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Assassin’s Creed Nexus Preview: like stepping into a real-life Animus machine

Assassin’s Creed Nexus Preview: like stepping into a real-life Animus machine

We've been hands-on with Assassin's Creed Nexus, a revolutionary VR title and fresh perspective on a beloved series

Last week I went hands-on with Assassin’s Creed Nexus. This upcoming VR game will be released for the Meta Quest and aims to put you in the shoes of the franchise’s most beloved protagonists and let you experience the thrill of scaling buildings, and assassinating bad guys through your own movements.

The whole experience was like putting on a real-life Animus, that presents an entirely new way to play Assassin’s Creed.

Check out Assassin's Creed Nexus below!

My time with the game took me through a tutorial, and a full-length level, both of which put me under the skin of the greatest assassin in the series, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, though Connor Kenway and Kassandra will also appear in the full-game.

If you’ve played VR before, the controls will be fairly intuitive. The triggers act as your fingers allowing you to pick up, hold and drop/throw objects around the room. You also get a number of weapons and gadgets later on that are attached to your body and need to be grabbed and put back in the right positions, like sheathing your sword at your side or pulling a smoke bomb from your belt.

Where it differs is how it’s not just gear and random objects you’ll be grabbing, you’ll also need to climb like an assassin. While other Assassin’s Creed games follow characters who are masters of parkour, it’s a skill you’ll be learning along the way. I can guarantee the first few levels will see you awkwardly fumble your way up a wall, looking for the right brick to hoist yourself up with. Once you master it though, it’s a remarkable experience and it felt great to scale multistory buildings with all the grace and skill of an assassin, knowing that it was my own movements and quick thinking that was making it happen.

Assassin's Creed Nexus-

This was different when running around though, as obviously VR sets don’t have anything to track your feet with, and even if they did it just wouldn’t be practical in terms of gameplay. Instead, it adopts the same mechanic Assassin’s Creed games have used for years, holding down a button to prompt your character to automatically leap and bound across the rooftops. Don’t get me wrong though, you still have a lot of control, as where you leap depends on where you’re looking.

As you run, you might decide to jump to a nearby pole, which you can grab and swing from to keep your forward momentum going. Or, you could try clearly a large gap by leaping off, and grabbing the edge before you fall, hoisting yourself back up and setting off again. If you need to quickly, but safely get back down to ground level, you just need to hold your hand against the wall and use a hook to slow your descent.

The Venice level I played was a completely open environment too, so I had a wonderful playground to test different parkour moves, including the iconic Leap Of Faith, which is weirdly daunting in VR.

I was incredibly impressed with the comfort options too, which let you change your vision in the game as well as how it’s controlled. For example you could choose teleportation instead of fluid movement, and alter your peripheral vision, and there was even a setting for those with vertigo or a fear of heights that gave you more clarity over what was in front of you.

Moving on though, while parkour is the bread of Assassin’s Creed, the stealth/action is definitely the butter, and Assassin’s Creed Nexus has it in spades.

Assassin's Creed Nexus-

Starting with stealth, it felt very different to the average Assassin’s Creed game, largely because I was doing the sneaking myself rather than controlling a character. Enemies patrol areas you’re not supposed to be in, and if you want to avoid conflict, you need to pay close attention to what they’re doing and where they’re looking.

A good option for getting past unnoticed is a good distraction, which can be achieved by picking up whatever is near you, and throwing it across the room till someone goes to investigate. Alternatively, you can whistle for their attention, which can be easily performed by positioning your hand into an “ok” sign and holding it up to your mouth/bottom of your headset.

Once an enemy is adequately intrigued, you can either disappear like the darkness at dawn or go in for the kill. This can be done by holding down a trigger and flicking your wrist to reveal the greatest weapon an assassin can have the Hidden Blade. Then you just need to give whoever you’re after a good stab, and it’s job done. You can also throw a knife from a distance to silently take down an enemy, or even perform an air assassination at the press of a button, provided you’re in the right position.

All the usual Assassin’s Creed stealth mechanics are here too, like crouching in bushes or hiding in piles of hay to go unnoticed, or standing in a crowd of people which was especially handy when tailing a target.

Admittedly, stealth was tricky to master, especially if you mess up a throw, knock something over, or move too quickly past an enemy. If you get spotted, you’ll have no choice but to flee, or unsheath your sword and prepare for combat.

Assassin's Creed Nexus-

Combat is actually relatively easy provided you’re not fighting a large group, as it’s as simple as blocking strikes and countering with your own. Sometimes you can even do a charge move, which was especially useful for enemies standing near ledges. If you get outnumbered you can throw a smoke bomb and make a quick retreat, or go all-out and try to take down as many as you can while they’re dazed.

Put everything together and you’ve got the most immersive Assassin’s Creed experience we’ve ever had, and it’s incredible how many of the definitive AC mechanics the developers at Ubisoft managed to squeeze in, whilst making them fun to use and easily accessible a VR format.

Whether you’re a major Assassin’s Creed fan, or only recently discovered the franchise, Assassin’s Creed Nexus is shaping up to be a brilliant showcase for what else VR can do for gaming, as well as giving beloved series a fresh perspective.

Assassin’s Creed Nexus will launch on 16 November for VR, Meta Quest 2, Meta Quest 3 and Meta Quest Pro.

Featured Image Credit: Ubisoft

Topics: Assassins Creed, VR, Ubisoft