Of course, everyone wants to be an Assassin. The Assassin’s Creed franchise is the only game I can think of that made you excited to poke sharp objects at unsuspecting folks while tip-toeing. The Assassin’s Creed games that came before the RPG era never needed hulking power-ups to make sense of said heroic deeds. It's the brotherhood drama, trauma and wavering loyalties that always justified the sneaky stabbing and inevitably made us fans of the series. Ah, and the soundtrack and world-building captured intrigue faster than Ezio’s seductive accent. So when a VR version of the franchise was announced, everyone stroked their chin in suspicion. Will wearing Ezio as a meat suit still feel the same? How does one avoid spitting the dinner out while using Italy as their personal jungle gym? With all these questions we walked into Ubisoft’s studio in Mumbai for a brief session with the latest Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR and while our hands-on experience was short, the game time was enough to boot all our suspicions. This is a bloody good VR game.
Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR hands-on preview
It’s the new meta
Now the game is only available on Meta Quest 2, Meta Quest 3 and Meta Quest Pro. That means if you have any other VR headset, it’s not going to work. You get to play as three master Assassins - Ezio, Kassandra and Connor. We only got to try Ezio during our playtest and we immediately noticed that first-person Assassin’s Creed looks quite interesting. If you’ve played Dishonored, it will look very similar but that’s about it. Once you put on the VR headset, everything is different and everything is an arm’s reach away, literally so. Climbing surfaces is as easy as holding your hand up and grabbing the ledges that are technically ‘easy’ to grab. You have to grab protruding bricks, window panes, ropes, ledges and that sort of stuff to keep going. After 10-15mins, climbing felt easy and not daunting. Loitering around on rooftops was a bit more challenging to my senses. The fear of falling down from the terracotta tiles of Venice would test my skills as an assassin. Also, moving around using the joysticks while your real legs are stationary is the real challenge. Your legs tend to tighten up every time you jump or run from one rooftop to the next. It’s unlikely that you’ll need nerves of steel to walk on ropes or to peer down at the street below but like all things VR, this will take a few minutes to get used to.
Thanks to the three-storey buildings of Venice, you never really feel overwhelmed by the parkour but it still manages to feel exhilarating every time you monkey around. Even the leap of faith felt manageable. I am sure a few Redbull athletes have jumped from a higher point in real life and for some reason, the dive down in virtual Venice felt shorter. As if jumping from a height of 8 feet height in real life. I feel it’s deliberate to keep the dinner in my tummy and the folks at Ubisoft India who conjured this level design have done a fantastic job at balancing the look and feel of parkour.
It's also very detailed. Aside from hugging concrete with both arms, you can also pick up objects and interact with them. Bottles can be tossed, hammers can be used to… hammer and apples are waiting to be eaten (not the Apple of Eden). During combat, you can equip the crossbow by moving your left arm behind your shoulder to equip it and arrows can be equipped the same way but with your right hand. You’re basically using your arms to equip, holster, reload and aim while the trigger buttons are for shooting.
Holding down the shoulder buttons and flicking your wrist will engage the hidden blade which, let's be honest, all of us have done in the past after playing the game. This was the turning point. We’ve seen this in the game before so doing it felt natural and intuitive. You can even assassinate bad folks from above.
The right holster has a sword which you can draw and use. Blocking attacks and attacking back with the sword was a lot of fun. You also get throwing knives and smoke bombs with Ezio but we opted to have a little fun. We pushed an unsuspecting carpenter, grabbed his hammer and then ran around knocking folks on the head with the hammer. Surprisingly, every NPC reacts to your mischief. Even brushing shoulders and shoving NPCs is possible. You can even target limbs and grab people to annoy them. Obviously, that wouldn’t make you the sneakiest assassin but definitely a fun one.
The combat, NPC and facial animation was by a group of Ubisoft studios across the world and the Mumbai and Pune studios have worked on these aspects of the games as well. If you wish to try the game for yourself then Ubisoft will have a booth at the Delhi Comic Con with the Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR demo for you to try. We will update you if the Ubisoft booth is available at the Mumbai Comic Con which will happen next year.
On several occasions, games with big labels that foray into VR get labelled as ‘VR experience’ but Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR feels a lot more than just a tech demo for the Meta Quest 3. It gets the ball rolling in the right direction for VR gaming on Meta VR headsets. It’s obvious that Meta has a collaboration on this to keep the game on their platform otherwise this can very easily be ported for PlayStation VR2 and Steam as well. So if you can’t get your hands on a Meta Quest to play it right now, tough luck.
But if you can, this game should quickly go from the store, to your cart and into your library.