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Assassin's Creed Nexus

Assassin's Creed Nexus

Written by Eric Hauter on 11/23/2023 for QW2  
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In my mind, Assassin’s Creed Nexus represents a major step forward in VR gaming technology. Not because it contains a lot of revolutionary mechanics; VR fans have been sneaking around, shooting fools with arrows, and climbing buildings since the tech’s early days. No, it’s more because of the way all of these parts fit together in a package that is so clean, fun, and appealing; Ubisoft has taken a beloved franchise, edited out the parts that would not work in VR, and gifted players with an experience that feels part of the existing whole. Though there are a lot of super cool VR games, there aren’t many games in the VR space that feel “AAA” in quite the same way Nexus does.

As it turns out, AC Nexus is also a system-seller, at least for me. I started the game on Quest 2 and was so impressed by the mechanics that I wanted to play the best possible version. So I freaked out and had a Quest 3 same-day delivered. Turns out that this was a fantastic decision.

The greater resolution on Quest 3 really helps sell the illusion in AC Nexus that the player is visiting living historic sites. From roaming the streets in Italy on a bright sunny day, to sneaking into a dank prison to free a revolutionary, the Quest 3's crystal-clear display goes a long way towards convincing the player they are really there. The system’s increased AR abilities are put to great use during certain brief cutscenes, where the game pulls up a Minority Report-style interface to facilitate communications with the player’s handlers, and it appears floating in space in the middle of the room you are currently standing in. Simple effect, but also super slick. And of course, I'm already on record praising the game's bonkers-good sound design.

What’s shocking about Assassin’s Creed Nexus is how much it actually feels like a full Assassin’s Creed game, played out in first person in lively historic settings. Sure, the gameplay has been stripped down significantly from the mainline series entries, but all of the hallmarks of Assassin’s Creed are here.

You can skulk around levels, clearing out baddies with your throwing knives and bow. You can climb up the side of a building and grab soldiers by their ankles, flinging them down to the streets below. You can jump from ludicrous heights with your wrist-blade stretched out in front of you, plunging it into the unsuspecting captain on patrol below. And you can indeed climb up to dizzying heights to get a birds’ eye view of your current environs, then take a leap of faith into a trusty pile of hay waiting below. It all works ridiculously well, and it’s all amazingly entertaining.

Indeed, every time I loaded into one of the game’s tightly designed open worlds, I would spend at least a half hour wandering around and taking in the sights. Ubisoft has also provided a few little challenges to keep you entertained while you are exploring. They are purely optional, but I did enjoy completing the climbing, parkour, and shooting challenges when I came across them, and the game also provides fun historic facts when you are exploring certain areas.

I’ve never paid a ton of attention to Assassin’s Creed lore, so you’ll have to forgive me if I forego an explanation of where this game fits into the overall narrative of the franchise. The broad strokes are that you are a double agent for the Templars and the Assassins, and they are sending you back into the timelines of three of the series’ celebrated heroes to retrieve some pieces of an ancient computer. Or something. Whatever.

What it really boils down to is the fact that you are sent into the worlds of Renaissance Italy with Ezio, ancient Greece with Kassandra, and the Revolutionary War with Connor. The player skips around between these settings, with three parallel storylines tied together somewhat by the modern wraparound narrative.

But like I said, I’m not here for the story. I’m here to walk the streets of Greece, stand below those giant statues, and look up at them in wonder. I’m here to climb to the steeple of the oldest church in Boston, and then notice that when I look down, I can see my legs dangling below me. I’m here to parkour through the streets of Venice, picking off rooftop guards while making my way across the city without once touching the ground. And for this stuff, Assassin’s Creed Nexus 100% delivers the goods.

Now, to be clear, this is a game running on a standalone VR headset. Even Meta’s latest and greatest left Ubisoft with the need to cut a few corners. Textures can be a bit rough when you get up close to them. Characters are a bit fuzzy in the face (and on occasion, I was able to stick my face inside their heads, so I could see their eyeballs twitching around in there). And I chuckled a bit when walking through outdoor marketplaces from the fact that every street vendor was using the same character model dressed in different clothes.

But I absolutely did not care about any of that when I was figuring out how to climb up to the top of Apollo’s Temple. Nor did I care when I was rolling over dead bodies so I could pluck the arrows from their heads in order to shoot them at other dudes. I was unconcerned with textures when creeping through a crowd of people attending a hanging so I could assassinate a man standing on the gallows. And any concerns melted away every time I engaged the game's "Animus Scout" mode, allowing me to survey the surrounding city like it was a toy model. Sure, there might be a higher resolution version of the game that comes out eventually, but I’m deeply satisfied with what I have in front of me right now.

The only area of Assassin’s Creed Nexus that gives me pause is the somewhat clumsy combat. The game quickly establishes a combat cadence that has the player blocking or dodging incoming blows, the striking back in the opening created. It doesn’t get much more complex than this; against one opponent, it’s no big deal, but when three or four guys line up for their turn to get stabbed to death, it feels like a bit of a chore. More motivation to clear the decks with my other tools so these guys never get a chance to challenge me, I suppose.

As someone that is impacted by VR sickness, I was shocked at how comfortable I’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed Nexus. There are a variety of comfort options available, and I started the game with some pretty strict guardrails in place before slowly peeling them away so I could get full immersion. I never felt any discomfort, even when I was parkouring relentlessly through the city. Some serious voodoo going on there.

So yes, Assassin’s Creed Nexus is indeed a step forward; it shows that beloved – and complex - franchises can make the leap to VR successfully with a bit of editing. This goes beyond a company trying to jam an existing game onto a VR platform; Nexus has been designed completely with VR gamers in mind. I’m hoping that other game companies outside of Ubisoft are looking at the sales charts (where Assassin’s Creed Nexus is firmly lodged in the #1 spot), because I would love to see more franchise translations of this nature.

But even if Assassin’s Creed Nexus turns out to be a one-off, I’m still deeply grateful for it’s existence. Sure, it’s not perfect. But it’s much, much closer to perfect than I ever expected.

Assassin's Creed Nexus brings Ubisoft's amazing level of polish and fun to the VR space, with spectacular results. While the combat is a bit clunky, everything else - from the effortless parkour to the highly entertaining stealth - works like a charm. I was amazed and delighted by the fact that this is a full game, and not just a small collection of levels crammed into a "VR experience". Wildly fun, this game goes a long way toward re-establishing my faith in VR as a viable video game medium. This is a landmark title.

Rating: 9 Excellent

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

Howdy.  My name is Eric Hauter, and I am a dad with a ton of kids.  During my non-existent spare time, I like to play a wide variety of games, including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I am intrigued by the prospect of cloud gaming, and am often found poking around the cloud various platforms looking for fun and interesting stories.  I was an early adopter of PSVR (I had one delivered on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out the variety of games that have released since day one. I've since added an Oculus Quest 2 and PS VR2 to my headset collection.  I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by VR multi-player, and I try almost every multi-player game that gets released.

My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then.  I was a manager at a toy store for the release of PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast, so my nostalgia that era of gaming runs pretty deep.  Currently, I play on Xbox Series X, Series S, PS5, PS VR2, Quest 3, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, (RIP Stadia) and a super sweet gaming PC built by John Yan.  While I lean towards Sony products, I don’t have any brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play game on other systems.

When I’m not playing games or wrangling my gaggle of children, I enjoy watching horror movies and doing all the other geeky activities one might expect. I also co-host the Chronologically Podcast, where we review every film from various filmmakers in order, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts.

Follow me on Twitter @eric_hauter, and check out my YouTube channel here

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