Assassin's Creed: Unity (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC) review: Two steps back

The Good Assassin's Creed Unity features breathtaking environments and occasional scenes of great heightened action. Its story is compelling and features memorable characters throughout.

The Bad The game suffers from clunky free-running movement. Climbing and descending aren't as seamless as they are intended to be. Unity suffers from terrible frame rate dips and other graphical weirdness. Compared to Black Flag, Unity feels uninspired and trite.

The Bottom Line While it will likely suffice for Assassin's Creed core fans, Unity stumbles throughout and never really finds its footing. Where last year's Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag saw the franchise reach new heights, Unity is somewhat of a sidestep that only shines sporadically.

Assassin's Creed is a series that endures a volatile existence, an ebb and flow if you will. Its games tend to alternate between universal critical acclaim and mediocrity, though its fanbase never seems to lessen.

The franchise's legacy mechanics of stealth, viewpoint unlocks and freerunning have been emulated numerous times in other titles and Assassin's Creed Unity attempts to refresh a lot of these systems and introduce new ideas simultaneously.

Assassin's Creed Unity likely won't have the impact of last year's fantastic Black Flag , but it's ambitious attempt to revitalize the series should suffice loyalists. However, for those not indoctrinated, Unity might fall short of grander expectations.

Ubisoft Montreal

Where Black Flag was such a wonderfully accessible version of Assassin's Creed, Unity doesn't appear to be as welcoming. I found its story to be the most compelling element of the game -- it's filled with powerful imagery and memorable characters, all while incorporating the franchise's classic historical fiction along with a self-aware narrative. Assassin's Creed has always been about tracing ancestral memories through DNA, but Unity's plot evokes a sense of chase through a Matrix-esque type of adventure.

You'll play as Arno Dorian, an assassin who must sneak through Paris during the French Revolution to expose a hidden network of corruption. New to the game this year are a collection of free-running animations, the ability to descend through freerunning, and a crouching and cover system, among others. Unity also introduces the Phantom Blade to the series, a projectile weapon that can eliminate a target from a distance.

For another take, check out GameSpot's coverage of
Assassin's Creed Unity

Ubisoft Montreal

A major focus of Unity is co-op, where Arno can seamlessly enter a mission with other players. These missions will pop up in-game and you can either choose to play them or ignore them. Completing these will reward with you money and upgrade points that Arno can cash in to unlock new abilities, the same kind of rewards you'll get from playing through single-player missions. Once you accept a co-op mission, the game will find other players for you to team up with.

While Assassin's Creed has always been about stealth, it seems Unity aggressively punishes players that wish to face their foes head-on. Unlike previous games you can't take on a horde of enemies at once. No longer will your adversaries take turns attacking you. Trying to fight four or more will likely end in your quick demise. Not only does this force you to become much more stealth-aware, but it'll also result in a heavy amount of trial and error.

Overall, free running in Assassin's Creed Unity feels clunky and awkward. Picking a line across the Parisian rooftops isn't as easy as it has been in previous games. The controls didn't feel as precise as I wanted them to be. I found Arno getting stuck far too often when trying to make an escape, which is among the more frustrating things you can experience in an Assassin's Creed game. Gaps that seem easily maneuverable are occasionally maddeningly difficult to cross.

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