With the release of Assassin’s Creed Nexus now less than a month away, Player 2 ventured to the Ubisoft offices to experience a taste of what this series’ ambitious foray into VR has to offer. After spending about an hour with the game across two separate missions, I can safely say that parkour in VR is as satisfying as you hope it is – and that despite my great fears going into the experience, I didn’t even vomit once.
The full game will offer the chance to step into the shoes of three of the series’ most beloved protagonists – Ezio Auditore da Firenze, Kassandra (the best one), and Connor Kenway – whose stories are tied together by a new present day fight against shady megacorporation Abstergo. Not much of the overarching plot was revealed during the preview session beyond what has already been revealed in trailers, but we do know that it involves series favourites Shaun Hastings and Rebecca Crane, along the mysterious new cybersecurity chief of Abstergo Dominika Wilk – who is voiced by the amazing Morena Baccarin.
During the preview, however, it was Ezio who took centre stage. From the moment I looked down to see myself in his full assassin garb, I felt transported back to the series’ roots – and it’s a lot of fun to look down and see yourself wearing those familiar leather bracers on your arms. A tutorial began to talk me through picking up and throwing objects (which functions exactly as you expect, with a press of a button and then a real world arm movement) and at that point I panicked – the dreaded vertigo had reared its head.
But all was not lost.
The game features four separate ‘comfort level’ settings, all with more granular options within them that can be further tweaked. I had started on ‘Immersive’, which gives a full 360 degree view of the in-game world and allows smooth and uninterrupted movement, along with looking spectacular. By turning the comfort level setting up one level, the game introduced a vignette that would appear at the sides of the screen whenever I turned or moved too quickly, which immediately stabilised the world at the expense of a small amount of immersion. My camera movement was also a little more stilted, which further helped to calm the nausea – and from there it didn’t pose an issue again. Not when I jumped across buildings, or down from great heights, or turned quickly to escape enemies. This is its greatest accomplishment.
Mostly because, as promised, most of the things present in a typical Assassin’s Creed game are also present in Nexus. As Ezio, I performed a Leap of Faith into a suspicious hay bale below, scaled walls, and enjoyed the sights of Venice – all while ruining the plans of some pesky Templars. A Leap of Faith is performed by holding your arms out wide to mirror your protagonist, and entering into stealth mode can be done by lowering your body into a crouch – or with a button press, if you feel more comfortable using the controller. Climbing feels really satisfying, with the ability to use corners or poles to scale a building playing into the feeling of constant motion – it felt not unlike real-world rock-climbing, but in an alternate world where I have superhuman upper body strength that makes shimmying up walls a breeze.
Being equipped with a whole slew of gadgets means that your combat experience will likely differ depending on which ones you choose to favour. You can use your hidden blade (with a satisfying flick of the wrist) or the crossbow that sits on your shoulder if you want to go for a stealthy approach, or become a parrying expert with your sword. If the way you play Assassin’s Creed is anything like me, you may go into a scenario with the best of intentions to be stealthy and quickly find yourself fighting for your life when that all goes south. For me, the sword-fighting was actually a surprising highlight of the session. I found pulling the crossbow from my shoulder and arming it a little finicky, so I was concerned that a whole lot of death would be coming my way – but that wasn’t the case. Fighting off even two or three enemies at a time never felt overwhelming, because I always felt that I had full control over how my sword would move – which isn’t always true when relying on input delay from a button press on a controller. It feels very smooth, and parrying is also pretty intuitive.
Of course, as with all VR experiences, it isn’t flawless. There are moments when you won’t quite grab the thing you mean to, because of a slightly awkward disconnect between your actual hands and your character’s proximity to the thing you’re trying to hold. The crossbow, as mentioned, can take some getting used to, and sometimes the thing you’re searching for in the environment isn’t always immediately obvious. But these are all small things, most of which we’ve almost come to expert from VR games.
For those who are lucky enough to have access to a Meta Quest, Assassin’s Creed Nexus seems like it’s going to be a real treat. While I didn’t get to experience the other assassins’ stories, they each have their own unique weapons and tools that will likely make playing as each one feel just different enough to keep things interesting. If nothing else, it’s deeply impressive that they have made a game that allows me to do a Leap of Faith in VR without immediately wanting to lie down on the floor to recover – and for that reason, I’m excited for the game’s full release.
Assassin’s Creed Nexus releases on November 17th for the Meta Quest 2, Meta Quest 3, and Meta Quest Pro.