With no old consoles hanging around its neck, this is the moment Ubisoft proves its pure next-gen credentials.
The next-gen console dream has fallen a little flat. We're still waiting for the dedicated games built specifically for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 - and we don't mean the day-one token efforts of the format holders. Cross-gen games and remastered favourites will only keep us happy for a while. Who's going to be brave and lead us into the true next-gen future?
Ubisoft will with Assassin's Creed Unity. Here's why.
Other publishers are playing it far too safe.
No third-party publisher has really committed to next-gen with their big franchises yet. The big blockbusters - Call of Duty, EA's sports games - are all still fannying around with the last-gen systems. This cross-gen process is watering down efforts on the Xbox One and PS4. It's the right thing to do from a business perspective, but it's dull for games players.
Ubisoft always takes chances and leaps into new ideas boots-first. ZombiU was new IP for a new console. Red Steel was new IP for the Wii. They may not have been massive hits, but the intention and willingness was there. Now you can see Ubisoft applying a similar logic to Unity, apart from this time it's a tried, trusted and well-loved franchise for next-gen built from the ground up.
Because Assassin's Creed Comet will keep old-gen consoles happy.
Instead of creating one game for five different formats, Ubisoft is creating two Assassin's Creed games and splitting them between Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Xbox One and PS4. This way the Xbox 360 and PS3 players get a game made specifically for their consoles with no compromises, while Xbox One and PS4 gamers get the souped-up, next-gen, future-game, holy-shit experience they've been dreaming of since they slapped their dollars down on day one. We all win. Those that didn't trade their last-gen systems in get to buy both games - Ubisoft wins too.
It's set in France, home of Ubisoft.
Unity is 'the French Revolution one'. Ubisoft is a proud French company. So Unity isn't just a game, it isn't just a product for Ubisoft, it's the company's very own Château de Chambord, CEO Yves Guillemot's Palais de Princier. The artists working on it aren't 'lead concept artist' or '3D modeller', they're Monet and Duchamp, Renoir and Delacroix. To fail with Assassin's Creed Unity is to shame one of the most beautiful and passionate countries in the world. It must succeed for the sake of the nation.
The Assassin's Creed games are being honed to perfection.
With the release of Unity there will have been seven main console releases and another ten spin-off games across mobile, handheld and tablet (see iOS card game Assassin's Creed Recollection for an example of the care and attention Ubi puts into simple ideas). Imagine what all that experience and knowledge can do when applied to Assassin's Creed Unity. There are two ways to look at yearly game releases; the cynical view that they are being churned out for easy money, and the idea that perfection will be achieved through iteration and a honed craft. We subscribe to the latter because we believe in rainbows and unicorns, peace and love.
Because if TEN studios working on it can't do it justice then the triple-A business is truly doomed.
The Assassin's Creed series is a historical fiction action-adventure open-world franchise. With stealth. That's pretty much all the genres covered and more. You can play cribbage on a boat in Assassin's Creed. Or just fly across rooftops and perform aerial kills. So it stands to reason if you want everything in your game you need everyone working on it. Ubisoft is such a huge company governments give it free money to set up development studios in their country. This is a big money company making big money bets on big money games from big money studios. If Unity fails, it will be proof the blockbuster video game business is unsustainable.
To love beauty is to see light.
You can criticise Assassin's Creed games for many things but when you do you have to praise them for twice as many achievements. The most obvious is that they are always visually stunning and are designed for players to soak up all that beauty. Climb to the highest point in the game and the camera pans around, saying "look at this gorgeous world we created just for you." Next-gen games consoles have a lot to prove, but one thing they already enable is for developers to create ever-more beautiful graphics. Graphics sell games instantly, they grab the attention. Now combine true next-gen power with an Assassin's Creed game built from scratch and we should see the future of next-generation graphics technology. Our eyes will pop like eggs in a microwave.
Chateau de Chambord France.