Assassin’s Creed Unity

My dear friends, it is time for another review! This one has been sitting on my mind a lot since I’m still fighting my way through the game, but I think now is as good a time as any to talk about Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Unity for PS4. Probably one of the most anticipated games of the year, this follow up to the ongoing franchise came out last month nearly half-a-year after the E3 World Premiere Trailer (seen below) left jaws dropped on the floor. I think for me, the first word that came to my mouth was ‘orgasmic’ because of the visual quality given to the video sequence. Secondly, I knew what I was looking at was Assassin’s Creed and not whatever Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag was (because that was just some random pirate nonsense…). So all these months later, the game finally arrives… and it turns out it’s kinda weird. Actually, wow… what the heck happened to that trailer we saw? For some reason, this game is not the same as that video at all.

I know! That doesn’t sound very promising, but I decided it might be worthwhile to break this down into a list of the GOOD Things and a list of the BAD Things I found just for the sake of being fair. This is what I’ve come up with:

Things you will like.

  • The protagonist is smokin’ hot: I believe I mentioned this in a previous review, and I will say it again… we cast beautiful celebrities to play parts in movies because it attracts the audience to the screen, right? Why should videogames be any different? Assassin’s Creed 3 and Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag failed (to me) when it came to presenting eye candy of any kind when the reality is that nowadays women and gay men play games too and want to see something stunning! I will admit, Ubisoft did a great job handling Ezio Auditore from the Assassin’s Creed 2 series and he is the character that attracted me to the series. While Roger Craig Smith‘s voice brought Ezio to life, he isn’t exactly an Ezio in real life given that the voice is forced talent and he looks nothing like our Italian assassin. However, Dan Jeannotte, though, is the real deal. Can we talk about how good-looking this guy is? Not to mention his freakin’ sexual voice? The funny thing is that he is such a perfect fit to star as Assassin Creed Unity‘s main hero, Arno Dorian, because of his great French accent. When he switches into French dialogue, a part of you just puts down the controller to hear the beauty of his speech. Arno as a character is interesting as he is fully fleshed out and defined from childhood throughout the game, allowing the audience to connect more with his journey. This game brought back the human side of the assassin’s that fall in love and understand the innocents they meet. I really missed that in the last two titles, which I couldn’t be bothered to finish. The designers put their best foot forward to give Arno a nice body, so when you get him into those advanced costumes you have something to look at for sure. It would appear that Arno became an assassin at age 21, possibly making our assassin one of the youngest to have joined the brotherhood, making it a lot more interesting to see this boy become a man. Upon further research, it would seem that Dan Jeannotte is no stranger to the series, having voiced minor roles in the previous two titles, and so it would seem the studio grew to like him enough for Arno. I don’t blame them because I like him for many things… All of this being said, just like a movie, a pretty face is not enough to drive a story.
  • The classic elements brought back to the series: As I mentioned above, it is nice to see that this game goes back to the grassroots of the series that really did not exist in Black Flag. We’re back on land in the big cities of France and we get to indulge again street theft, assassin contracts, treasure box hunting, climbing buildings for viewpoints, and zone wars between officials and Templars. However, Unity takes it to another level with more side journeys, such as special kinds of treasure, COOP/Grand Theft missions, mystery case files, and many other Paris stories. It’s almost like an overload when you open the world map to see so many icons present. The fact is that there is a lot to do in this game and it’s most definitely something I missed. The weaponry and equipment has been a bit simplified in that you no longer have to visit blacksmiths to shop;, in fact, this game only has one kind of street vendor that caters to medical consumables and ammo of all kinds. While there is no more notoriety system in the game, walking the streets of Paris does allow enemies to spot you and for you to get into all kind of street fights, which never allows for a dull moment. The only thing I miss? Hiring prostitutes and backup for your missions! Though, I guess this is where the COOP thing comes into play. All-in-all, if you are a die hard of the classics in this series, you’ll love the nostalgia blast in this game.
  • The bigger open concept: The last great thing I’ll give to Unity is the wide ground it covers. This is not a new thing as even the older games had big ambitious maps, but I like how seamless it is in this game to freely travel far and wide. The missions make use of the grand space, taking Arno from one zone to the next for each task. Of course, if you get tired of the long runs, there is fast travel as well, which again is not a new concept to the games. What is new, however, is the amount of hustle and bustle in the game. There are people EVERYWHERE… I have to say at many times I wished there wasn’t so much action, but it definitely adds to the realism of France during the time period. The game makes use of portal jumps in the system, as well as exclusive travel to different destinations off the map that allows the players to see an even wider array of settings. If you are the type of person who likes taking in the sights in videogames (like myself), you will like this game for that.

