Assassin's Creed: Unity is the first Assassin's Creed game for Xbox One and PS4-only. As such there was a certain expectation that it would if not change the world, at least change Assassin's Creed - for the better.
It needed to be the best-looking Assassin's Creed game ever made, it needed to offer second-screen experiences like no other and finally, it needed to be addictive, both to play and progress through.
But in setting their sights firmly on creating the biggest -- in every sense of the word -- Assassin's Creed game ever Ubisoft has potentially lost control of its most treasured franchise.
Set during the French Revolution, Unity finds you filling the boots of arrogant aristocrat Arno Dorian. He's every bit the charmer and has a cockiness that reminds you of Ezio from AC II.
We won't spoil much but lets just say that he falls in love, suffers a terrible emotional strain and then charges around Paris getting really angry and along the way learning something about himself.
It's a great premise and had all the potential to cram in the kind of emotion that Ubisoft nailed when it introduced you to Ezio.
Sadly the narrative and the acting appears to falter here. The origin story seems rushed, confusing and while Arno seems to have some modicum of personality he's just missing the script to do it any justice.
It turns out that this carries through the whole game, Unity's plot just doesn't grab you the way that it should and with such a stunning canvas (Paris) the game it deserves more.
Next up, the accents: In my opinion, they don't work. Ubisoft has already tried to explain them as 'part of the Animus', in that because I'm English, the game is simply translating the French into English.
Which would be fine if everyone spoke English, but they don't. Instead you have all the NPCs talking and singing in French while all the main characters then speak either English or American English, throwing in a few French words at the end for effect.
If you're going to go down this route there's a very specific route you need to go down and that's the 'Babel Fish' route, meaning it either needs to be all English, all accented or all French. Any of those I would have been happy with, but instead it's a conflicting mess.
If it sounds like I'm talking about a film instead of a game then make no mistake, games are as much a storytelling medium as books or films. As such there is no room for mistakes where perhaps before social consensus would have allowed it.
Gameplay at first glance seems to be the biggest win here, the combat is now much harder while free-running has been refined to its finest point yet.
If it gets let down at all it's through the ocean of bugs that seem to be plaguing the game. There are simply too many of them.
When you're already charging £50 for a game that then also happens to feature in-game micro transactions these flaws are simply inexcusable.
If you've been playing the previous games to any degree then you'll know that Ubisoft is slowly turning Assassin's Creed into an unstoppable marketing behemoth, whether it's through second-screen apps, mobile games, books or even films.
With so much at their disposable Unity almost buckles under the amount of different features that don't directly involve running across rooftops and silently assassinating people.
There are five different currencies for example: Nomad Points, Sync Points, Helix Credits, Livres, Creed Points.
Nomad points are exclusively found in the Unity companion app, Sync Points help you unlock abilities through plot completion, Helix Credits cost actual real money and you know what, by this point we're losing the will.
Keeping abreast of all of these is frankly exhausting, especially when three of them needn't exist at all. For a game which is called 'Unity' there's a surprising lack of it.
Arno's progression has been completely revamped with these currencies at the heart of it all. Sometimes it works sometimes it fails spectacularly.
I resent, for example, that I cannot just sit on a bench anymore, the fact that it's an unlockable skill is laughable at best and at worst, a complete misunderstanding of how Assassin's Creed should work.
Don't lock up things we've been doing for years instead add refinements, combat abilities such as finishing moves, or the ability to perform complex combos.
Conversely character customisation appears to be a total success. There are now a dizzying array of options to work towards letting you finally create the character that best reflects you. It helps of course that graphically, Arno looks outstanding.
As you can probably tell it's a truly frustrating gameplay experience as there's both good and bad, however there is a small glimmer of hope, which is Paris itself.
If there's one thing that Unity can do well it's look stunning. Paris is a vista, proving that they still haven't lost the knack of creating cities that feel alive.
Building's are painstakingly recreated and as light passes through stained-glass windows it becomes clear that this is only possible on next-gen.
It's these small location-based moments that define many of the games but with no characters to latch on to it's hard not to look at it through impressed, but ultimately, emotionless eyes.
Unity does lots of things right: the increased customisation, the beautiful city as well as the improved free-running and combat are all triumphs.
Sadly these are just the shell for underneath there needs to be a beating heart and in that respect, Unity feels pretty heartless. We're not angry, we're just disappointed.
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