Despite the anarchy and bloodshed, Paris circa 1789 is well worth a visit. The French capital, the playground in the latest entry to the Assassin’s Creed franchise, may be full of misery and torment but proves to be one of the most appealing of the many settings employed by Ubisoft in the series so far.
The architecture of 15th century Florence and the pirate-filled seas of the Caribbean are now a distant memory – but you won’t mind; the splendour of revolutionary Paris proves to be the biggest, boldest and perhaps the best setting of all. Huge in scale and ridiculously detailed, it truly shows off the grunt of the latest generation of consoles and the all-new Anvil engine.
"Like his predecessors, Arno is quite adept with a sword and a rejigged fighting system will have you dodging and stabbing like a master assassin in no time. What’s more, you’re also able to upgrade your abilities by spending Sync Points accrued during missions."
There’s little time to catch a breath, as through the eyes of Arno Dorian, you quickly see your loved ones taken from you and your life thrown in turmoil. Cue the start of your journey on a path towards mastering the ways of the assassin brotherhood. Arno is a fantastic protagonist – charismatic and likeable – and possibly my favourite character since Ezio way back in Assassin’s Creed II.
As ever, it’s set against a massively complex story of history and time travel, and you’re surrounded by murder, betrayal and romance. Besides our hero, the supporting characters are strong in Unity too, especially the feisty young noblewoman, Elise – Arno’s love interest.
The first few chapters act as a drawn-out tutorial, teaching you the ropes and allowing you to become proficient in the various methods of stabbing people. Stars denote the difficulty of various missions and you should pay close attention to them; there’s very little point attempting a tough task with trickier enemies if you’re not suitably upgraded. If you don’t heed my advice, expect to see the “desynchronisation” screen over and over again. You should also be wary about taking on multiple enemies even when competent with a blade or pistol – odds are that you’ll meet your untimely demise more often than not. The difficulty is such that in this game it pays to be stealthy and assassin-like rather than run in all guns blazing.
Like his predecessors, Arno is quite adept with a sword and a rejigged fighting system will have you dodging and stabbing like a master assassin in no time. What’s more, you’re also able to upgrade your abilities by spending Sync Points accrued during missions. Before too long, you’ll have replaced your dodgy old blade with a deadly sabre, be adept at lockpicking, a master of disguise and have countless stun grenades to lob at enemies. Some of the more advanced abilities are superb and make you feel like an absolute badass when unlocked.
"Whether it’s standard assassinations, the treasure hunts, or the unravelling of unsolved murders, there’s a glut of content in here that will prove a massive challenge for even the most diehard completionists. It’s fortunate that you can filter out the various objectives on the map as the screen quickly becomes a confusing mess of icons."
The parkour element is even more responsive than in previous games too, and you can now ascend and descend at speed – making the process feel seamless and far more fluid. The city is absolutely vast, split into various districts and all crammed full of beautifully rendered buildings and countless campaign objectives, side missions, challenges and collectibles. These distractions add to a campaign of decent length that sees Arno in search of revenge and redemption.
Whether it’s standard assassinations, the treasure hunts, or the unravelling of unsolved murders, there’s a glut of content in here that will prove a massive challenge for even the most diehard completionists. It’s fortunate that you can filter out the various objectives on the map as the screen quickly becomes a confusing mess of icons.
It’s an absolutely glorious playspace, and feels far larger and epic than previous environments. And the buildings aren’t just there to be climbed over either. Ubisoft have also crafted hundreds of interiors for you to explore too – many of them full of inane chatter, money-laden chests or hidden artefacts.
There’s a real hustle and bustle about the streets too, all made possible thanks to the additional power of the new consoles. The number of AI characters is staggering, with crowds of up to 5,000 roaming about the place. Fortunately, Eagle Vision returns and allows you to pinpoint targets among the throng.
There’s plenty of replayability here even when the main campaign is complete. You can dive back into previous missions and replay them to your heart’s content, mopping up all the collectibles and searching every nook and cranny of 18th century Paris. Alternatively, you can try out the new multiplayer mode, which is unlocked after the first few story missions. Multiplayer icons then pop up on the game map too, allowing you and up to three other players to play through a series of online co-op missions.
"Overall, Unity is a great addition to the series and once again draws you into the world of assassins. It boasts a new hero, and a new setting but very familiar gameplay – which may put some people off. If anything, the game seems to have made a welcome return to its roots and is more than a little reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed II than any of the recent outings."
From heists to assassinations, sabotage to guarding someone, it’s great fun plotting with a few friends and even more fun when you’re surrounded and have to fight your way out and flee. It makes for some really hectic and fun gameplay!
Skills and gear from the single-player campaign are transferrable and you can upgrade your character as you progress to tailor your assassin’s style and abilities. In effect, it means that you and your team will all have completely different skill sets and will be able to complement one another by employing different murderous techniques. Some may fancy a stealthy rooftop approach, for example, sneaking up on enemies and dropping down to stab them without making a sound, while others may prefer a more direct approach by chucking smoke bombs and wielding a massive mace.
As tends to be the way nowadays, there are a few quirks and gripes though. The fact everyone in Paris speaks the Queen’s English is a bit of an anomaly but given my inability to remember much French from my school days, I’m actually quite grateful they sound like they’re from Blighty. AI can occasionally act a little weirdly and framerate issues have also been well publicised since launch too. Countless glitches have been reported. During our review, we found ourselves hanging on a loading screen a few times, falling endlessly through the screen and getting stuck behind blissfully unaware civilians – all of which required a reboot. Nonetheless, these issues weren’t regular occurrences and didn‘t hamper the enjoyment too much.
Just before this review was published, we received an update from Ubisoft saying another patch was imminent to address the issues – and by way of apology for the teething problems, Ubisoft has also said it will make the upcoming Dead Kings DLC free for everyone, and award existing Season Pass holders a free game.
Overall, Unity is a great addition to the series and once again draws you into the world of assassins. It boasts a new hero, and a new setting but very familiar gameplay – which may put some people off. If anything, the game seems to have made a welcome return to its roots and is more than a little reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed II than any of the recent outings. And that is something I don’t mind one bit.If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll no doubt enjoy Arno’s escapades. I mean, who doesn’t like shimmying up tall buildings and diving off the top to kill some unsuspecting bystander?
This game was reviewed on Xbox One.
Paris is absolutely huge and a great new destination for the series. Looks and sounds fantastic, and the gameplay is as tight as ever.
Story is still a little confusing and the game plays very similarly to previous titles. Glitches aplenty at launch.
Take to the streets of Paris and experience the Revolution, assassin style.