 

Things you might not like.

  • The game engine is on crack: Let me make one thing clear: this game is anything BUT ‘next generation’. I remember reading via my Twitter feed many complaints on gaming sites reporting outrage in the community over Unity. I didn’t bother to look into it until I actually played the game and realized during the very first cinematic cutescene that things were not right. What every engine they are using to generate characters, objects, and scenes is not responding fast enough to the camera angles and events onscreen. What does that mean exactly? It means that the movie starts playing and as the main characters are talking, you see people magically popping up in the background, trees disappearing, hairlines growing out of thing air, etc… Now, I know better than anyone else that Assassin’s Creed makes use of a very good excuse, which is the Animus technology used by Abstergo Industries to relive the memories of the past in the game. However, you can tell this is not intentional like the desynchronizations or load screens in the game. It only gets worse as the game goes on… I can’t say how many times I’d be walking the streets of France and I’d see couples of people drop down from the sky and be placed in the game. Many times the enemies you fight will disappear into walls and get stuck like that too. Another crazy thing I noticed was that during missions where you are required to follow another character, you’d often be stuck waiting for the character to make a move? You’d actually have to shove the character onscreen or run around them to get them to remember where they have to take you. What kind of pathetic generator is this? I mentioned above that at times I felt there were too many people on the streets and I find this is the biggest downfall for Ubisoft in this title because their own system is not generating the content fast enough or seamlessly enough. For a game designed to march by PlayStation 4 standards, it utterly fails and is actually the worst I’ve seen since the PS2 days… Big miss for Ubisoft. I suppose, with all of this said, there is a reason why the CEO sent out this message:

