity tries. It has a huge heart. It wants to give us something that drops our jaws and brings tears to our eyes. The storyline has some great twists and with fantastic acting, this is the best plot yet in the series (no spoilers here, though). The characters are interesting and intriguing and the setting is absolutely astounding. The expansive upgrades are obvious and hugely appreciated. Everything one could possibly want in a video game is here. But sadly, the lack of execution bogs things down, sometimes to the point of absurdity and irritation. It’s really sad. What it could’ve been will haunt me for a long time…

Still, I have it within me to appreciate what it is. And that’s that.

The Good: Unparalleled, expansive virtual world. Beautiful music and captivating effects. Improved, streamlined control and combat. Story and characters are good, if not amazing. Hugely diverse and always intriguing. Co-op missions are great fun. A gripping, immersive atmosphere that is currently unmatched.

The Bad: A technical disappointment (frame rate is the biggest culprit). AI still isn’t all that bright. Lingering control and camera issues.

The Ugly: “Oh, what it could’ve been…”

11/13/2014 Ben Dutka

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New Comment System

Legacy Comment System (29 posts)

Deleted User []
Thursday, November 13, 2014 @ 9:37:39 PM

Not usually a review guy, but I can honestly say I adore this one. I give all the props in the world to the AC team for attempting (and sometimes, succeeding) in showing us true next gen. And props to you, Ben, for the great analysis.

Agree with this comment 3 up, 3 down Disagree with this comment

Thursday, November 13, 2014 @ 9:52:23 PM

Great review, and kudos to Ben for not stopping at the technical flaws, and, instead, giving credit where credit is actually due.

Agree with this comment 3 up, 3 down Disagree with this comment

Thursday, November 13, 2014 @ 9:53:30 PM

Excellent review, it's nice to have a reviewer take the time to appreciate the game and not just try and rush to get the review out as the guy from IGN so clearly did, I mean he even said it was the worst story of the series (or one of) and that Arno was a one dimensional character..anyways I could go on about what a crap review IGN had but instead I'll just mention a few of my favourite things about Unity, the biggest of which has to be the assassinations. The choice in how you complete the objective is awesome and really makes you feel like a badass assassin when you figure out the perfect kill on your own. Next has to be as Ben said, the extreme attention to detail in every single aspect of the game, just walking around is so enjoyable! And finally, they eliminated most of the annoying tailing missions (there are a couple but they're actually fun).

An excellent game and review!

Agree with this comment 4 up, 3 down Disagree with this comment

Sunday, November 16, 2014 @ 9:01:42 PM

What gives you the impression that IGN rushed their review? The fact that it was released on day 1?

You do realize that IGN would have been given copies of the game well in advance of the release right?

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Lone Wanderer
Thursday, November 13, 2014 @ 10:06:36 PM

Absolutey 100% with you there Ben. This game is amazing! Theres so much to do and Unity is so beautiful! I cannot believe the internet is at war almost everywhere you go about this game. The reviews are so skewed everywhere else and the trolls are out in force berating this game on sites like IGN,Metacritic,Forbes,etc.
Ive never seen so much hate for a game before, even COD. Its a war out there right now. I dont know whats up IGN's ass right now but they said both Unity and Inquisition have and I quote, "Lame Stories." Which is entirely false and innaccurate.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014 @ 11:14:41 PM

You risk these wars with so many releases in a series.

Agree with this comment 4 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Sunday, November 16, 2014 @ 8:56:41 PM

Reviews are the singular opinion of one person, or one entity if the score is agreed upon by many.

They do not represent the factual quality of a product as it would be taken by the overall community. Only objective elements such as technical proficiency can be considered 'correct' in any review.

Therefore, saying that IGN's opinion on Inquisition and AC:U as being "false and inaccurate" is not correct. Those sites are entitled to their opinions, as are you.

The hatred for AC will continue to grow, as it did with COD. Like World said, annual franchises breed that hatred. It reaches a point where something becomes fun to hate. COD reached that point, hating COD was the cool thing to do. It seems that COD:AW has silenced the haters for now, and AC:Unity is taking the heat instead.

Last edited by Akuma_ on 11/16/2014 9:00:26 PM

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Thursday, November 13, 2014 @ 10:18:55 PM

I still look forward to playing this. I think I'll enjoy it more at around a high 8 or 9 level too.

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Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 12:09:39 AM

Great review! I absolutely love the game. One of my only gripes are enemies that shoot!!! They are tough. Just have to spam X when they are just about to shoot. However I really miss my human shields. Really don't like the load times either but they make sense. The game is enormous. The COOP is a lot of fun! Anor is a great assassin. Once they patch it this is definite GOTY material.

Last edited by CrusaderForever on 11/14/2014 12:11:14 AM

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Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 2:13:51 AM

Interesting review, and I wholeheartedly agree with the fundamental philosophy behind the score.

