Developer / Publisher – Ubisoft
Price – US $39.99 / CAN 49.99 / EU €39.99 / UK £34.99
Release Date – November 16th, 2023
Input – 2 x Motion Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing
Store Links – Meta
Reviewed on – Quest 3
I’m not the biggest AC fan and while I did enjoy the 1st 2 games in the series, I lost interest and never really dabbled in the franchise after those initial outings. So when Ubisoft announced Nexus, I was excited to dive back into the series, but leery given the lesser powered standalone headsets as I thought there was a good chance that this would be more of a sampling of the flat games and not another fleshed out chapter in this franchise. I’m happy to report, that this is indeed a fully realized Assassins Creed game built for VR and while it might not be perfect, what’s here is something that still impressed me.
You play as a nameless character (you can choose a masculine or feminine voice) tasked with infiltrating Abstergo by earning their trust through the collection of artifacts found in the virtual past known as The Animus. You have been hired by The Brotherhood of Assassins to do so and so begins your quest to figure out what Abstergo is up too and to try and stop their diabolical plans. As the story unfolds, new wrinkles are introduced that add a few layers to the plot, giving the somewhat lengthy 15 – 20-hour game some decent story telling value.
Unlike other AC titles, this plays in 1st person with you controlling 3 different assassins at various times throughout history. No matter which killer you play as, they play nearly identical save for any time period specific weapons they may have access to or some other very minor differences. As far as walking, running and climbing goes, that’s all VR standard with combat being a mix Asgard’s Wrath’s wait to block or parry before striking mechanics mixed with a little free form striking thanks to a dash attack or if you can catch an opponent unawares. The combat is arguably the weakest aspect of Nexus as I found it to be either dull thanks to waiting for the AI foes to strike, frustrating as battles can be quite challenging if I faced any more than 2 foes or irritating as tougher boss fights played more like a guessing game between striking and dodging. I might sound a little dramatic as the combat isn’t broken, it just annoyed me more than anything else and while I know it is true to the flat games, in VR, it felt a little too much like a game…I know that doesn’t really make sense, but that’s what I’m going with. Besides your one-handed blade, you of course have retractable knives at your wrist, throwing knives, bow and arrow and a few more items and weapons that can be used to kill from a distance or in secrecy.
My dislike for the combat probably benefited my game as this is really all about stealth and not being seen, something the game will constantly remind you of as you are given new objectives and missions. You can stay out of sight or hide in bushes and behind objects, but whenever possible, it’s best to stay above the soldiers on lookout meaning you’ll have to climb and parkour your way around each city. Every building has some sort of grab point be it windowsills or bricks but really anything with a hard edge can be grabbed giving me a wonderful sense of freedom and choice when I went about climbing. Hopping across the rooftops has been streamlined when compared to games like ‘Stride’ in that to parkour all you need to do is run and hold down the ‘A’ button while you look where you want to go. With this method you can cruise across the cities without much effort or thought and considering how finicky platforming and grabbing can be in VR, this is probably the best solution to avoid what could be some massive frustrations. It’s not a perfect solution as grabbing anything in Nexus can be janky and oftentimes I had my hands clipping or just letting go of ledges if I found myself in geometry or grabbed stuff at a funny angle but I never typically fell too far so trying again or a searching out a different path never took more than few more seconds.
Besides the main story, there are plenty of bonus objectives in each stage including various hidden items and locations that could reveal a little history surrounding the city and time you find yourself in or some collectibles. Each town also has challenge stations which may task you with parkouring through holograms as you jump around a small section of the city or some target practice with your bow or knives. Ranged weapons are a little to easy to use as your arrows when nocked and released will go wherever you are looking, making for next to zero challenge when it comes to using these weapons. You can also you view the entire city as if were a live miniature (once again, not unlike Asgard’s Wrath) and when you find a specific high point in each city, it will reveal the location of all those bonus objectives so you can easily hunt them down. Oh, and to get down from those higher areas, the leap of faith is present and allows you to dive from some breathtaking heights to a well-placed pile of hay below you. I’m sure I’m missing some finer details, but the bottom line here is that this is a true Assassins Creed Game in VR and fans of the series or newbies should be impressed by just how much game is here.
That leads me to the presentation which is both impressive and disappointing. Nexus is one of, if not the, physically largest game I have ever seen on the Quest. Seeing these cities fully rendered in VR is an absolute treat with the care for history from previous titles making its way to Nexus as well. Whether I was in 1700’s America, 1500’s Italy or -500 BCE Greece, each of these locations is fully realized and littered with authentic details from their respective era’s. On display is also the largest amount of NPC’s that I have ever seen in VR (outside of Hitman 3) with many walking around, talking, selling wares or performing some sort of task. It’s unfortunate that there are so few character models used that you’ll see the same ones again and again, but that’s easy to forgive considering just how much is happening at any given time. I’m sure this is also why mouths don’t often move in sync with people talking, something that occurs throughout the game. Up close, textures suffer, and the lack of dynamic lighting really has me longing for this to get a PC or console release and while the outdoor sections look just fine, I found some of the indoor stages (like houses and catacombs) to be to dark and lacking in contrast making details hard to see and making everything look dull. That combined with what can at times be rampant pop-in and fade-in (especially when running) tells me that this is pushing the Quest 3 to the limit though I am hoping an update down the line could smooth out some of these visual kinks. I don’t like being ‘that guy’ as what’s on display here I really didn’t think was possible on mobile chipsets so while I do have grievances with the presentation, Nexus sets the bar for scope and scale when it comes to VR games.
Unsurprisingly, sound design is on point thanks to some great 3D audio, solid voice acting and an epic and timely soundtrack befitting the series. My one complaint about the audio is that people can sound like they are right beside you, even if I was very far away, even on a rooftop which just sounds wrong when other NPC’s are much closer. Sometimes audio queues and conversations can be important, but when some guy is just yelling at me to check his stuff out, and he’s much further away from me than 2 dudes arguing right beside me, it can be little immersion breaking. Outside of that is amazing audio package…minus the Connor, the American assassin who sounds so bored with everything happening around him, I kinda wished he wouldn’t talk at all…but maybe that’s just me.
So, when it’s all said and done, Assassins Creed Nexus is a must-buy title for anyone looking to see what standalone VR can do. It’s not perfect and if you want, you could easily pick apart the various gameplay aspects and point out how they could be improved, but when looked it as whole, each of these elements makes for a fast paced and intense stealth game on a scale we have yet to see on any Quest headset. This is the kind of game us VR veterans have been clamouring for a very long time and it’s awesome to see a huge franchise come to VR and deliver a top-quality experience that is ultimately a ton of fun for great price!