  • The lack of effort is very apparent: While I commend Ubisoft for issuing the above personal statement to each registered gamer and for following up with patches and promises, there is really no amount of healing that can be done to fix this game. Why? Because, to me, from the beginning they didn’t work hard enough on it. I noticed, during most of the running around you do during this game, that the street characters repeat the same thing over and over again in the same voices… It kinda donned on me that there are not nearly as many unique voices in this game as there are tons of characters. I also noticed a lack of diversity in the lines, where you’d be fighting an enemy and he will say the same phrase to you 10 times in a row consecutively not realizing he is rambling on like a moron. I also have to say I didn’t quite understand the accents and dialogues in the game… Why is there so minimal French used in the game when it is main,y developed in Montreal??? The acting, with the exception of key actors like Dan Jeannotte fails big time in this game. While the face animation was something to marvel at (especially Arno’s sexy face), hair in this game is something to be laughed at; I actually shed a tear each time Arno removed his assassin’s hood to reveal that nappy straw head.. That is pretty said considering studios like Square-Enix have been mastering hair since the PS2 days. I feel the developers put more effort into the buildings, settings and adventure content of the game that the characters took a quality hit, and that really isn’t right considering the characters usually drive the story. Maybe a lot of these things can be blamed on the engine, but I don’t remember suffering these problems in the other Assassin’s Creed titles.
  • The mission expectations are too difficult: For my last critical point, let me take things in a different direction; the gameplay. Definitely the biggest boasting point for this game is the multiplayer interactive content, hence the title Unity. That is fine and dandy except for the biggest drawback of using this game console: PlayStation Plus. It is allowed to live and be there, but to make multiplayer content live only through this paid service is bullshit, considering it costs nearly $500 for the system and nearly $100 per game (in Canada at least). Haven’t we gamers paid our dues already? I had this problem with Destiny‘s online content too, though they at least offered a free month trial of Plus, which I gladly took advantage of. So what to do if you really don’t want to pay for the additional service, but want to play the game? Thankfully Ubisoft allows us to play all missions, including the COOP ones, solo! HOWEVER, like I mentioned above, the lack of effort given to the game is tremendous in that one would think the game would somehow modify the difficult of each 2-4-player mission for solo action. Just to confirm, no, it does not. You will be playing by yourself where a part of others should be helping you and this is not fair. It’s been a very long time since I’ve played a game where I had to restart the mission like a billion times, and this is like almost every single one (COOP at least). Yes, you can avoid  these missions and stick to the basic story guideline, but the only way to shape up for the main story is to play the side stories, so that doesn’t leave a lot of room for completion of the game. Another thing I noticed in this game is that it’s not as easy to earn money and the good armor costs and arm and a leg. The best part? Said armor doesn’t even defend you in gameplay. One bullet or strike from the enemy and you’re basically down and out. There are many instances where you end up surrounded and the only option is to flee. The game does encourage the players to make use of stealthy tactics, but it’s hard to sneak by one guard to enter a room of ten. It actually makes no amount of sense.

Now, I’m not sure how one should feel after reading everything I’ve posted. There are some good things, but there are equally bad things too. Maybe the best thing for you is to experience the game for yourself and draw your own logical conclusions. I find a lot of the time I am like this despite what other people say. Although, I do consider myself a great judge of character. Anyway, many will say that Assassin’s Creed Unity is far from similar to the trailer that came before it, but if you’re a die-hard fan of the series, you can always find out where to buy it here. For now, check out the Official Trailer below.

Are Video Games Bad?

One of my favourite things to do in all my loser spare time is play video games. You’re looking at someone who owns every generation of PlayStation (LIE… I don’t have a PS4 yet!), a WII, an xBox 360, like three DS‘, and then all of the old relics, like SNES and Gameboy Color. All of this is to show that I AM a fobby super geek in designer clothes (I suppose it’s possible to be THAT diverse in live).

The beginning of the school year (2013-2014) was rough because Rockstar Games decided it would be a good idea to release Grand Theft Auto V at that specific time; WEIRD decision if you ask me, because all other focus in life was lost by millions all over the world. I know many will agree that this was the best video game of the year, best in the series, and probably best ever in general! That kept me entertained for a little while until Christmas came and I was gifted Ubisoft‘s Assassin’s Creed IV. The thing about this, though, is that I had never played the previous games, meaning I had much catching up to do! I already owned AC II, so I went from there and before I knew it I ordered Brotherhood, Revelations, and III off eBay for dirt cheap and finished all those titles too! [NOTE: I think this will explain to all my friends why I haven’t had liquor since the New Year began.] Anyway, I finally know why everyone loves Assassin’s Creed; it’s a damn good series! Finally, I’ve been looking through my older games and spotted one that I really would like to revisit: L.A. Noire, also by Rockstar. It’s been a good three years since that gem came out, but what an amazing game it was! This is what got me to thinking about writing this article…

The bottom line that I’ve heard all my life is that video games are bad for you. They are a pointless waste of time, teach and encourage violence, and damage one’s brain from being productive. Examples of people who commonly say this? Parents and teachers. I can see where both parties would get this impression from. Parents would much rather see their kids being physically and socially active (never mind there is the WII and xBox Live for this), and teachers will argue video games distract from homework, which is definitely true (as given from my earlier mention of GTA V and my classes clashing). There is truth in the fact that video games, especially ones like Grand Theft Auto, are violent and can teach violence, but I think one should keep in mind that the games are rated for their target and whoever underage gets their hands on them… well? To each their own. If someone decides to go shoot up bitches in the streets and blame it on that GTA lifestyle, I think that person is simply nuts, not influenced. Video games being damaging to the brain is a joke at best considering they stimulate the hell out of the brain. What kills me, though, is the thought of games being a pointless waste of time. I actually beg to differ.