Some of my absolute favourite games over the years,like Vampire Masquerade: Bloodlines and Fallout 3, have also been amongst the most buggy ones.

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Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 10:06:12 AM

I didn't have too many issues with Fallout 3. I did have some but it was the expansions that were so bad I couldn't even finish them. To bad because it's one of my favorites.

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Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 1:16:10 PM

I had few truly show-stopping bugs, I believe the biggest risk of errors was when entering a new zone (for example entering a building), I made it a habit of always saving before entering.
But I encountered quite a lot of minor glitches and issues that would have been annoying had it been most other games.

But in Fallout I didn't care. I really could not care less. I ignored them and kept going cause I was *living* in the wasteland and loved every minute of it. Even a complete system freeze (I believe that happened too a few times) just made me shrug my shoulders. I frequently saved my game anyway.

Fallout 4 will probably be my most anticipated game ever - even more so than GTA4 (and GTA4 made me buy a ps4 just to play it, I could not bother to wait for the PC version).

Last edited by Beamboom on 11/14/2014 1:38:37 PM

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Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 2:30:14 AM

Black Flag got me back into this series, might give this one a look. The world it creates look very impressive.

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Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 3:32:19 AM

perfect example of whats wrong with almost ALL of this years games.
oh what they could of, no should of, been!
your suppose to review games on what they are, not what they should be or could be, but that certainly is becoming bloody difficult!
ubisoft, please for f*cks sake, no more yearly assassins creed games!
look what R* did with GTAV, its the success it is, its the perfection and amazement it is, because it does everything and more importantly it does it so well!
unity bit off FAR too much, and did not have anywhere near enough time to do it!

Agree with this comment 7 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 4:25:22 AM

If you actually read the article, you'd have read that technical flaws were actually considered in getting the 9.0 score. It's just that, it really is a 9.0 game for this reviewer. Hence, it is what it is. A 9.0 game. If AC:U was toned down to the scale of GTAV (not that GTAV has a small scale), then it could have probably faired better in the technical side.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 4 down Disagree with this comment

Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 7:43:50 AM

and if you read the comment and had even just a slight modicum of reading comprehension you would know thats not what i meant.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014 @ 8:53:43 PM

The only thing I will agree with, is what you said about the review.

Yearly entries are fine so long as each entry offers a unique quality experience.

My biggest complaint with AC:U is that it just feels like 'another' entry in the series, as opposed to Black Flag, which was a standout, and the best since ACII.

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Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 5:22:29 AM

I'm inclined to disagree.

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Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 6:56:08 AM

@Ben Dutka: I'm surprised that you gave it a 9.0. I thought that you'll just rate it at around 8.0 because of its technical problems. Well I won't argue, I like the review. The technical problems of a game won't matter if the overall experience will be amazing. Besides those technical problems can be resolved by means of patches and software updates. ^_^

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Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 6:59:13 AM

Well finllay a good review. Most of the reviews i been see giving the game a 75/100 or the highest i seen so far is a 8.0

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 11:11:27 AM

I've seen five 9s and a 10.

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Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 7:46:27 AM

Good review Ben, appreciate all the work you put into that one!

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 11:10:31 AM


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Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 9:03:04 PM

from what i've heard the technical stuff is its biggest stumbling block and probably the most important one if i'm honest. it needs to work properelly to be enjoyed

happy gaming

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Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 9:04:09 PM

and it'll say in advance your review looks impecable with detail and i'll get you a full run down later just trying to cath up on the news feed atm

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Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 10:21:03 PM

Did Naughty Dog overestimate what the PS4 is capable of?
Or were they sloppy? Over-rushed? Wha'da'ya figure?

Last edited by Happiness on 11/14/2014 10:26:02 PM

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Saturday, November 15, 2014 @ 5:01:04 PM

Thanks for the excellent review Ben. I'm a member who always reads the articles, reviews, and comments, but I never leave a comment. I felt compelled to comment just to let you all know how much I appreciate all the hard work that you guys put into this website. I have ACU but haven't opened it because I was waiting for a review that I could trust before deciding if I should keep it or not. I might just trade it in for DAI because it seems like more bang for the buck. Anyway thanks again.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014 @ 7:45:28 AM

Awesome review man. I don't know which game to buy for Christmas. I thought AC:U wasn't worth buying because of all the hatred caused by the technical problems the game suffers from.
Seems like we are indeed too much focused on framerate, etc... which makes it hard for us to appreciate the art of the game itself. That's a shame!
I'll pick this one up most def. Does anyone know if patches can fix the technical hiccups?

Last edited by Solaire on 11/16/2014 7:45:56 AM

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Sunday, November 16, 2014 @ 8:50:48 PM

There is no longer any excuse for a game launching with the kind of bugs that AC:Unity has.

And if the wider community believed the same as this review, then we are going to see a lot more buggy games released in the future.

Once upon a time companies had something called Quality Control, game developers had things called 'testers'. I wonder what happened to those philosophies.

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