Assassin's Creed: Unity will have the same resolution and frame rate on both current consoles, but it's just too next-gen for the poor old Wii U to handle.
Assassin's Creed: Unity will run at 30FPS at 900p on both PS4 and Xbox One.
"We decided to lock them at the same specs to avoid all the debates and stuff," producer Vincent Pontbriand told Videogamer.
That's not to say that Ubisoft could just bump up the resolution on either or both consoles willy-nilly if it chose to ignore the potential for "debates". According to Pontbriand, Ubisoft Montreal was "quickly bottlenecked" by both systems' CPU. That's not a typo; it's not the pretty graphics causing the problem.
"It's not the number of polygons that affect the framerate. We could be running at 100fps if it was just graphics, but because of AI, we're still limited to 30 frames per second," he said.
So a game with lesser AI might perhaps have been able to hit higher resolution and frame rate on either or both consoles. That's interesting, isn't it? One for the "gameplay over graphics" camp there.
If it had just been a graphics thing we might have expected a patch unlocking a bit of extra performance from the PS4 version, as we saw with Assassin's Creed: Black Flag last year. That said, in the interim Microsoft has upped the Xbox One's GPU power by lifting mandatory Kinect support, so perhaps the consoles are on the same level now.
PS4 fans seem to be a bit miffed by the news, as Pontbriand's first quote makes it sound a bit like Ubisoft is deliberately making a crappier version of the game to avoid controversy. I suspect it's just a throwaway comment about a decision made early in development as to what standards to aim for, with resources devoted to solving the problems presented by the project's ambitious AI. But that's just my interpretation.
Meanwhile, the Wii U isn't getting an Assassin's Creed game at all this year, with even the last-gen Rogue skipping Nintendo's console. Speaking to Red Bull, Pontbriand said there's no way Unity could come to Wii U.
“It couldn’t, it really couldn’t," he said.
"From the beginning, this was going to be a new-gen-only title, because the crowds aren’t aesthetic, they actually have impact. If we did anything to hinder that or to reduce that it would have a detrimental impact, it wouldn’t be the same experience."
The producer then went on to make a comment which I find particularly interesting in conjunction with the decision to ensure parity across PS4 and Xbox One:
"I don’t think that would be fair to fans, to sell the same game but with different levels of experience. Even the seamless nature of the series and the scale of the game right, we couldn't do that. We never load Paris. It wouldn't be possible, in our minds we’d be cheating fans by providing a lesser version of the same game.”
Assassin's Creed: Unity is coming in November. It's also releasing on PC, where any talk of parity is met by hoots of laughter.
UPDATE: Ubisoft has provided Kotaku with a statement on the matter.
We understand how Senior Producer Vincent Pontbriand's quotes have been misinterpreted. To set the record straight, we did not lower the specs for Assassin's Creed Unity to account for any one system over the other.
Assassin's Creed Unity has been engineered from the ground up for next-generation consoles. Over the past 4 years, we have created Assassin's Creed Unity to attain the tremendous level of quality we have now achieved on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. It's a process of building up toward our goals, not scaling down, and we're proud to say that we have reached those goals on all SKUs.
At no point did we decide to reduce the ambitions of any SKU. All benefited from the full dedication of all of our available optimization resources to help them reach the level of quality we have today with the core Assassin's Creed Unity experience.