The video game is a very misunderstood thing. Admittedly, thanks to the innovative tech of the Wii U, PS Move, and xBox Kinnect, many non-gaming people are seeing where games can be educational and physically exercising, as well as for making good bonding activities for families and parties. However, the conventional one-player action game that usually absorbs the big time gamer is so incredibly underplayed for what it truly is; a spectacular masterpiece.

GRAND THEFT AUTO

This game has such a bad reputation, it’s not even funny. It is well known for all of its vices, including reckless driving, gun violence, massive explosions, gross brutality, sexual obscenity, big time association with drugs, and, of course, very strong language. By that amazing sentence alone, even I have to admit this game sounds BAD. They say, however, never judge a book by its cover, and that statement holds so true here. While the earlier versions of the game were developed at a time when many concepts like cinematic sequences and in-game voice acting were not possible, GTA III and beyond definitely made good use of the changing technology. Bearing in mind the next-generation titles like GTA IV, the two DLC Episodes, and GTA V, here are some points that might surprise those who harshly judged this epic book by its brazen cover:

  • The geography of Grand Theft Auto is PERFECT! Rockstar Games especially seems to love the setting of Liberty City (aka New York in the real world), so much that the in-game map is shockingly true to real-life. I’ve driven by places in the game that I’ve driven by in real-life! Although the game uses fake monument and street names, if one learns their way around in the game, he/she could ACTUALLY relive the same footsteps in the real big apple. The developers have also mapped out Miami and California in other games too. It’s exciting to think which city will be next!
  • There is a lot of soul given to each character and a very deep story-line too. I think the biggest misconception is that the player gets in a car and start running over people and that’s the end of the game (this actually can be done, but the true game has storyboard missions to carry through). Many of these missions that end in violence and usually relate to drugs are the result of the complicated lives the protagonists have been given. They’ve all been men so far (Niko, Luis, Johnny, Michael, Franklin, Trevor, etc…), but men with families, love-lives, and a lot of messed up friends. For me, personally, I found the relationship between Luis (a straight Latino guy working as a bouncer) and Tony (his extremely gay boss) amazing in The Ballad of Gay Tony. It was an entire story arc about a straight man working for a gay man and helping him, as a friend, avoid the gangs and dealers out to get him. There is a lot of rich story behind GTA and each story teaches many lessons and morals that are completely relative to this day and age.
  • THE MUSIC! Yes, the one thing not widely advertised, but definitely extremely important to any fan of the series. There had to be a good enough reason for the player to want to jump into a car and drive from one end of the city to the next, and that reason would be the radio stations. It was a very small thing the game implemented initially, but is now a staple in the culture of the series. Each game features a collection of different radio stations that cater to different genres. In GTA IV, my personal favourites are San Juan Sounds (Spanish music), Electro-Choc (all clubbing beats), and K109 The Studio (the disco era reborn). Each station features about 15-20 different REAL SONGS that the developers fancy and play at random during different times of the day. What is very interesting is the fact that the game features some very unlikely music too, especially on the worldwide stations. Culturally, one will hear things they’ve never heard before and will love it all as well! Best example? THIS. The artists most definitely love it, as many of them now have very high-ratings on their YouTube videos which, according to the comments section, is all thanks to GTA.
  • If you break the law, they’ll come for you. 1-star, all the way to 5-stars; stars in this game don’t represent quality in this series, but how heavily wanted the player is by the authorities. Every crime committed will create a wanted warrant for the player’s arrest as police will arrive, followed by SWAT, the FBI, Interpol, and so forth. In the earlier games it was easy to lose the wanted status by simply speeding away as fast as possible from the cops, but in the newer games like GTA V, it’s tricky! I was really surprised when I found out something as simple as slapping another character could get the cops alerted and keep them alerted unless I cleverly hid  in the city. Of course, if one gets busted, the only real consequence to suffer is getting all money and guns taken away, but the point is that the game does not evade reality enough to let players think all crimes go unpunished.
  • The freedom to do what you want when you want. The words ‘open environment’ have been given a new meaning by games like this… Now, why would this be a good reason why video games aren’t bad? Well, simply because one can take the time to learn many things in the game. There are many sports and activities available in the game to sharpen real-life skills. Another thing is the feel of the cars when driving as each model is based on the real life counterpart. The most recent game, GTA V, allows players to invest their money for different outcomes in the game. as well as buy properties and assets. The con of the open environment is that, yes I can go to the bar, yes I can drive drunk, yes I can go to the strip club, and yes, I can have sex. However, there is this thing called living a little and this game definitely allows the player to do so!

