Some might say it was a game that was simply too ambitious for its intended platform. In 2014, Ubisoft’s spectacular Assassin’s Creed Unity pushed back technological boundaries in a range of directions. Its depiction of Revolutionary Paris was dense in detail, packed with hundreds of residents on-screen at any given point, in a city that didn’t just increase detail outdoors – but introduced highly detailed interiors too. Combined with big advances in character rendering and an astonishing global illumination system that still looks incredible today, Unity had all the makings of a masterpiece. The problem was, it didn’t run very well at all.
Ubisoft itself admitted that the focus on technology was just too strong, to the detriment of the final product, which ran poorly on both PS4 and Xbox One. Even on PC, it took years for CPUs and GPUs to run this game well. Curiously, with the console builds, Unity actually ran better in some cases on the less powerful Microsoft machine, despite a locked 900p resolution on both – indicative of the extraordinary CPU load placed on the consoles and the small clock speed advantage enjoyed by Xbox One. Patches followed, the game improved, but it took the arrival of PS4 Pro and Xbox One X with their higher frequency CPUs to get the game running at anything close to a locked 30 frames per second.
Now, with the arrival of Xbox Series X, it’s finally possible to play the game on console at 60 frames per second. And with one extremely minor exception, that’s a locked 60fps. It’s one of the most transformative experiences I’ve yet experienced via the new console’s backwards compatibility feature – a game renowned for sub-optimal play is now basically flawless in performance terms. Actually breaking the 30fps limit of the game isn’t easy though. It requires users to have access to the original disc release and to block any attempts to download any patches. This OG code is different from all the patches that followed by actually running with an unlocked frame-rate – a poor state of affairs back in the day for console users, but essential six years later in allowing us to leverage the huge CPU power offered by the Zen 2 processors within the next-gen machines.