ASSASSIN'S CREED UNITY Puts Thousands of Reactive Characters On Screen

Four human controlled assassins look upon the busy Paris streets
Credit: Ubisoft

Why make an Assassin's Creed game exclusively for the newest consoles so soon out of the gate, less than a year after their release? So that you can do things precisely like this.

At both the Microsoft and Ubisoft press conferences Monday at E3 2014, the publisher did a deep dive into Assassin's Creed Unity, the next chapter in the time-displaced saga that lets players step into the role of an assassin in key points in history. As earlier revealed, the game takes place during the tumultuous French Revolution. In order to accurately portray the distrust, chaos, and unease of the time, however, Ubisoft would have to ramp up how they portrayed the populace around the titular assassin, and thanks to the power of the new generation of conosles, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, they have.

In one of the most jaw-dropping moments of all four press conferences throughout Monday morning and afternoon, the newest assassin Arno Dorian climbed high above the city of Paris, France in the 1790s, and looks down into a plaza to find his target. Below, there's a public execution about to happen, and people have taken to the streets to protest. A lot of people. About two thousand people (as Ubisoft confirmed later). And they're all reacting, individually, in real time, to what's happening in front of them.

Anyone who's played a football video game knows the odd frustration of scoring a touchdown and watching 200 people on screen all stand up in unison, make the exact same motion (while wearing one of three variations of the same outfit), and sit back down. In Assassin's Creed Unity it's a whole new ballgame. Even as you navigate the city, there are people everywhere. This is a city truly lived in, in a way that games simply haven't been able to pull off in such a significant way before.

And this answers the question of why this game can't come to the PS3 and Xbox 360, and why the new generation is a significant step up despite only a moderate change graphically. That wasn't all Ubisoft showed off, of course. With the newest game featuring the Assassins comes a new brotherhood – one formed in real life. Up to four human players can play missions in the campaign together, using teamwork and strategy to conquer forts and assassinate the noble dogs of the aristocracy. We'll have more on that after our hands-on time with the game later in the week. They also showed off the new, more fluid movement and more naturally integrated side missions, including dynamic ones that emerge from the chaos around you.

It's clear from Ubisoft's strong official debut of Unity that they still care about Assassin's Creed, and they still care about innovating the annual franchise. If the game can live up to the promise shown on Monday, it will be the most immersive experience from the developer yet.

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