Assassin’s Creed: Nexus VR review
Say the words “Assassin’s Creed” to fans of action RPGs, and you’ll probably get a strong reaction. The games are polarizing. Some gamers love them, others love to hate on them. Those are both fair opinions, because while the Assassin’s Creed franchise has given us spectacular settings, stories and gameplay, it has also included buggy products, bloated open worlds and bland narratives. One adjective that has never been used about series is “system seller.” Until now, with Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR.
Assassin’s Creed Nexus is an exclusive title for the Meta Quest 2/3 and Pro. It’s not a perfect game but I’ll say right off the bat that it’s both a great excuse to pick up the Quest 3, and an encouraging start to the headset’s lineup of games. AC Nexus is also one of the most fully realized action RPGs released for VR on any platform.
Best Of All Possible Worlds
Nexus is, in large part, a sort of Assassin’s Creed’s greatest hits. It brings together familiar characters and environments from several of the flatscreen games. Nexus brings back characters from earlier titles, too. It’s hard to imagine a gamer never having played an AC game, but Nexus does a good job of reviewing the series’ premise.
Nexus is not an open world game, and that’s a good thing. Instead, the player moves through three, expansive environments from different periods in history, including Renaissance Italy, ancient Greece and revolutionary-era America. The zones are plenty large and provide ample opportunities for parkour, stealth, exploration and combat. The levels feel perfectly balanced to the narrative and, most critically, to the player’s comfort. Fatigue is still most definitely an aspect of VR gaming. Open world bloat and maps claustrophobically cluttered with mission objects have become a Ubisoft trademark but there’s none of that in Nexus.
Assassin’s Creed Nexus casts the player in a familiar assassin role, sending them into the Animus to retrieve artifacts from several simulations and stop Abstergo from some nefarious mind-control games. You first play as Ezio, stealthing through Venice in the 16th century; Kassandra in ancient Athens and Connor in 18th century Boston. Right from the get-go, finding yourself in a VR version of a virtual reality HQ is pretty thrilling and a natural fit.
The fun continues, thanks to the game’s overall excellent movement mechanics. Climbing, jumping and stealth feel exceptionally well tuned and become natural in short order. There are a wealth of control and comfort options, so players prone to motion sickness in VR should find their sweet, nausea-free spot. Only two complaints here. Playing seated led to some awkward moments of exploration and movement, and teleporting up walls was frustrating at times. Grabbing ledges with the Quest controllers was occasionally more challenging than it should have been, until I learned the game’s very specific way of accomplishing it.
Mainline AC games — especially the earliest ones — put stealth and silent takedowns front and center. Nexus does this, too, and does it well. It’s uniquely thrilling to jump from a rooftop or shadows to assassinate a hapless victim on the street. Those with a fear of heights will find some options for mitigating it, but the vertiginous feeling of scaling a tower or church spire in VR is incredibly immersive. I’d almost go so far as saying it’s the ideal way to experience Assassin’s Creed. The developer had so much faith in their movement mechanics that the game even has time parkour time-challenge side missions.
The caveats — and they are relatively minor — come from the Quest 3’s processing power. There are a lot of loading screens, and they aren’t short. The game’s lighting and art direction are stellar, as is the music, but up close, textures can be pretty basic. Character models and animations are quite good, however, given the hardware’s limitations. The game’s voice acting is excellent. Nexus has all the production values you’d expect from a full AC game, including a substantial 15+-hour playtime.
Another small disappointment is Nexus’ melee combat. It isn’t terrible, but not as visceral as one might expect. Blocks and parry timing aren’t as fine tuned as other aspects of combat.
Assassin’s Creed Can Still Surprise
No one is going to argue that wireless VR gaming matches the power or fidelity of corded systems. For me, though, not being tethered to a console — on top of having a substantial chunk of plastic strapped to my face — is worth a tradeoff in graphics. It’s far less claustrophobic and it’s a relief to not constantly fear becoming entangled in cables. While the Meta Quest 3 can’t rival the PSVR 2 in power, a game like Assassin’s Creed Nexus is ample proof that the Quest can provide a satisfying and immersive experience.
Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR is probably the best action game available for the Meta Quest 3 system and I’d go so far as to call it a hardware-seller. It’s certainly an impressive proof-of-concept for the standalone headset. As an Assassin’s Creed game, it nails the series’ classic stealth and parkour moves, all the more impressive in virtual reality. It isn’t an open world game, but all the better for it. I’d say it’s a must-buy for new Quest 3 owners.
***Meta Quest 3 code provided by the publisher for review***
- Full featured and substantial
- Excellent art design
- Great movement mechanics
- Strong production values
- Tepid melee combat
- Long loading times
- Some fussy controls