Review - "Assassin's Creed Unity" (PS4)

EA and Activision get a lot of hatred for their corporate practices, and for good reason most of the time, especially in the case of the former. But to me, no publisher has earned a right to be loathed more than Ubisoft. The French corporation routinely shows off doctored footage at gaming conventions, forces players to install their third-rate Steam knock-off to play PC games, releases broken products that require numerous patches, and worst of all? They publicly defend themselves. On more than a few occasions, higher-ups have come out and defended glitches and low frame rates, trashed consoles because they allegedly couldn't handle their games, called their products "too innovative," said that female animations in games were too expensive... the list goes on. No other game company has dared to defend their own bullshit so loudly, so blatantly, so obnoxiously.

And now, after months of trying to defend various issues with it, trying to explain away potential issues, they've released a game that stands a testament to their practices. "Assassin's Creed Unity" is a glitchy, broken game with fundamentally awful design choices, tied together with a contrived story that goes nowhere and does nothing. In a year of hyped games failing to deliver, "Unity" not only fails, but doesn't even try. At no point in this game does it feel like anyone actually cared about it during the development cycle. Instead, it feels hobbled together and rushed out to turn a profit, complete with several, several options for micro-transactions. Honestly? It's absolutely disgusting, and has further convinced me that the AAA industry is continuing to dig its own grave.

The first warning sign? "Unity" has a plot that could be called uninspired at best, shallow at worst, and a lazy joke if I was feeling particularly mean, which I am considering people have been duped into spending sixty bucks on this turkey. Arno is a Frenchman whose father dies,  has a tragic love interest, is motivated by revenge, must become an assassin, blah, blah, blah. Look, you've played this game before. "Black Flag" took some incredibly savvy and innovative steps towards a new direction for the franchise, but this? This is the same gunk you've been fed from the first moment you took control of Altair. It's the same cocky, sarcastic lead we've seen in Ezio, the same supporting cast we've seen in most other games... it's all the same. It ignores the fact that this franchise has housed Aveline Du Grandpre and Edward Kenway, two of my favorite protagonists in recent memories, and gives us a boring, stale, stubble-faced white dude with no original personality. Yes, there are the token historical figures thrown in, but they're just... there. Just another box to be checked.

Physics issues abound.
So, yes, the narrative here is an abysmal failure. All of the intrigue built up by the exhilarating climax of "Black Flag" has been thrown out in favor of a more streamlined, more casual direction, and the whole experience is worse off for it. The sci-fi sub-plot is worse than it has been in quite some time. The excuse for why we're playing yet another white guy is lazy and hokey. Everything here is just present to give us a reason to go kill people and explore another period of time in the past. It's not substantial. It doesn't matter. It's irrelevant drivel, and honestly, you could do yourself a favor and skip most of the cutscenes.

What do you have to look forward to, though, after said cutscenes? After the disgustingly long load times? Well, you have some of the most egregiously broken controls this side of... actually, there's no comparison. As far as top-tier, big-name titles go, this takes the cake for terrible design and unresponsive control. Arno handles like an erratic child covered in some hybrid of both molasses and olive oil. That is to say, he sometimes sticks to things and refuses to move, but will also slip right off the side of a building and plummet to his death. He'll take a huge leap when all that's needed is a tiny jump. He'll clip right into scenery and refuse to move. This is a character who is actively a chore to control, and even when you can manage it, you'll never feel truly in control. Part of this is the unpredictable nature of his movements, part of it is the camera that will get stuck in the worst possible positions and get you killed repeatedly.

That last problem is painfully obvious in the combat which, by the way, is uniformly awful. Sneaking around and killing people is a miserable experience, thanks to aforementioned broken climbing mechanics, erratic enemy AI and inaccurate targeting. Getting in sword fights is truly unpleasant, as Arno's swings constantly miss, his parries barely work, his finishing animations trigger while five feet away from an enemy that has already dodged... the list goes on. And the ranged combat? Well, I mean, it works. You point, you should, people die. But it lacks panache or maneuverability, and thanks to the artificial difficulty of large enemy encounters, you'll probably want steer clear of using guns altogether.

But say you really want to keep playing this game, you cheeky masochist, and you're having a hard time. Then, boy, does Ubisoft ever have the perfect solution for you! DLC is available right in the pause menu, because they care so much about making it a fun experience! And not just any DLC, no, they're too far gone for that. At any point, you can buy both in-game currency and "time-saver packs." In-game currency lets you buy stronger weapons and gear, and you'll need it, because you don't get nearly enough to get some of the better in-game stuff by completing missions and side activities. On the same token, "time-saver packs" let you upgrade Arno faster, get more resources, and other things that should be able to be accomplished entirely without the usage of your wallet... considering, you know, you just spent sixty bucks on this and everything.

I'm not joking.
Yes, folks, this is it. This is what Ubisoft has been working towards. Purposefully underpowering your character, in your single-player game, with their seeming intent to make you pay more money to make your experience less painful. It's a disgusting, cynical move, one that undermines whatever credibility they had to begin with. Frankly, any self-respecting consumer should boycott this company for this game alone. They release a broken game, then expect you to pay more money to have more fun with it? No, I'm sorry. That's not how that works. You're supposed to give me a game that stands alone, and then, later down the line, I'll give you more money for thoughtful supplementary content. This? This is reprehensible to its very core. This is taking the model of a "freemium" mobile game and applying it to a full-price console game. It's what outspoken critic and personal role model, Jim Sterling, calls "fee-to-pay." As in, you've already paid money, and they want more because, hey, why not? Why not? Because it's sick. And gamers deserve better.

And when I say this game is broken, like I have several times, I'm not just talking about the gameplay or the micro-transactions. This game looks like trash. Occasionally, there are some pretty lighting effects, and the main character animations admittedly have a surprising level of expressiveness... in cutscenes. But for the most part, Paris looks like a muddy, muddled mess of repeated textures and jittery animations. Nothing more than 20 to 30 feet in front of Arno is rendered right, and even then, it will routinely flicker in and out of existence. Clothing and scenery pop in at random, groups of the same NPC walk together in droves, grass and water look flat and colorless. Oh, yeah, and that 30 FPS frame rate Ubisoft was so proud of? Practically non-existent. The frame rate is sometimes so appalling that the whole world will freeze for a few seconds, even in places where there's barely anything on the screen. It's wildly inconsistent, and sometimes makes the whole thing downright unplayable when coupled with the bad controls.

This happened within the first five minutes.
I don't have much else to say about "Assassins Creed Unity," other than that I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed that anybody looked at this game and decided that it was functional and ready for store shelves. It needs at least another year of work done on it, and even then, the abysmal plot and immoral DLC options would still hamstring the entire experience. In 2014, I'm confused how a buggy piece of garbage like this got shoved out the door and put into people's consoles and PCs. I'm confused that Ubisoft thinks they can keep doing shit like this and expect to keep customers. I'm just... confused. Confused and very, very angry.

Almost anything would be a better use of money than this. Don't make the same mistake I did.

- Story has potential
- Paris is a neat setting

- Gameplay is broken
- Narrative is broken
- Graphics are broken
- Physics are broken
- DLC practices are broken
- Virtually everything is broken

Score: 3 (Offensive To The Senses) 


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