Some might say that this is a much-desired game on the intended platform. In 2014, Ubisoft’s stunning Assassin’s Creed unit pushed back technical boundaries in many directions. The imagery of Revolutionary Paris was dense in detail, with hundreds of inhabitants filling the screen at any given time, and the details did not enhance the exterior of a city – but presented very detailed interiors. Combining the great advances in character rendering with the stunning global lighting system that still looks incredible today, Unity had all the designs in one masterpiece. The problem is, it doesn’t work well.
Ubisoft itself acknowledges that it is too strong to focus on technology that could adversely affect the end product, which is performing poorly on the PS4 and Xbox One. Even on PC, it took CPs and GPUs years to run this game well. Interestingly, with console builds, the unit actually performed well on a low-cost Microsoft machine, with a resolution of 900p on both consoles – the extraordinary CPU load placed on the consoles and the small clock speed enjoyed by the Xbox One. Patches followed, and the game improved, but with the high frequency CPUs of the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X it allowed the game to work close to 30 frames per second.
Now, with the advent of the Xbox Series X, you can finally play the game on the console 60 frames per second. Without a very small exception, it is a Locked 60fps. This is one of the most transformative experiences I’ve ever had with the new console’s Backwards Compatibility feature – a game known for sub-optimal play is now basically flawless in performance. Breaking the game’s 30fps limit is not easy. This requires users to have access to the original disk release and to prevent attempts to download any patches. This OG code is different from all other patches and actually works with an unlocked frame rate – a bad condition for console users, but is essential for allowing us to utilize the great CPU power it has been offering for six years now on Zen 2 processors within next-generation machines.
With the return of the Xbox One X in 2017, we found that Microsoft’s back-compat system has solved many of the problems associated with GPUs in the AC unit, and simple shots can certainly reach 60 fps. However, once we were on the city streets, the frame rate dropped. Despite having a 30 percent uplift with the original consoles, AMD Jaguar cores could not come close to hitting the display’s 60 Hz upgrade. Series X does it, and does it in style, a flawless experience. The game loses its rock-solid performance level only when approaching a co-sign mission marker, and yet only very quickly. It’s quite an advantage to see Zen 2 cores delivering it – especially if you think it’s genuine and sub – optimal code, not a better patch update.
Not only does the AC unit in the Series X look great (it also benefits from compulsory 16x anisotropic filtering for cleaner ground textures)), it’s also my last look at what you think of as the classic Assassin ‘Creed moment’. Many of its breakthrough improvements to Syndicate follow-up have been removed, and it is safe to say that Assassin’s Creed as a franchise has moved in a very different direction since the arrival of AC Origins in 2017. Today, Unity is playing on the locked 60 fps, telling me that if Ubisoft decides to revisit and improve the classic formula, the CPU horsepower is finally there to bring back those great urban landscapes and lose ourselves in their dense crowd.
If you have a Series X console in preorder, be sure to find an old disk copy of the game – but remember not to install the patch when prompted. With the game code itself capable of doing this, Microsoft hopes to make everything official by deploying its ‘dual FPS’ back-compat feature, and it will open the door to the same experience that runs on the Xbox Series AC. Yes, since the AC unit CPU is limited in existing machines, I see no reason why our experiment here will not give the same excellent result as on the Junior Next-Gen console – but the paradox is that all its digital nature but disk code cannot be installed. Maybe find a solution that involves copying the OG code to an external device? Regardless, it’s good to get this job done without fail.
One last caption. When we run under the original release code back-compat, you may encounter various bugs that caused that weird fun and frustration. My problems that sank for hours on the OG release of the Series X were a step-by-step NPC and some shadows in a room. Your mileage may vary, but the fact that the original Eurogamer reviewer Tom Bramwell went through the games has not affected the problems relatively. Still, from my point of view, the fascination with issues aside (why is Arno working on the most accidental things in Brick-a-Brock?) I would love to revisit this. A lot of improvements from the Xbox Compatibility team could go a long way – the Series X could certainly deliver 1800p60 – but it may be time for Ubisoft to officially fix things. Next-Gen opens the door to the beautiful Assassin’s Creed Unity remaster, and I want to see that happen.