Similar to the last game we looked at, Lords of the Fallen, Assassin's Creed: Unity has had a bit of a rocky start with bugs and other issues needing to be ironed out. It also happens to be a very demanding game to run – at maximum quality, it will basically chew up any GPU you throw at it and spit out crispy bits of silicon. And it's not just GPUs that get eaten, as CPU power can have a substantial impact as well. Finally, and this is not necessarily correlated with the other items in this list, Assassin's Creed: Unity (ACU) is an NVIDIA "The Way It's Meant To Be Played" title, and it's also one of the notable games for NVIDIA's GameWorks toolset – ACU includes support for HBAO+, TXAA, PCSS, Tessellation (coming in a future patch), and now MFAA (which we looked at yesterday).

There's an interesting corollary to the above items that's worth getting out of the way: reviews of Assassin's Creed: Unity have so far been rather lackluster, with an overall average Metacritic score currently sitting at 70%. That's not particularly good for a series that has otherwise had good reviews – e.g. the last game, Black Flag, has an average score of 84%. Perhaps more telling is that the current average user review at Metacritic is an abysmal 2.1. Looking at the comments and reviews makes it abundantly clear that ACU tends to run like a slug on a lot of systems.

I think part of the problem is the mistaken idea that many gamers have that they should be able to max out most settings on games. Assassin's Creed has never been a particularly light series in terms of requirements, though at lower detail settings it was usually playable on a wide selection of hardware. With ACU, the requirements have basically shot up, especially for higher quality settings; at the same time, the rendering quality even at Low is still quite good, and Medium is enough that most users should be content with the way it looks. But if you want to run at High, Very High, or Ultra quality, you'd better be packing some serious GPU heat. The other part of the problem is that the game was likely pushed out the door for the Christmas shopping season before it was fully baked, but that happens every year it seems.

There's another element to the Assassin's Creed: Unity launch worth pointing out; this is a multi-platform release, coming out simultaneously on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. By dropping support for the PS3 and Xbox 360, Ubisoft has opened the doors to much higher quality settings, but the requirements may also be too high for a lot of PCs. With the new generation of consoles now sporting 8GB RAM, we've seen a large jump in resource requirements for textures in particular. I mentioned in the Lords of the Fallen article that GPUs with less than 4GB VRAM may need to opt for lower quality settings; with ACU (at least in the current state of patch 1.2), you can drop the "may" from that statement and just go in knowing full well that GPUs with 2GB RAM are going to struggle at times.

Test System and Benchmarks
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  • Cellar Door - Thursday, November 20, 2014 - link

    The amount of less then intelligent comments in here is simply appalling! Do you realize how many PS4 and Xbox One games are locked at 30fps?

    In reality if you were put infront of a tv with one of those games, and not told about the 30fps, you wouldn't even realize what is happening.

    Stable 30fps vs stutter now there is a difference, why people don't understand this is beyond me....
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, November 20, 2014 - link

    You forget the abysmal controllers console gamers have to use. Using a controller and having low FPS is much different to using a mouse and having low FPS. Reply
  • TheSlamma - Friday, November 21, 2014 - link

    There is nothing 'abysmal' about it.. man it bothers me people are latching onto that word now and using it like candy. The 360 and Xbone controllers are wonderful controllers, you just don't have the skill to use them it sounds like. Good gamers can use all input types. After a 6 month break I hopped into BF4 the other day and still had a 2:1 KDR on my first match never even played the map so yes I'm good with KB/M, but I can also pickup my PS4 or Xbox 360 controller and crush it in games that play better with controllers. Reply
  • theMillen - Friday, November 21, 2014 - link

    and while we're on the topic of controllers as well as AC:U... this is one of those games that DEFINITELY plays better with a controller! Reply
  • inighthawki - Thursday, November 20, 2014 - link

    Yeah, like yours. 30fps is visually smooth, but the issue is with input. A controller is less sensitive to input due to the large disconnect from the screen. It's the same concept that makes touch screens feel unresponsive even at high smooth framerates. Reply
  • nathanddrews - Thursday, November 20, 2014 - link

    Halo: Combat Evolved was 30fps locked on Xbox and is considered by many to be a great game. While I PREFER to change settings in games to get the frame rate to match my monitor (144Hz), I still enjoy games that play at low frame rates. I can't tell you how many hours I put into Company of Heroes on my crappy laptop... that thing barely cracked 30fps when nothing was happening. Reply
  • nathanddrews - Thursday, November 20, 2014 - link

    I forgot to add that my desire for smooth or higher framerates also varies greatly by game. RTS games can get away with 20-30fps as long as the jerkiness it doesn't interfere with my ability to select units. For action games, I prefer 60fps+ and for shooters or other fast-paced games, I want all 144. Reply
  • ELPCU - Thursday, November 20, 2014 - link

    It really depends on game/person IMO.

    Here is my experience.

    In one old game(SD gundam online : random korean gundam online game kappa), I was playing 40 FPS for a while. And it was playable experience and then I upgraded my gigs. .
    After upgrade, I was able to push until full 60 FPS without any frame drop. Using full 60FPS fixed for a while. and then I had a technical problem of my upgraded gig. Thus, I go back to old computer and played with 40 FPS. There was a MASSIVE difference after downgrading.
    Experience itself was horrible.

    But it really depends on game and person. Again, depends how you accept 30 FPS. The game I mention was really sensitive. every move needs to be quick and responsive.

    AC : Unity? I can agree these kinds of game is okay to have somewhat lower FPS. Though as I said it can be fairly bad if you are very used to using 60 fps for a while. Downgrade is way more feasible than upgrade, so it is more about how people accept it. If you downgrade straightforward from 60 FPS fully FIXED(using it for several months) to 30 FPS, you might say it was definitely horrible experience.

    By the way, my problem of playing AC Unity was occasional freezing(Frame drop below 10 or 15FPS for about 1 sec.) for about 1 sec. Worse thing is after frame drop, my mouse cursor pops random place. I was playing with GTX 670 FTW SLI. 3930k OC, 32GB RAM.

    This unity frame drop issue was the most terrible one. At first crash issue was even with frame drop, but Patch 2 fixs many crash problem. However, frame drop issue still persist. I was using LOW option for all graphic with 1600x900 resolution, which gives normally 60 FPS(70~80FPS if I turn my vertical sync off), but there was still this freezing issue. it intensifys when I put more graphic option or higher resolution. It forces me using 1600x900 with low graphic option, no AA or other random graphic sauce on it. Typically 60~80 FPS, but it was still horrible.
    Reply
  • Murloc - Friday, November 21, 2014 - link

    Easy answer: because that's just your opinion. I don't need more than 30 fps, most people can't tell the difference after that. I've played for years with 25 fps and it's fine. 23 fps is where it gets noticeable. Reply
  • Mr.r9 - Thursday, November 20, 2014 - link

    "a lot of people might want a GPU upgrade this holiday season". What about people who already have a 780 or 290/x coupled with a 120Hz FHD or 60Hz QHD monitors?
    Isn't it more reasonable to say: Don't buy this game for now, wait a few months. I don't believe that ACU is "tougher" to run than Metro or Crysis.
    Reply

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