Whether Paris feels real when you're running around it for forty hours is a different question, and one I couldn't personally answer by watching the lengthy live demo Ubisoft previewed for me during E3 2014. Assassin's Creed's citizens have always been a bit awkward, spouting the same ten pieces of dialogue repeatedly as you do your best to ignore them. I hope the investment in visual splendor has come with a similar investment in audible splendor, with hours of civilian chatter.
Learning new tricks
Ubisoft also (finally) revamped the animations for your assassin as he clambers about town in AC: Unity. There's now an even quicker free-run system you can initiate to quickly ascend and descend structures with a minimum of fuss, although sometimes this leaves your character looking like Spider-Man more than a real human being as he executes daring six-story jumps and inhuman feats of strength.
If you stand still on a high perch--say, a roof--the map icons will slowly fade into the real world. You'll be able to see "Oh, there's an assassination mission two blocks away and a co-op mission in that adjacent building." The feature is a bit disconcerting when it fades in, but the intentions are good--the developers hope they can cut down on people playing the game by running along and staring at the mini-map. I'm guilty of this behavior myself, so I'm curious to see whether the new feature induces a change.
I didn't see any of the planned co-op features. Presumably those will be shown off at PAX, closer to release, though Ubisoft showed off Unity's four-player co-op in action during Microsoft's E3 keynote.
Oh, and they changed combat. You can't chain together one-hit kills anymore while fighting. This looks like it'll make fighting both more tedious and more dangerous. Ubisoft hopes players will learn that combat is a last resort again, rather than feeling comfortable taking down entire platoons of troops.
Same old, same old
What's most worrying to me, however, is what Ubisoft is most excited about--that this marks a return to "classic" Assassin's Creed. During my demo I was repeatedly told that Unity returns to the "core" of Assassin's Creed. Ubisoft felt the series had strayed too far from its original intent, and was trying to reign it in.
That's fair. Black Flag was barely an Assassin's Creed game, what with all the sailing and the sea chanties and the lack of tall buildings and the main-character-who-doesn't-care-he's-an-assassin. You know what else Black Flag was, though? Fun. Definitely more fun than ACIII (though that's a low bar) and also more fun than Revelations.
Assassin's Creed has grown stale. Many of its lazier mission types (such as the "walk behind someone and eavesdrop" missions) are industry punchlines. Telling me this is a return to Assassin's Creed II doesn't inspire me with hope--I've already played Assassin's Creed II. Three times over, in fact, since Assassin's Creed II, Brotherhood, and Revelations were all basically the same game.
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