ASSASSIN’S CREED

Up until the beginning of this year, I had no idea what this series was about and could have easily gone my whole life not knowing. That being said, it sure would have been regrettable if I didn’t end up finding out! The title of the series says it all; a set of stories that focus on a society of assassins. That’s pretty bad, right? Well, the real deal is why that society exists and what it stands for. Unlike GTA which always takes place in the present day and in modern Western society, the bulk of this series takes place in the past within different countries and across different historical eras. While the premise of the game is essentially murder, there are many valuable things this title brings to light:

  • Again, an astonishingly accurate geography. This is the very thing that won me over when I started playing… the sense of diversity and culture given in the environment. The second game and its spin-off counterparts took place in Italy during the 15th-16th Centuries and it is very surprising how accurate the details of Venice, Florence, and Rome are in these games. One can tell even by just knowing modern-day Italy as it has remained largely the same throughout the decades. Unlike in the GTA series where the developers used fake names and areas, Ubisoft very much stuck to what’s real by ironing out each district to be distinct to real life. The game also features places like Constantinople (now Istanbul, which this game taught me!) and England. Because of the diversity of the settings, each location features characters speaking the local languages, wearing the traditional clothes, and selling common items from the time period. One could actually impress their teachers with such geographical history.
  • Character’s, real and not real, that you’ll connect with. As with the GTA series, thus far the protagonists have been all men (DesmondAltair, Ezio, HaythamRatonhnhaké:ton, Edward, etc…), all with very intricate stories. Given that all of the games take place during past eras, it makes sense that the game would focus more on the male characters than the females, but there are all kinds of relationships within the story. I think the character everyone will always love the most is Ezio Auditore, who suffered many loses, but grew up quickly and became an icon for the creed. The developers followed his story up until his death, showcasing why and how he became an assassin, and that his ultimate realization was the importance of love in his life. Another personal favourite character for me would be Leonardo Da Vinci; yes, THE Leonardo! It might be fascinating to know that some of these characters and their stories WERE REAL! Ezio’s friendship with Leonardo, I thought, was very sweet. Even Prince Suleiman was a good entry into the story. Talk about effort.
  • A teacher’s dream: a game that takes insight into real history! Many of the events in the game are based off real wars, elections, politics, and big revolutions. What more could teachers want? The games introduced many kinds of characters that were prominent throughout the ages, such as the Courtesans in Europe and the Natives in America. I have to say, I found it interesting to see how the creators hand-crafted their own original stories about the assassins into real historical events. HOWEVER, the key is just that; not everything is real! One thing that may surprise players is that the series includes the Apple of Eden, a strange object with magical powers. There are also Gods revealed that controlled the Earth during a certain time and plenty of fantasy-like components hidden in the story-line. To me, it’s quite interesting because it’s such a collaborative mash-up of so many different themes and stories. It turns out the path of an assassin can be very educational after all.

