Assassin's Creed Nexus Hands-on: Will the VR game live up to expectations?
I had the opportunity to play about twenty minutes of the highly anticipated VR game Assassin's Creed Nexus. Top or flop?
It's complicated with VR versions of popular games. Either it will be great, like Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, a fantastic one-to-one port. Or it will be something half-baked, with visual strengths and even more functional weaknesses, like Hitman VR. Either it'll be made with a lot of love for VR and specifically designed for it, like Horizon Call of the Mountain, or it'll be a port that's just average without any modifications, like Skyrim VR.
There are many more examples, of course, but you get the idea. Now Ubisoft has announced Assassin's Creed Nexus and everyone wonders: Will it be a real Assassin's Creed? Will it be good enough for people to enjoy jumping from towers into haystacks in VR?
The first impression says: Well, maybe.
Assassin's Creed Nexus: Reunion with Ezio, Cassandra and Connor
With the three iconic characters of the series, I can jump into different missions. I am offered mission number 7 and find myself in a marketplace. I immediately recognize the typical Assassin's Creed world: the alleys, the houses - it looks familiar.
The NPCs' stiff walking is also familiar, as they creep across the marketplace with a stick up their butt, just like in the best PS3 days. But I would rather not be too critical, overall, it looks pretty good for a standalone VR game. I just can't look too closely at the textures.
However, this is also a VR game with a large and open world, so it requires a lot of processing power. I can get over the graphical shortcomings.
A real Assassin's Creed Quest
I see the yellow quest marker in front of me. I'm supposed to meet somebody on top of a tower. A classic: Climbing and scurrying across rooftops is my style as an Assassin. So in the best "The Climb" and "Horizon Call of the Mountain" manner, I climb the walls. This works well, only once the game (or I?) doesn't grab properly and I have to start again.
Once at the top, I run across the roofs with smooth locomotion, enjoying the somewhat limited view in between. Looking down on the alleys from above, past my virtual armored body, is pretty cool.
Of course, while I'm gawking, a stupid guard takes notice of me, and a fight starts.
I draw my sword and try to break through his cover: Wild sword swings don't work that well, he blocks it with his pike. Unfortunately, the weapons are completely weightless, which other VR games like The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners (2) have managed much better. Switching to stabbing is the only way for me to get him down. Subsequently, I jump to the next building and get out of there.
Arriving at my destination, my new friend is waiting for me. He is better animated than the other NPCs and tells me whom to kill, where and why. I must do it in public, to set an example. He solemnly hands me a crossbow and some bolts. I should take a few test shots - then he is gone.
I locate the target on the ground near the harbor. I'm supposed to follow him - also quite classic - without being noticed. I hide behind crates, peek around corners, and use the typical groups of people standing around to disappear.
But before I can perforate the target's breast with a bolt, the demo is over. No more time left.
Gameplay conclusion: Too many small bugs riddle the demo
This allows me to reflect on my lack of enthusiasm. Was the experience bad? No, not per se. It just wasn't as good as other VR games I've played. For example, the aforementioned Horizon, which can be controlled intuitively and precisely.
In my short time playing Assassin's Creed Nexus, I experienced various bugs. Occasionally, the controls would not work properly and an action, such as holstering a weapon, would not be executed. Sometimes, textures were missing for NPCs, who then appeared as white shapes in the world. I couldn't survive the famous "Leap of Faith", the jump from a lookout into a haystack because the instructions for the controls only flashed for a millisecond and never came back. Then again, the last bolt of my test shot ended up rolling right between the NPC's feet, where I could barely grab it.
In the end, the demo was far too short for me to make a judgment. But there were definitely too many bugs for an official presentation. Ubisoft doesn't have much time to polish the game: It will be released on November 16th 2023 for Quest 2, Quest 3 and Quest Pro.
However, in the short time I had, I felt the potential and the typical Assassin's Creed atmosphere, even if not everything went well. Maybe I just didn't have enough time to get used to the controls. A lot will depend on how smooth and flawless the VR game will be in the end - and if Ubisoft tells a good story.
For now, though, I would recommend waiting for the reviews.