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What is Assassin’s Creed: Unity?

Coming to Xbox One (demoed), PS4 and PC
Assassin’s Creed: Unity release date holiday 2014

As the first Assassin’s Creed coming exclusively to the latest generation consoles, there is a certain expectation that Assassin’s Creed: Unity should be the best in the series, both visually and in terms of gameplay.

From the live gameplay demo we saw at E3 2014, it’s obvious Ubisoft has worked hard to ensure the game is truly atmospheric. The sequence starts with our new assassin hero perched high above Notre Dame, watching the angry crowd throb below, surrounding a guillotine.

Next-gen consoles have let Ubisoft push the crowd systems with Assassin’s Creed: Unity. Crowds can contain up to 1,200 people at any one time and this has a major effect on the overall feel of the game’s version of Paris. The game is set during the French Revolution, so the civilian unrest in large numbers really adds to the atmosphere.

In Assassin’s Creed: Unity, the civilians become a faction unto themselves, fighting the police and other enemies if they feel so inclined.The civilians are systemic, reacting to events and your actions.

Getting up close and personal to these characters, they all have unique expressions and actions that relate to the moment they are living in. For example, there were a few civilians peering into the windows of a small house, asking questions and demanding answers. It turns out a murder has occurred within and you are given the option to intervene.

This is another new feature of Assassin’s Creed: Unity. Side missions can be picked up and either added to your Quest Log or picked up straight away wherever you are in the map. The aforementioned scenario was a Murder Mystery quest added to the Log Quest to follow at a later point in the game.

The aim is apparently to give side quests more soul and avoid the repetition sometimes found in Assassin’s Creed titles. Ubisoft has the rather ambitious aim to tell “the thousand stories of Paris”.

Unity already seems a lot more fleshed-out that other Assassin’s Creed games, with side quests offered and discovered in a more natural manner than they were before. This is helped by the new mapping system.

Rather than having to exit the game and head to the map menu, Ubisoft has layered mission markers and other important information over your view of the city itself. How this will pan out in the final game isn't clear yet, but when you climb up high enough the game presents small indicators that show the way to reach various goals, including story missions and assassination contracts.

Of course, climbing up to the heights rooftops is synonymous with Assassin’s Creed titles, as are those swan dives that you can perform to quickly descend. You’ll be pleased to hear both of these are still there, but Ubisoft has revamped the control system to make free-running and climbing a lot more natural and intuitive.

Although you can still swan dive to the street level if you want to, Assassin’s Creed: Unity lets you climb down buildings just as easily as you can climb them. By pressing the right trigger and B (Xbox One) when atop a building, the Assassin begins to descend, finding handholds and poles to swing down to ground level in a similar way to how you press right trigger and A to ascend.

From what we’ve seen so far, this new traversal system is a lot more fluid than that found in previous Assassin’s Creed titles, and this is especially obvious when trying to out-manoeuvre the guards around Paris.

In fact, to enhance this new lucid traversing skill, Ubisoft has tweaked the combat system for Assassin’s Creed: Unity. The established counter system has been removed altogether and has been replaced with the ability to press B push back enemies and give you a chance to perform one of the Assassin’s combat moves.

We didn’t see much of this in action during our E3 demo, but our Ubisoft spokesperson claims it will make sure combat is more engaging and reactive than ever before.

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Ubisoft has also added the ability to enter stealth mode at any point in the game. By holding down LB, you can crouch to take silent steps to sneak up on enemies. When in stealth mode you will automatically enter into cover as well.

Throughout the game, you’ll also be able to use Unity’s new Eagle Pulse, which Ubisoft is calling the natural progression of the classic Eagle Vision. In Unity, Eagle Pulse can be upgraded to offer additional information on targets and other characters, but for now Ubisoft is keeping those under wraps.

One of the huge new features coming with Assassin’s Creed: Unity is co-op missions. These will be available throughout the story and be given star ranking to indicate how many other players you might need to rope in to complete them. Basically, the higher the star rating the more pals you’ll need.

These missions can be completed solo if you want to, but Ubisoft has deigned them to be played with friends. They’ll never be locked out if you want to play on your own though, giving you the option as to how to tackle them.

Ubisoft hasn’t yet shown off any more co-operative gameplay beyond that revealed during Microsoft’s E3 press conference, so we’ll have to wait and see as to how this affects gameplay in the full game.

First Impressions

From everything we’ve seen so far, Assasin’s Creed Unity is the most immersive and realistic Assassin's Creed game to date. Massive crowds with unique reactions help build the tension of the restless pre-French Revolution Parisian population, while the graphics and lack of loading screens aid realism.

The Assassin himself is more nimble than ever before and the reworking of the combat and free-running systems make for a very promising game.

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