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Assassin's Creed Unity co-op preview: silence in numbers

Assassin's Creed Unity has more than its single-player story to look forward to. Its multiplayer is being revamped to include a full-blown online co-op mode, with separate missions available for two players and four players and accessible through the single-player mode. Shacknews had a chance to try out both of these missions, noticing a distinct difference in both. Of course, they all have one thing in common: stealth means everything.

The Unity single-player mode focuses on Arno's story, following his rise through the ranks of the Assassin order and his mission to avenge his father's death. Two-player co-op will focus on other narrative side stories of the Assassins, taking players through a different perspective of the order's activities during the French Revolution. Meanwhile, four-player co-op removes the story shackles entirely by putting four assassins in a massive Heist mode, with the idea to gain enough money and rewards to help out during the single-player campaign.

The two-player mission told the story of a master snitch named Paton, who bit off more than he could chew when he eventually stumbled onto the Templar Order. With Paton set for execution, the object was to rescue him and gain his secrets.

The mission itself unfolded like many of the single-player missions, involving some of the open-ended gameplay seen in some of the single-player 'black box' missions. Hoping to avoid detection, our team opted to move in across the rooftops, making sure to take out any patrolling snipers. The idea was to clear the way for the Assassins to create a massive distraction to escort Paton out before his execution.

Attracting attention is still not recommended, since the numbers game can just as easily catch up to two assassins as it could one. That's where teamwork comes in. There were several instances where my partner played decoy to draw out a single guard, while I went in from behind for the quick assassination. Likewise, groups of guards could be taken one with my partner dropping a smoke bomb and me rushing into to take them out. Coordination means a lot, especially since assassins will take all of their single-player skills along with them.

If it sounds like the two-player objectives can just as easily pass for single-player missions, that's because these missions can indeed be done solo. However, the game will not compensate for a missing partner and these missions will not be balanced accordingly, so a second banana is highly recommended. Assassins can also carry skills that affect the whole team, such as a group healing mechanic that can reclaim a small amount of health for both assassins in a pinch, further emphasizing the need for a tandem.

The four-player Heist proved to be far more chaotic. Everyone would need to work in tandem to sneak into a vast estate and find a valuable painting. The painting would be hidden randomly in any of the estate's rooms, with many fakes scattered about, as well. That meant taking out guard patrols as they strolled across their path. While smoke bombs did a lot to help hide from detection, things often went sideways for certain members of the group, requiring combat. Even if guards rushed the room, four assassins working in tandem were often enough to take them down. After finding the painting, everyone had to escape, though not necessarily together. With that in mind, everyone split up and went out separate windows, escaping the compound and bringing up the reward screen.

Of course, it's important to keep in mind that the object of this game mode is to find the painting and escape without being seen. Players that were caught by guards would receive a monetary penalty. Once the mission was over, I noticed that my reward was distinctly less than my partners, who had managed to mostly avoid detection. All rewards will vary, depending on who manages to stay stealthy.

It should also be noted that all four members of the party must stay alive to successfully complete the heist. One member of the party dying will cause everyone to desynchronize, though there's a window to revive fallen partners. The two-player mode, on the other hand, appears more forgiving, as my partner died at one point, but simply respawned at the original point.

Co-op adds an interesting twist to the standard AC formula, especially if partners are coordinated enough to perform co-op assassinations. It's a nice distraction from the single-player story and the heists have the potential for some chaotic fun, especially when things inevitably go downhill. It's too early to tell whether these modes will have any long-lasting appeal, but they're enjoyable side modes, nonetheless. Assassin's Creed Unity is set to release on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 on November 11.


This Assassin's Creed Unity preview was based on a pre-release Xbox One demo of the game at an event where transportation and accommodations were provided by Ubisoft.