E3 2014: Assassin's Creed: Unity Preview: A gameplay revolution
As Arno moved through the city to his assassination target, a Templar and official in the French military, I saw that city density applies to building interiors, as well. There are more than ever (about one to four per city block), which opens new opportunities for shortcuts and kills intensified by the tight quarters. Unlike in previous games, all these areas can be moved through without the limits of loading screens. All of Paris is a seamless world; after the game boots up properly, you’ll never have to wait when moving between areas or entering and exiting merchant shops.
Of course, Ubisoft is also moving the franchise forward by introducing four-player cooperative missions. I didn’t get to see any of that besides what was shown during Microsoft’s press conference, but four comrades and solo players alike will have to wrestle with a new combat system that emphasizes parries over counters. Recent Assassin’s Creed games have emphasized an Arkham-esque style of defensively waiting for opportunities that enemies give you, countering their attacks and slaying normal soldiers with a single button press. No more: a parry will only interrupt an enemy’s attack. What comes next is up to you. A successful parry will throw them off their step for a few scant seconds, giving you a moment to counterattack however you see fit. As usual, certain enemy types demand different items and attacks—grenades and pistol shots--but the lack of a dedicated counter execution should make using these more esoteric killing devices a bit easier. That's what the post-parry window of opportunity is all about.
Still, if enemy variety isn't up to snuff, parries will merely be followed by normal or heavy sword strikes for an automatic win that isn't visually different than what we're used to. My demo wasn't nearly long enough to tell if Assassin's Creed: Unity's encounters will prove the parry system to be an interesting, worthwhile change. But in every other respect, what I've seen of Ubisoft's French Revolution romp holds great promise. It's the substance, not the setting, that has my attention this time around. For a series that has kept up quality with yearly small improvements, any significant change is reason to pay attention.
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