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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  • kcn4000 - Thursday, November 20, 2014 - link

    absolutely this! I don't have to buy new hardware to accommodate lazy porting/coding. Don't buy this game until it is in an acceptable state. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, November 20, 2014 - link

    Isn't that what I said in the conclusion as well? "For those running older GPUs – or AMD GPUs – you probably want to wait at least another month to see what happens before buying the game."

    If you have a 780 or above, the game runs fine -- just not with Ultra textures. Go for 1080p High and don't worry about it. (You might be able to reach for 1440p High, but honestly it's going to be tough on any single GPU to run that setting as it's almost twice as many pixels to render at 1080p.) If you have AMD, yeah, either the game needs some patching or AMD's drivers need tweaking -- or both.
  • anubis44 - Thursday, November 20, 2014 - link

    Hear hear. Ubisoft's motto needs to become: "We shall sell no wine before its time."

    I have a sneaking suspicion that nVidia's money is behind lack of AMD optimization. Ubisoft MUST make the game work on the AMD-powered consoles, so I hardly believe they didn't know how to make it work with Radeon graphics cards on the PC side. More like nVidia paid them off not to use Mantle and make it work well with AMD cards.
  • FlushedBubblyJock - Thursday, November 20, 2014 - link

    More like it's cutting edge stuff that brings the best to it's knees, so nVidia has to spend their millions since AMD is broken and broke and helpless, so AMD whines and moans and PR lies, then many moons later a few of us find out AMD refused to cooperate because they act like their most childish fans instead of professionally and in their own best interest. Reply
  • RussianSensation - Thursday, November 20, 2014 - link

    Flushed, your posts make absolutely no sense when AMD's GCN cards run very well in modern games such as COD:AW, Civilization BE, Evil Within, Ryse: Son of Rome, Dragon Age Inquisition, and especially in another Ubisoft title: FC4. Reply
  • RussianSensation - Thursday, November 20, 2014 - link

    R9 290X = 56 fps
    980 = 57 fps
    7970Ghz/280X = 42 fps
    770 = 29 fps
    techspot . com/review/917-far-cry-4-benchmarks/page4.html

    Besides Unity and some issues in Lords of the Fallen, it is actually NV cards, specifically Kepler architecture, that has not been pulling its weight in the last 6 months. Not to mention that AMD has the entire sub-$330 desktop GPU market locked up, winning in performance at every price level.

    techspot . com/guides/912-best-graphics-cards-2014/page7.html

    Focusing on the broken Unity game as evidence that AMD has issues in performance misses the other 95% of games released in the last 6 months where it is NV that's having issues. Good one.
  • Horza - Thursday, November 20, 2014 - link

    Pesky facts won't help, this is an emotional argument. AMD are childish, whining liars don't you know. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, November 20, 2014 - link

    Have you looked at what people are saying about the console versions, though? They're not exactly shining pillars of smooth frame rates. And I seriously doubt NVIDIA paid Ubisoft to not optimize for anything other than NVIDIA hardware; it's more likely a case of "AMD didn't come by and offer us free GPUs and software developer support."

    It's in Ubisoft's best interest to make the best game they can that will run on the widest selection of hardware possible. Many of these games have budgets in the tens of millions, so intentionally killing performance (and sales) on a big chunk of the market would be crazy. Then again, the world is full of crazy.... :-)
  • chizow - Thursday, November 20, 2014 - link

    Yes Anubis, of course you have a sneaking suspicion, Nvidia obviously paid AMD's driver team to write bad drivers and not bother optimizing for AC: Unity to show Ubisoft how much bad publicity they could garner for not teaming up with a vendor that is becoming less relevant by the day.

    I guess you could say the difference is, the consoles makers actually write their own drivers for their APUs and AMD has nothing to do with it at this point. They gave them the keys and blueprints and vacated the premises, which is probably a good thing for console owners. If you bought a console would you honestly want to rely on AMD driver updates for it? D:

    AMD needs a driver update, plain and simple. The poor XFire scaling results should be enough to make this clear, which I know you are already aware of.
  • kron123456789 - Thursday, November 20, 2014 - link

    Btw, about image quality...I suggest you to take a look at these screenshots. This is amazing graphics!

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