E3 2014: Assassin’s Creed Unity Preview


It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that Assassin’s Creed III was underwhelming folks and gamers were rolling their eyes at the thought that this franchise was going to receive annual installments. You’ve got to hand it to Ubisoft for figuring out ways to come up with new twists on the theme and putting together impressive demonstrations at E3, and the small theater sessions for Assassin’s Creed Unity definitely qualified.

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The only real disappointment was that the solo and multiplayer gameplay segments were the same ones seen during the Ubisoft press conference. The saving grace was that the team members on hand from Ubisoft Montreal went into much greater detail on how Unity builds and improves upon what’s come before.

As always, the environment in which new protagonist Arno Dorian finds himself is almost a character in its own right. Unity’s Paris is huge, bigger than all of the islands in Black Flag put together,  and full of recognizable landmarks. Crowds of citizens are everywhere since the French Revolution is about to pop off in earnest, and they react dynamically. Arno can use this to his advantage but it can also complicate things at times.

Transitions in and out of buildings are seamless, and once encountered, side quests can be logged and picked back up at any time. Other encounters, like a pickpocket who the developer stumbled across while pursuing his initial target, need to be dealt with in the moment or ignored.

Though my brother Max Parker pointed out that Ubisoft says this for every Assassin’s Creed game, combat has been improved with the addition of heavy attacks, dodges and perfect parries. Our guide said the goal was to make it more difficult — he said starting a fight with more than three or possibly four armed opponents at once was a sure way to get Arno killed — and ensure that it was more than just one counter after another.

More movement options are also available, as Arno can climb walls like Spider-Man (apparently parkour was popular during the French Revolution) and can automatically find ways down from rooftops automatically instead of needing to find a haystack to land in. Speaking of rooftops, getting a vantage point on top of one brings up icons of everything in the surrounding area, eliminating the need to call up a map.

Of course the big feature in Assassin’s Creed Unity and the one that likely inspired its name is the option to take on missions in four-player co-op mode. This can be done by entering taverns and looking for the ghosts of your friends. The developers showed how effective teamwork can be, especially when taking on large groups of enemies or trying to avoid having one of them alert their comrades. It definitely comes in handy to have another member of the Brotherhood watching your back.

Tone deaf responses to questions about the lack of playable females aside, it’s hard to imagine that Ubisoft won’t have another top seller on its hands with Assassin’s Creed Unity. We may as well just pencil in another one for next year. Start looking for hints to its setting now!