E3 2014: Next Gen Is Finally Here Thanks To Ubisoft

Current-gen consoles are in an extraordinarily tricky position. On one hand, they’re far more powerful than last-gen’s boxes, and equally more capable of delivering innovative experiences — especially with the newest PlayStation camera and Xbox One’s bundled Kinect 2.0. However, on the other hand, with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 still the primary system in most households, and with an — all considering — paltry amount of their successors in the hands of gamer’s across the world, it’s hard for a company to commit to a limited demographic. It’s simply not financially viable, and at the end of the day, video games are a business.

Ubisoft, the gaming juggernaut behind Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed and the recently released Watch Dogs, doesn’t give a care about business norms, though. Ubisoft appears to understand the need for reaching beyond the barrier of outdated technology, and as such have been developing two titles in the Assassin’s Creed series simultaneously — one for each respective generation of consoles. This, in turn, has allowed the development house to craft a game with little compromise, pushing limits that last gen’s toys couldn’t handle.

During the Assassin’s Creed Unity demo, one thing stood a fair height above the rest of the games impressive features: the crowds. Never has a game produced such rich, detailed and abundant crowds — all of which, apparently, inhabit the city. As Arno Dorian, and the co-op friends joining in his mission, maneuvered through and around the large gatherings of people, unique expressions and facial details were immediately apparent on the surrounding folk.

Movement, too, was smoother than in previous titles, and climbing — while still impossibly animated — appeared leagues more realistic. Indeed, the mechanics we’ve grown to love (and tolerate) still mostly consist of the stab-y, dodge-y, run-y variety, the city in past titles has never seemed so alive. Unlike Watch Dogs, which was developed with various and differently-powered platforms in mind, Unity has a shot at living up to its gorgeous first impressions.

With Rocksteady pushing Batman: Arkham Knight on current-gen only, perhaps Ubisoft — a massive company with multiple popular franchises on a near-yearly cycle — can help buck the multiple system trend, and help the industry focus on current platforms. With developers committing to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, more units will fly from the shelves, more homes will be equipped with the latest hardware, and more companies will follow in dropping last-gen for good.  There’s certainly still a ways to go, but Ubisoft has taken the first leap. And frankly, it’s beautiful.