L.A. Noire

I would have to be an ignorant asshole to forget this magnificent work of art created by Rockstar Games. L.A. Noire came right out of the blue and took the gaming world by surprise. The makers of GTA took a step in a very different direction, setting this game in 1940s Los Angeles in a film noir style, similar to a city detective movie. Because this game is the first in its series (rumors still suggest a sequel is on the way), it does not have as much hype as the previous two titles, but it did have a very profound impact on the video game world. This game also contains mature content, such as violence, nudity, and bold language, but there are so many great things about it that make me even want to go back and play it again. Here are some highlights:

  • Yet again, a very realistic map. Obviously, Rockstar cannot go wrong when it comes to their geography, but this project took a little bit more work as the map predates anyone alive on their team today! Definitely the look of L.A. will not be anything like what it is today, yet many critics have confirmed that the locations in the game are very nostalgic. It is refreshing to see the level of detail put not only into the world, but also into the objects, such as the old vintage cars made available. Even the music in the game add the perfect noir touch needed. Again, another great look at some history!
  • The realism of the characters is almost horrific. MotionScan made its wonderful debut in this game, a new technology using 32 cameras to film the actors as opposed to motion sensors commonly used for most other games. What does this mean? The main character Cole is ACTUALLY someone to develop a crush on because no one can declare the concept crazy, considering he is basically a real person! The biggest selling point of this game was the facial reactions of the characters, especially during criminal interrogations were the player would have to choose if the character was lying or telling the truth. The realism of the characters, especially throughout the many cut-scenes, definitely make for an appreciation of how much effort went into the art direction of this game.
  • Decisions, consequences, and an ultimate story. Another big seller for this game was the idea of the player having the choice to declare the outcome. Many video games are programmed with set missions and conclusions, but this one relied heavily on the player using all his/her best judgment to make the best choices in order for the story to progress. To me, it was almost stressful since screwing up could lead to the wrong person being convicted of a crime and a string of consequential murders occurring. It was very much trial and error for me. Beyond that, though, the story-line of the game was simply art. The title says all; a classic detective story unearthing many scandals and scenarios in a very entertaining way, much like a grand movie. The crimes are not censored in any way, and the player gets to live every step of the journey from the crime scene to the court room. Not to spoil anything, but the ending of this game is so tragic that it really makes the player CRAVE a sequel. In the end, L.A. Noire is so riveting that there isn’t a soul, young or old, who wouldn’t say it fails to impress.

In the grand scheme of things, I hope my points have illustrated that video games can be quite surprising to those who are not experienced with them. They can expose a lot of culture, religion, history, and morality lessons that influence the player for the better. They are most definitely not anti-social given that character and story development are so important in games, just like in shows and movies. Just like other forms of visual entertainment, the music and sound score are as equally important and can be very enriching to many. Some of these games urge players to make their own decisions that can have immense consequences or benefits, which can very much boost real-world confidence. I neglected to mention earlier that the entire tactical process of playing video games enriches the brain functions and allows for quick reflexes and processing. None of this is to say that video game are the holy pillar of society and can change the world, but they certainly cannot be as bad as people make them out to be. They certainly have great value to me, and I hope that (if anything) this article has been inspiring enough for people to go check out some of these titles. See some more below!

OTHER INSPIRING GAMES

There are many other games out there by many other developers that are so fascinating and deserve more appreciation. I couldn’t possibly write anymore on this topic, but here are a few great ones:

Uncharted Series by Naughty Dog
Mirror’s Edge by Electronic Arts
The Last of Us by Naughty Dog
inFamous Series
by Sucker Punch
Little Big Planet by Sony Entertainment
Catherine by Atlus Persona Team
Portal Series by Valve Corporation
Journey by ThatGameCompany