You might be a fan of the more-recent RPG-focused Assassin’s Creed games, you might not. Either way, I think there’s one thing we can all agree on: the modern-day gameplay sequences suck. It doesn’t matter which one we talk about, either – be it Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, or Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. These modern-day gameplay sequences are lacking – and it ultimately harms the overarching narrative they’re used to convey. So, I think Ubisoft should look to IO Interactive’s work on Hitman 3 and the World of Assassination for guidance. Agent 47 is modern-day stealth done right and Assassin’s Creed needs to learn from that if it wants to make sure this part of future games isn’t as detrimental to the overall experience as it has been so far.
When it comes to thinking about any one of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed games, the modern-day sections on offer are often far from my mind – and surely I can’t be alone in that respect. We’re all sitting here thinking about how great roaming the open waves on The Jackdaw as Edward Kenway in Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, or how fluid Arno’s parkour is in Assassin’s Creed Unity. Hell, I don’t think it’s going to far to say that we’re all still caught up on how brilliant Ezio was as a protagonist and he hasn’t even featured fully in an Assassin’s Creed game in over ten years. What we don’t talk about all that much is Desmond Miles or Layla Hassan (and that one unnamed Abstergo employee) – the real protagonists of the Assassin’s Creed series.
Why is that, though? Well, whether you like the overcomplicated narrative being woven throughout the Assassin’s Creed series or not, the parts of the game where we play as these characters are just boring. Even the return to Abstergo as Desmond in Assassin’s Creed 3 is forgettable, and that’s really the only time we’ve seen a protagonist actually put the skills they have learnt from spending time in the Animus to use.
Despite the fact that these gameplay sections are supposed to present milestone moments in the wider modern-day narrative – an exciting break from the historical setting to show you what’s really going on in the Assassin’s Creed series – they only ever really feel like annoying interruptions where you’re forced to play through a lacklustre gameplay sequence before you can get back into the action. Whether this is some sort of platforming puzzle in a strange Isu ruin, a wander around an Abstergo office on your coffee break, or a quick trip outside your remote cabin to get some fresh air, they’re all experiences that pale in comparison to the bulk of the gameplay that’s on offer. This does a disservice to the series, of which these are often important moments narratively, and it has to change.
Oh, and if you want to see that part of Assassin’s Creed 3 before we continue, you can below. I know it’s pretty exciting, but this is an anomaly and it’s still something that could be improved upon.
Anyway, that’s why Ubisoft has to look at the Hitman game series and IO Interactive’s Hitman 3 for inspiration. The aforementioned third-person shooter is, perhaps, the pinnacle of the stealth games genre and Ubisoft could learn a lot from it.
Now, I’m not saying I want the next Assassin’s Creed game to offer up a whole Hitman 3 level every time we cut away from the historical action to the modern-day narrative. However, the complex environments players are presented with in Hitman 3 would certainly make for an improvement on the often ‘on rails’ gameplay sequences we are met with in the Assassin’s Creed series. The creativity from the historical open world gameplay is ripped away from you when you return to the modern day; everything you’re learning is irrelevant and players are left with a glorified cutscene, if anything.
It’s also worth thinking about how this could improve gameplay, even if you’re not explicitly looking to introduce more combat to the modern-day segments of Assassin’s Creed series games – of which you can see our best Assassin’s Creed games ranked before Mirage drops right here.
I am well aware that there are plenty of reasons why Assassin’s Creed combat isn’t largely included in the modern-day sequences of this game series – you can’t exactly go gallivanting around the modern world with a sword in hand like you can in ninth-century England. However, combat gameplay (or the lack thereof) is something Hitman 3 does exceptionally well in a modern-day setting that is almost always not a warzone of some kind.
Agent 47 assesses the situation, blends in with crowds when necessary, uses anything and everything available to his advantage, and always manages to find more than a handful of ways of taking out a target without openly using a weapon. In Hitman 3, you are the ultimate modern assassin – and you have to imagine this is what someone who has spent an unholy amount of time in an Animus would want to be.
The great thing about all this is, you wouldn’t even need to go around killing people. You can see an example of someone completing a Hitman 3 level without killing anyone right here:
All Ubisoft really needs to do is present players with more complex environments and offer more options when it comes to gameplay outside of the Animus. These important gameplay sequences need more depth, and more meaning, to become memorable. They can’t rely on story beats alone and it’s time for Ubisoft to do them justice.
But, who’s to say if these sequences are ever going to see improvement. From what we’ve seen so far, it doesn’t look like any meaningful changes will be made – especially when you consider what we know about Ubisoft working on more Assassin’s Creed multiplayer games and this report from The Gamer that Assassin’s Creed Mirage won’t have any modern-day segments. I can imagine a modern-day story will be there in some capacity, but we just might never get to play it again – which, you know, might be a good thing if they don’t improve.