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Assassin's Creed: Unity Review

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The revolution will be playable

★★★★★

Pitching its historical fiction amongst the bloodied streets of Paris circa 1798, Assassin’s Creed Unity’s French Revolution setting delivers a surprisingly stirring, evocative context for its usual temporal tomfoolery. Yet, what was once the most progressive series on Ubisoft’s slate has diluted its ambition and dutifully produced an iteration that’s big on spectacle but short on ideas.

Unity revolves around aristocrat turned assassin Arno Dorian, a promiscuous cad moulded in the image of series favourite Ezio, who joins the ancient order to pursue his adoptive father’s killer. The quest propels him across the rooftops of the city’s iconic landmarks (such as Notre-Dame Cathedral) and into the path of notable Parisians of the time (Bonaparte, Robespierre and the Marquies de Sade) but it doesn’t uncover any newfound depths to the narrative, despite ditching the series’ tired pseudo-science mumbo-jumbo. Those looking for more fictional substance when revisiting history will be better served reading the latest Dan Brown potboiler.

Nevertheless, Paris is stunning to behold. Unity takes advantage of its new-gen platforms, with meticulous period-specific architecture, dazzling sun beams bathing stone cathedrals in the glow of dusk and the haze of drifting gun-smoke sitting above the muddied streets. If the latest Assassin’s Creed fails to fully achieve its artistic ambitions, it’s not by fault of the visuals.

The game, meanwhile, is hampered by ugly technical issues that draw attention away from its achievements, including characters disappearing through floors and half-mangled faces, making players all to aware that they’ve purchased a prematurely shipped product. It’s imperative that Ubisoft addresses these technical issues, as beyond these hiccups Unity is one of the best Assassin’s Creed games in years.

The parkour and combat mechanics are slicker, the pacing more considered, and the assassination missions demand a newfound level of advanced strategy and patience that represents a welcome nuanced approach. Add to that Unity’s sublime co-op play – enabling players to seamlessly join up with three friends to undertake missions – alongside a glut of side objectives and customisable features and you have a staggering amount of content.

When it works, Unity is a colossal endeavour and one worthy of a substantial time sink. Yet, it’s also disappointingly familiar and technically sub-par. If Ubisoft iron out the kinks and take a few more risks, then the next chapter in the ongoing saga will be one for the history books.

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