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Assassin's Creed: Unity review: Let them eat cake

Hayden Dingman | Nov. 18, 2014
Oh boy, there's a lot to talk about here. Most of it isn't good.

Minimum specs

Making matters worse, Assassin's Creed: Unity suffers from numerous damning technical issues. It's a mess. But instead of dwelling on the number of hardlocks/crashes I experienced in my time with Unity (over a dozen), as well as the enormous number of graphical glitches I witnessed, I'd instead like to discuss Ubisoft's minimum specs for this game in relation to the overall PC hardware landscape.

The minimum specs for Unity have met with quite a bit of controversy, and for good reason — Ubisoft requires at least a GeForce GTX 680 or above. To give you an idea how many Nvidia cards this includes, we're talking a 680, 770, 780, 780Ti, 970, 980, and the Titan and Titan Black. It doesn't even include one-generation old cards like the 750, 750Ti, or 760. For minimum specs. 

I went ahead and plucked numbers for both the supported Nvidia and AMD cards from October's Steam Hardware Survey. Want to know how many Steam users run a card officially supported by Assassin's Creed: Unity? Approximately seven percent, give or take a bit.

Now, this wouldn't be such an issue if Assassin's Creed: Unity were a PC-first game a la the first Crysis. "It's future-proofed. Just wait until five years from now when everyone's upgraded — Unity is going to look beautiful and run even better!"

No, this is a console-first game. Running on consoles, I might add, that feature the GPU equivalent of AMD's 7790 (Xbox One) and 7870 (PS4) cards. If you're an Nvidia household, the 7790 is equivalent to Nvidia's 650 Ti Boost, a.k.a. a card not even close to the performance of the "minimum spec" 680. Even accounting for the differences between PC and console hardware, Unity is nothing but a borderline-offensive PC port. It hiccups even on high-end setups, and it's not optimized well enough to run on not just low-end but average hardware.

The main culprit is almost undoubtedly the enormous crowds Ubisoft has crammed into Unity. Back when I saw the game at E3 I said that having 5,000 people on-screen at once without cheating was "an absolutely baffling number of people." It turns out I was right to be incredulous: Ubisoft crams 5,000 people on screen and, in doing so, completely breaks the framerate. At least on the PC we can upgrade hardware — I feel even worse for people on consoles, who are hitting sub-20 frames per second at times with no chance for recourse.

What's more, these crowds don't really do much. It's impressive from a purely technical standpoint, but from a game standpoint they still mainly exist to get in your way as you run through the streets. My favorite thing is how they walk over dead bodies you leave in the street as if the bodies aren't even there — whether that's dumb AI or a subtle commentary on the sheer amount of death in the French Revolution, well, I'm not making any wagers.


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