We absolutely loved the first outing for Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed franchise on next-gen consoles.
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag was a superb continuation of what we'd seen before (although, technically, it was a prequel). Pirate ships, massive map, varied gameplay, et al. However, that's exactly what it was.
As impressive as it was in its technological achievements it was simply a continuation. Hugely enjoyable, but we had seen much of it before. Assassin's Creed Unity feels much more like a massive leap forward. And not just into a hay bale. Not only are the graphics significantly improved, so much so that it would be a fruitless experience trying to port it down the console generation chain, but it is the first to introduce such fresh new gameplay elements as co-op.
That's what we played at Gamescom this year, us and a Ubisoft employee traversed our way through a Notre Dame sewage system and we loved every second of it.
The way the game is constructed this time enables players to engage in co-op missions without hampering or affecting the single-player campaign. They are separate, can be replayed at any time, and can even be attempted solo - although in that instance they will be extremely tricky to complete.
Although they don't affect the main storyline, co-op missions will also help bump up your character's statistics as this year customisation and role-playing elements are extremely important to the game.
You have a variety of different statistics that will help you in co-op and single-player, such as a health stat and one for sneaking about, and you can alter these by acquiring items in all games modes. For example, clothing for each part of the body has a different affect on your character stats and abilities. A coat might be more camouflaged, so you are more stealthy. Or some trousers might be more sturdy, meaning you take less damage.
Weapons too have different character traits. In many ways, the customisation screen we saw at Gamescom reminded us of previous years' Tiger Woods games. In those, the clubs, gloves even, in some editions, shoes all had different affects on your golfer's in-game ability.
Of course, Unity differs to Tiger Woods, you have to sneak about behind people's backs and doing things you shouldn't - although, saying that...
In co-op it really needs players to work together to eliminate guards, etc. The level we played definitely seemed well though out, putting two guards in places that only two different assassins could get past without alarms being rung. And what's quite remarkable about it all is that once you complete the objective - in this case, steal an artifact - the next time you play the mission everything could change. You might enter at a different location, the artifact will be in a different place, and the guard placements could alter.
We were very impressed by what we saw at Gamescom and cannot wait to see the full game and play some of the single-player campaign. But just from what we've seen so far, it looks to be a genuine attempt to further the cause.