Assassin's Creed VR hands-on: A dream come true

Hero image for the Assassin's Creed Nexus hands-on
(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)
AC thVRsday

AC thVRsday logo

In his weekly column, Android Central Senior Content Producer Nick Sutrich delves into all things VR, from new hardware to new games, upcoming technologies, and so much more.

As the Animus transported me to 1400s Venice, Italy, I could hardly believe my eyes. After so many decades of playing these games, I was finally in the mind of Ezio. It was as if I had truly laid myself in an Animus and was living out the genetic memories the game’s fiction describes, except, of course, it was as real as anything you could go outside and do right now.

This revelatory experience is something people feel all the time in VR, but it’s especially powerful when it’s using one of the most popular gaming IPs of all time. My short play session at the Meta Quest 3 hands-on event proved to me that waiting for Assassin’s Creed VR was worth it. This is the game I’ve been waiting for, even if a full review proves that it isn’t quite perfect — a characteristic most games could never aspire to, anyway.

My hands-on experience is based on a single level, but the full game consists of 15 levels that each take place in different locations, times, and from one of three character’s perspectives. Here’s why I’m convinced Assassin’s Creed Nexus could be one of the best Quest games of all time.

It’s exactly what you hoped for

Official screenshots of Assassin's Creed Nexus running on a Meta Quest 3

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

I don’t know about you, but I’m at the point in my life where I fully expect spin-offs of any kind to be watered-down versions of the original material. Mobile versions of popular IPs are all too often cash-grab microtransaction trash, and VR versions of popular IPs seldom live up to the hype.

That’s why I was so surprised by Assassin’s Creed VR from the moment I set foot in the first brick in Venice. I looked down to see I was wearing the full assassin outfit, legs and all. My waist was adorned with the peculiar Assassin Yataghan Sword.

And, yes, holding the trigger, followed by a flick of the wrist, revealed my hidden assassin blade. In fact, each arm had one, which made it even easier to plan my next moves.

It's not the watered-down game I expected. It's the VR iteration I hoped for.

Once I was done geeking out at the possibilities, I immediately remembered that Assassin’s Creed was all about parkour and set off to find the game’s limitations in this regard. Could I climb anything, Population: One style? Or would it be like those annoying PlayStation games that only let you climb the ledges conveniently painted white?

I was extremely pleasantly surprised to find out that it's neither of these scenarios. Instead, the developers painstakingly followed the guidance of the existing series: Ezio, in this case, can only climb where it makes sense.

That means window ledges, pipes, and other objects that a human could actually grab hold of were my only means of traversal in these situations. Given how powerfully agile and strong these characters are, though, the act of climbing was as simple as finding the next correct edge to grab onto and pulling myself over to.

Just as powerful is the game’s sense of overall freedom. I only used the free move locomotion in my demo, so I can’t speak to teleportation (or other available locomotion methods), but anyone without an iron stomach might want to think twice about playing.

That’s not to discourage fans from enjoying themselves here; that’s just to get you thinking about how it would actually feel to jump off a building and attempt to grab the ledge of another one — or whatever else your parkour-centric mind might imagine.

Window ledges, pipes, and other objects that a human could actually grab hold of were the only options and made it feel even more immersive.

This game doesn’t prevent you from pulling off some seriously crazy tricks off of rooftops. In fact, the ingenious jumping mechanics actually help you nail jumps you might otherwise not unless you were, in fact, a trained assassin ninja-type or YouTube parkour master.

Jumping up to a ledge on a roof feels like it has a bit of movement “auto aim,” if it can be described that way. Look, run, aim, jump, and now your character landed where you wanted. It works incredibly well, and it had the effect of making me feel more badass (and physically coordinated) than I really would be.

A living world

Official screenshots of Assassin's Creed Nexus running on a Meta Quest 3

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Visually, the game looks pretty spectacular on Quest 3 hardware. I’ll note that this particular demo was a bit lower resolution than some of the other Quest 3 demos I tried, but that may be because it was an early build of the game. I’ll hold my impressions of that part of the experience until I actually try to final release.

But the rest of what I saw was extremely impressive. Stepping off the Gondola onto the pier, I looked around and saw at least a dozen NPCs walking around going about their daily business. True to that experience, dozens of characters were walking around the city doing whatever it was they were tasked to do, looking quite convincing doing it.

The world was impressively detailed and had a surprising number of NPCs running around, making it feel alive.

Better yet, you’re free to interact with these NPCs as you see fit. I stole a broom from one NPC and ran off with it. They proceeded to yell at me but could clearly tell I was more threatening than the average hooligan. Likewise, you can slap NPCs around, toss stuff at them, or otherwise interrupt their daily business so long as you stop short of actually injuring them.

If that happens, all bets are off. Just as you would expect in an Assassin’s Creed game, stabbing someone or otherwise injuring another human will result in the authorities being summoned — or just immediately attacking you if they’re already nearby.

My one complaint is that they seemed to be a little too easy to repel, but that, too, could be a demo difficulty thing. Either way, almost nothing feels as amazing as jumping off a roof only to nail your target straight on using a hidden blade.

The size of the level here was also impressive, although not entirely surprising. As I climbed to the top of the first building I came across, I immediately asked the Meta representative there how far I could travel. After all, I could see what felt like the entirety of Venice, and surely, there was no way the game was going to allow that much freedom when 14 other levels were available.

You could interact with NPCs in surprising ways, from slapping them to stealing whatever they're holding. It was quite comical and could get you into trouble.

I was right, but the boundary went further than I initially expected. As it stands, this one Venice level’s size is far more open than Vampire: The Masquerade VR’s narrow pathways but not quite as sprawling as the map in Population: One.

It's a reasonable medium between giving players execution choices and multiple ways to complete scenarios without encroaching upon the feeling of a living world, as I alluded to before.

If the rest of the experience is this good, I’m ready to call this one of the best VR games I’ve ever played.


Assassin's Creed VR

Get ready to become the assassin! Play as Ezio, Connor, or Kassandra in over 15 missions designed exclusively for VR.

Preorder now at Quest Store

Nicholas Sutrich
Senior Content Producer — Smartphones & VR
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu