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Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR review: wearing the hidden blade on your own wrist

Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR review: wearing the hidden blade on your own wrist

Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR brings you closer to the world of assassins than ever before, and is like plugging into a real-life animus.

Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR brings you closer to the world of assassins than ever before, and is like plugging into a real-life animus.

As the next Assassin’s Creed game after the relatively safe Assassin’s Creed Mirage, I had high hopes that Assassin’s Creed Nexus would innovate the series, giving me the necessary tools to be my own silent killer. After going hands-on, I was thoroughly impressed with what it delivered.

Take a peek at the trailer for Assassin's Creed Nexus VR below

It’s not without its flaws, but for the majority of my playthrough, it continuously made me feel like I was becoming one of the iconic hooded characters that turned the series into Ubisoft’s flagship franchise.

The story isn’t much to write home about, but for the first time ever it features not one, not two, but three assassins as protagonists. There’s the legendary Ezio Auditore (Assassin’s Creed 2 and others), Kassandra (Assassin’s Creed Odyssey), and Connor Kenway (Assassin’s Creed 3). While I won’t go into too much detail, the straightforward plot summary is: The Templars are up to no good again. Shocker, we know. Your job is to infiltrate their operations, find out what they're looking for, and get to it first.

This mission takes place across several new and bitesize adventures for the assassins, all of whom are blissfully unaware that their every move is being monitored far in the future.

The assassin you play varies from mission to mission, starting off with some basic tutorial levels as Ezio, before eventually switching over to Kassanda, then Connor and back again. Each character plays marginally the same way, though, with a few differences in terms of gadgets/weapons. For example, Kassanda and Connor wield a bow and arrow as their secondary weapon, whereas Ezio has a crossbow. The melee weapons are all different too, with Ezio and Kassandra wielding swords, whereas Connor has a tomahawk. You’ll also eventually gain access to various gadgets like throwing knives, which were great fun to pull out of their holster and lob at oblivious enemies.

Assassin's Creed Nexus VR: Credit- Ubisoft
Assassin's Creed Nexus VR: Credit- Ubisoft

Honestly, the main difference between the various assassins is the locations they sneak around, all of which are beautifully rendered on the Meta Quest 3 and can be fully explored at will. Hopping around Venice, Ancient Greece, and America while taking in the sights with your own eyes rather than a third-person camera feels amazing, and there’s a surprising level of detail present too.

There were a number of times when I’d stop what I was doing to take in the scenery, listen in to what the local NPCs were discussing, or just go exploring. While the open-world areas aren’t the gigantic stretches of land the latest Assassin’s Creed games have, they were, in my opinion, the perfect size for a VR experience. They were big enough to feel like you’re crossing a city, without being too big to the point where that’s basically all you’re doing.

In order to navigate these open environments and complete your objectives, you’ll need to master the art of parkour, which is undoubtedly the best part of the game.

It’s also fairly simple, as you control your movements in the same way you would in one of the other Assassin’s Creed games. Simply hold down the designated parkour button and you’ll hop and skip across gaps with ease, using your head to lock on to whichever platform or edge you want to jump to next. That’s just the freerunning, if you want to gain height, or narrowly avoid a fall to your death, you’ll need to use your hands. Again this is pretty simple, as all the assassins have seemingly been bitten by a radioactive spider since they can climb virtually anything.

You just reach your hand out and grab hold of whatever you can find to pull yourself up until you get to the top. If something above or to the side of you is a little bit too far, you can push off whatever you’re holding to clear the distance. You can also come across poles sticking out of the walls to grab and swing from, which feel amazing to use especially if you time it well and keep your momentum going.

Once you tie everything together, it’s magical. Flawlessly running up a cart on the ground, jumping to a ledge, and vaulting off a pole before making a desperate leap for a rooftop edge is a thing of beauty, even better if you’re being pursued by enemies. While you can master all the skills and moves as you play, you can also put them to the taste via time trials, which see you race through a number of gates before claiming a collectable at the end.

Assassin's Creed Nexus VR: Credit- Ubisoft
Assassin's Creed Nexus VR: Credit- Ubisoft

Most of the time the parkour was fun and responsive, most of the time. Every now and then I’d be climbing a wall, trying to launch myself higher, only to be knocked back down by some sort of invisible wall. The only thing I could think caused this was being too close to the wall I was climbing, leading to the character's arms and body brushing against it and blocking the ascent, but I’m not entirely sure.

There were also several moments where I’d hold the jump button while running towards a box, pile of rocks, or cart expecting my assassin to jump as they’d done before, only to run straight into it and awkwardly feel around for a bit to climb.

It wasn’t too immersion-breaking, and it didn’t happen often enough to ruin the experience, but it was noticeable when it interrupted an escape attempt.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Assassin’s Creed without a few synchronisation points dotted around. These fulfil the same purpose as previous games, giving you the lay of the land and marking points of interest. Once you’ve taken in whatever information you deem important, you can hold your arms out to the side, press a button and initiate the iconic leap of faith, always a treat and oddly terrifying if you’re not accustomed to VR.

Speaking of which, it’s important to remember that VR isn’t for everybody. Sometimes there is such a thing as too much immersion, and gameplay that increases the risk of injury or motion sickness is definitely something you want to avoid if possible. Luckily Ubisoft went above and beyond with Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR, allowing you to tailor your comfort experience whenever you like.

This includes toggling your movement to teleportation, reducing peripheral vision, or an option for those who are easily scared by heights. The fear of heights setting shows a grid when you’re high up, giving you an idea of where your real-life floor is and making jumps off rooftops less daunting. While I didn’t use any of these features during my gameplay, they’re fine additions and it’s nice to see Ubisoft consider everyone’s perspectives when designing the game.

It’s not all running across rooftops though, as each assassin has a job to do that can only be finished through careful infiltration tactics and introducing your enemies to a steel blade.

Starting off with stealth, the bread and/or butter of Assassin’s Creed games, it’s a lot of fun. It functions almost exactly the same as previous games, with each enemy having a line of sight that’ll spot you when they’ve locked eyes on you for long enough.

Assassin's Creed Nexus VR: Credit- Ubisoft
Assassin's Creed Nexus VR: Credit- Ubisoft

To escape their line of sight, you can either position yourself above them, hide behind large objects or walls, crouch in bushes, or blend in with passing crowds.

While you could sneak your way through the majority of encounters without unsheathing a weapon, it’d be a shame to put that gorgeous hidden blade to waste. You can bring the blade out by holding a button and flicking your wrist, then find the nearest unsuspecting victim and plunge the sharp bit right into them for a quick and easy kill. If you’re positioned above them, you can wait until a white silhouette covers their body, then at the push of a button, you can jump down for a stylish air assassination.

For enemies slightly more out of reach, you could lure them closer by picking up nearby objects like pots and throwing them. Alternatively, you can also whistle by doing an ‘ok’ hand signal and holding it up to your mouth. This lures enemies closer and puts them in range of your hidden blade. Once any enemy is down, you can pick them up and move them to the side so their buddies don’t notice.

Stealth was a lot of fun in VR, especially since you’re a lot more mobile than you are in normal gameplay. Peering around corners, looking around for worthy distractions, and slowly creeping up on an unsuspecting victim all felt great and quite tense at times. You’re made aware when an enemy can see you, and when that notification pops up when you didn’t know anybody was there it’s a mad dash to either take them down quickly or flee before they alert the area.

Now when stealth fails, you’re forced to either fight off the attacking enemies or run away and hope for the best. Honestly I wasn’t a fan of either.

Combat is a case of pulling out your primary weapon, waiting for your opponent to slash at you, either vertically or horizontally, blocking and countering with an attack of your own. You can also parry by batting away their weapon at the right time, but I didn’t see much point in doing it when you just block and attack when they’re open.

Enemy variation was quite good, with basic enemies, quick and nimble enemies and big brutish enemies, as well as some that attack you at range rather than up close. Some attacks, mainly ones from the tougher opponents, couldn’t be blocked and required a dodge instead, which made things a little more exciting but not enough to actually want to fight.

Assassin's Creed Nexus VR: Credit- Ubisoft
Assassin's Creed Nexus VR: Credit- Ubisoft

Unfortunately, when you decide to flee it’s as simple as getting onto a rooftop and most enemies forget you ever existed. Alternatively, some enemies seem to know exactly where you are at all times, even if you think you’re out of sight. This made scripted segments when you’re caught and have to become anonymous to proceed a little frustrating.

Enemy encounters are definitely more fun when you’re the predator instead of the prey, which does provide an incentive to remain undetected. Unfortunately, the moments when you inevitably get caught are some of the weakest parts of the game, not downright bad, just not as fun.

When you tie everything together, Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR brings a fresh perspective to the beloved series. If the goal was to make you feel like you were pulling up the hood and wielding the various weapons and gadgets the protagonists are known for, it wholeheartedly succeeds.

The added control over the game’s encounters, combined with the precise and fluid movements make Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR a game you can replay over and over again, as there’s a lot of experimentation to be had with how you complete its objectives, and of course the side content collectables.

Overall, it’s a great addition to the series and one of the best VR experiences I’ve had in a long time. While it was occasionally held back by some clunky movements or noticeable glitches, it wasn’t frequent enough to dilute the enjoyment or take away from the experience. If you own a Meta Quest and love Assassin’s Creed, this is definitely worth a try, and hopefully the start of a spin-off series.

Pros: Classic Assassin’s Creed gameplay from a fresh perspective, hands-on stealth is a lot of fun, gadgets and the hidden blade feel great to use, nicely crafted environments, parkour feels fast and exhilarating when it works

Cons: Combat is tedious and a bit boring, parkour can sometimes be unresponsive or confusing, and a few noticeable bugs and glitches

For fans of: Assassin’s Creed, immersive games, stealth games.

7/10: Very Good

Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR is available now for Meta Quest 2, Meta Quest 3 and Meta Quest Pro. Review code provided by the publisher. Read a guide to our review scores here.

Featured Image Credit: Ubisoft

Topics: Assassins Creed, VR, Ubisoft