Instead of developing on existing models the guys at Ubisoft Montreal have gone for a whole lotta new, which we certainly like. They improved their Anvil engine into the “AnvilNext” so it would be able to render “dynamic mass crowds” which it does quite breathtakingly. Hiding in plain sight becomes a far more useful tool as you simply manoeuvre your way through enormous crowds, hunting your target as guards rifle through the people searching for you. This along with the changes to assassinations themselves and how you approach them makes for much more immersion as you play with the French assassin.
The combat has been completely redone along with the free running system. The developers seemed to have the combat feel more like fencing and duelling which it in fact does feel very much like when battling one on one. However this upped the difficulty of combat which means after your assassinations you feel less inclined to massacre every guard in sight, which was the go-to option in AC3 and Black Flag, and instead to pop a smoke bomb and run like the wind, which the free running system helps you to do massively.
Now both the combat and free running system require much more personal skill to make the most effective use of. With the addition of the ‘free-run up’ and ‘free-run down’ to differentiate between whether you wish to ascend or descend, you have many more paths to choose from. However it is a little bit suggestive. You tell Arno what you want to do but his young rebellious self may not always listen to you. This is because you can actually free run without holding either the up or down choices and just go straight ahead in some cases. Learning how Arno interacts with every object in the environment when free running and learning when to dynamically change between the three stances, shall we say, will allow you to go from someone off of YouTube’s parkour fails to ‘Leito’ form the movie B13 (if you haven’t seen it watch the parkour sequences, they are incredibly smooth).
Now they have also introduced a very detailed and in-depth customisation system which allows you to truly create your own personal assassin. You have control from your weapon to what type of hood you have to make your own play style which is something never seen before in the Assassin’s Creed series. You can vary between essentially different class-types, depending on whether you have uniform designed for health, stealth or ranged. The different weapon classes will also affect your combat play style. Choosing one hand weapons will have you preferring to enter one to one fights that you can end swiftly, choosing long weapons will have you being able to hold multiple enemies back while your friends can circle around them, if you prefer heavy weapons then you can tear through your enemies’ armor and deal some devastating damage, or you could pick up a sleek looking rifle and pick off your foes from a safe distance but don’t be fooled, the rifles also work as pretty deadly clubs close-up.
The introduction of the co-op missions has definitely changed the game’s main focus. A lot of the customisation benefits more in co-op because of how well it synchronises with other builds from other players. These missions add more re-playability to the game as you can change your approach to almost every single mission, from running through like monsters and tearing through wave after wave of your foes or simply sneaking by without even having to touch anybody. Playing with friends and joining a club is essential to getting the most out of the multiplayer experience.
The story is a very interesting series of twists and turns that you will certainly be surprised by at least a few of the plot twists that you come across. The characters are all very interesting in their own ways and the relationships they develop with each other affect the outcome of certain events. Particularly the relationship between Arno and his childhood friend Elise. Elise’s need for revenge sometimes has her disregarding her own safety, something which Arno never overlooks and this can sometimes create rifts between them.
Now if we are looking for bad points in this game they lie more in the in the construction rather than the gameplay and plot. There are moments, while you are still trying to master the free running model, where Arno will simply ping himself off a building to his death with the rocky road, obviously leading to a lot of frustration. Also spots and objects can get you frozen or stuck in certain places as you climb or descend. The final negative to give is less prominent in the consoles and more in the PC. This game is extremely graphically demanding but even on the highest end rigs you can suffer random FPS drops and camera stutter, this is likely due to the new engine not being perfectly tweaked, something that will hopefully be fixed in upcoming patches.
Overall this game definitely bang for your buck.