Each new Assassin’s Creed brings certain key changes fans have come to expect. A new hero, for example. A new time period or setting, certainly. Maybe even a few notable gameplay additions, like hunting, henchmen, or open-world sailing. Assassin’s Creed Unity, however, looks poised to introduce some of the biggest and most striking changes ever to hit the history-spanning franchise. Just like Parisian society during the French Revolution, Assassin’s Creed is about to get a major overhaul, and some of its most familiar institutions will be replaced with bigger and better things.
Paris itself is an important part of that; not only does it look beautiful, but it’s designed to be the series’ most realistic setting to date. The crowds are bigger and thicker than ever (with up to 5,000 characters displayable on screen at once), making them an excellent hiding spot, particularly for four players. Famous buildings are 1:1 re-creations of the real thing, and they’re now modeled with seamless interiors, meaning you can enter through any open door or window and explore. You can also do the same in hundreds of less-important buildings throughout Paris, and this can lead you to useful items, helpful people, and new missions and side stories. You may even uncover a Social Club, which sounds like a multiplayer-related feature but is actually a den of sinister Templars, who you’ll be rewarded for clearing out.
As big an addition as the new interiors are, climbing around on the outsides of buildings is still a key component of Unity, and while it isn’t going away — how could it? — it’s changing in ways designed to give you more control over where you’re going. Where simply holding down the right trigger in previous games would prime your Assassin to run up walls and start climbing, you’ll now go back to holding down A (on an Xbox One controller) along with RT when you want to ascend. If you want a controlled, stylish descent like the one seen when Arno climbs down the face of Notre Dame — and you will, because Leaps of Faith into strategically placed haystacks are now more limited — you’ll hold B with RT. And if you just want to vault across, say, the outcroppings along the side of a building without rising or descending, you can just hold RT. The end result should be more control over how we get around.
Speaking of chases, it seems you’ll now actually have a reason to run from fights, because AC’s signature overpowered combat move — the counter-kill — is also going the way of the French monarchy. And without that particular trump card, escaping, hiding, and stealth in general now play a much bigger role. As in certain other open-world games, escaping pursuers is a matter of breaking their line of sight (which you can also do by ducking into buildings) — and you’ll know you’ve succeeded when you see a ghostly image of Arno pop up in his wake, indicating his last known position (yes, exactly like Splinter Cell). Your pursuers, whether blue-clad “protectors” (cops) or red-clad “aggressors” (enemies), will then hunt around that position, meaning if you can leave the scene or stay hidden while they do, you’re in the clear. We recommend sticking to the rooftops as the dev team has deemed them the Assassin’s hunting grounds, and cleared them of all patrolling guards.
Alternately, you could lay an ambush, which brings us to the other part of stealth. Sneaking in Unity isn’t just reactive; holding LB puts Arno in stealth mode, letting him crouch behind, and duck between, cover points. So if you’re looking to avoid fights entirely — or just get closer to unsuspecting enemies for a quick kill — it’s a useful tool. It’s also easy to see how it could come in handy while tailing a target, even if (thanks to Adaptive Mission Mechanic) getting spotted during those segments isn’t a deal-breaker anymore.
Then, of course, there’s co-op. Unity’s four-player action won’t supplant or replace its single-player story, but bolster it with new kinds of play. Wandering into a tavern, for example, you might meet an Assassin Brotherhood operative who offers co-op missions, and he’ll even tell you which of your friends are online and potentially ready to join. But while co-op can open up new side stories and missions (or just present a fun way to explore the open world of Paris), it’s not necessary to finishing the campaign, if you really just want to play solo.
Not all Unity’s changes are quite so sweeping. There’s still a mini-map, for example, but ascending to a high rooftop and calmly looking out over the city will now bring floating mission markers and other point-of-interest icons into view over their actual locations. Random fights, murders, and other events now unfold randomly in the street, inviting you to get involved — or just sprint past. Hey, the French Revolution was a chaotic period of societal madness; you can’t fix everything.
These might seem like big changes for longtime fans of the series. Those dramatic swan dives and insta-kill counters that left streets littered with bodies were some of the most satisfying parts of earlier games. But AC Unity offers a new approach that should more than satisfy franchise fans and newcomers alike. Without change, games can’t evolve. Without change, we’d still be governed by dainty bluebloods in foppish wigs. And who wants that? Not Arno, and certainly not us. Vive la revolucion!
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Assassin's Creed Unity
ESRB Rating: RP