Ubisoft, the developer behind Assassin's Creed Unity, recently dropped the news that the game will run at 900p and 30 frames per second on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. PlayStation 4 fans reacted exactly as everyone thought they would, complaining that Ubisoft was dumbing down the PS4 version just to appease Microsoft.
Ubisoft responded by stating that 60 FPS is not "that great" and that 30 FPS "actually feels better." Does the developer actually have a point or was this an attempt at PR spin?
Ubisoft's position, according to an interview in TechRadar, is that the amount of work it would have taken to bump the game up to 60 FPS could not be justified because it feels the difference between 30 fps and 60 fps in an action adventure game like Assassin's Creed is negligible and that the bulk of the visual experience will come from the game's graphical fidelity and not the frame rate or resolution.
To be fair, Assassin's Creed: Unity will have more happening on the screen this time around thanks to the game's new co-op multiplayer and the graphics do indeed appear to be next-gen. But after reading the entire interview, Ubisoft's stance does come off as damage control. Here's Unity's World Level Design Director, Nicolas Guerin:
"At Ubisoft for a long time we wanted to push 60 fps. I don't think it was a good idea because you don't gain that much from 60 fps and it doesn't look like the real thing. It's a bit like The Hobbit movie, it looked really weird.
"And in other games it's the same - like the Rachet and Clank series [where it was dropped]. So I think collectively in the video game industry we're dropping that standard because it's hard to achieve, it's twice as hard as 30fps, and its not really that great in terms of rendering quality of the picture and the image."
The game's creative director, Alex Amancio also chimed in that 30 fps "feels more cinematic" and that "it actually feels better for people when it's at 30 fps."
Maybe some hardcore AC fans will be willing to give Ubisoft the benefit of the doubt. At the same time, other gamers may latch on to the part where Ubisoft thought that 60 fps would be "hard to achieve." Not impossible, in other words, just hard to do. Skeptics will of course point out that with the franchise in question getting milked for 2+ new titles annually, the developer may not have wanted to invest the extra time because they have a product that needs to hit the market quickly. It's the same excuse female assassins weren't included in Assassin's Creed Unity - because it's the one franchise they have that's release date driven.
Also consider that Ubisoft unfortunately has a reputation in some circles for cutting corners on other games. When Watch Dogs released earlier this year, some gamers lamented the fact that the game didn't look as good as the original E3 demo and then set out to fix it themselves.
What is especially troubling is that when AC: Black Flag released on PlayStation 3, Ubisoft trumpeted that it was the first AC game in native 1080p. It is true that other developers besides Ubisoft are struggling with outputting 60 fps with next-gen quality graphics, but when gamers spend $400 or more on a new console, there is an expectation that things are going to get better in all aspects, not actually revert in some. Perhaps the industry has finally reached the point where simply adding more horsepower doesn't do the trick anymore.
Assassin's Creed: Unity releases November 11, 2014 on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One November 11, 2014.
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