Virtual reality introduces a world of possibilities, but many would say that it has so far been lacking in AAA blockbusters, particularly from known and loved series. While there have been moments of triumph over the years, one key video game franchise has finally made the leap of faith into VR, and has done so with great success. Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR has leapt onto Meta Quest 2 and Meta Quest 3, and it has done so with a fully-fledged campaign that is not only a great VR game but a great Assassin’s Creed game as well.
It must have been a gargantuan task to take a series like Assassin’s Creed, a long-running series with fans worldwide, and faithfully recreate it on this platform. The games have never even been in first-person before, let alone this. Cleverly, Ubisoft has nailed the feeling of being an assassin; from stealth to combat to parkour to exploration, the DNA of Assassin’s Creed is clearly present, and as a series fan, I couldn’t be happier.
Conceptually, Assassin’s Creed slots in perfectly with the world of VR, due to the Animus, the in-game machine that is used to access the memories and lives of characters from history. In Nexus, you’ll play as three different protagonists from the game’s history; Ezio from Assassin’s Creed II, Connor from Assassin’s Creed III, and Kassandra from Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. You’ll step into their shoes, this time quite literally, as you look to uncover more mysteries of the Templars and the Brotherhood of Assassins.
But really, the narrative provides a solid foundation for the trademark entertaining gameplay the series is known for, exploring beautiful ancient cities as you climb, parkour stealth and stab your way to success. You’ll experience 16 missions, bouncing between each character, each with their own mini-story and objectives. The charming Ezio has you sneaking around Venice in more traditional stealthy gameplay, Cassandra is a bit more combat-heavy in Ancient Greece, while Connor, the least interesting of the three, explores 1700s Boston. It’s a lot of fun exploring these vastly different locales, with the solid gameplay tying and modern-day story tying them together nicely.
Essentially, for Assassin’s Creed Nexus to work well, it needs to make you feel like these legendary assassins. Thankfully, it does just that. Nexus features open maps – that, to be fair, are nowhere near as open and large as the console versions – that offer the ability to explore at our will. Much like its predecessors, you can climb anywhere and parkour anywhere, too. This inherently feels great. Climbing works as you’d expect in VR, including the ability to fling yourself off of railings or, if you’re feeling brave, pull yourself up into a vertical leap so that you can grab a handhold just out of reach. This alone is incredibly satisfying, and there are collectibles up for grabs for those looking to test how high they can go.
Parkour works surprisingly well, too. I was dubious about how this would feel in a headset, but by simply holding A and aiming in the direction you want to travel, parkour is fast-paced and gives the sensation that you really are mastering gravity and hopping from beam to rooftop to bridge with absolute ease. Parkour challenges are littered around each area, which you can choose to take on as time trials, a super-fun distraction.
“…parkour is fast-paced and gives the sensation that you really are mastering gravity…”
I was wondering about the impact this might have on my body, given everybody’s mileage can vary when it comes to their levels of nausea when playing VR. Running around rooftops and the fast pace of parkour could have been a stomach-churning experience, but I was pleasantly surprised with how Nexus’ motion didn’t make me want to hurl. I had decent sessions of the game, 1-2 hours at a time, without feeling the need to take a break. Even the infamous ‘Leap of Faith’ where you have to dive off of an extreme high-point into a bail of hay, only gave me an adrenaline rush of the good kind, and I’m not a huge fan of heights.
Part of this is thanks to Ubisoft’s commitment to comfort settings, which have been taken into consideration very well here. There’s the usual choice between full locomotion or teleportation, but they’ve also got peripheral vision blocking, along with specific settings to help with those who deal with vertigo or have a fear of heights. Despite my initial hesitation, I didn’t need to take advantage of these settings, but it’s really wonderful they’ve gone the extra mile here for those who need to customise their experience.
Stealth is a key part of any Assassin’s Creed game, and it also feels good in Nexus. You can crouch to hide (which can be done with a button press or, physically), and you’ll be able to hide in crowds, and throw objects to create distractions for enemies before you come up behind them for a quick, gratifying kill with your hidden blade. The hidden blade, with a flick of the wrist and a quick jab in the back, is awesome and made me feel like a badass every time I did it. A similar epic feeling is nailing an air assassination, where you land on top of an enemy from above, thrusting downward with your blade for an instant kill. These trademark “be the assassin” moments never failed to put a smile on my face.
Combat, while serviceable, is one of the weaker points of Nexus overall. You’ll need to block and parry enemy attacks before taking them down, and to its credit, there are a variety of weapons, including a sword, bow, crossbow, throwing knives and smoke bombs. It’s just that they all have the same animations to let you know what kind of attack is coming, so it becomes more of a nuisance than a challenge.
I much preferred to take out foes with stealth or with a throwing knife from the distance, to save myself from getting into a combat situation. In the open-world sections in particular, getting swamped by enemies that attack one at a time with the same patterns over and over just isn’t that fun.
It’s worth stating that Assassin’s Creed Nexus is the absolute best use case for having a Meta Quest 3 right now. Visually, the amount of detail they’ve managed to pack into the game is impressive, to say the least. Each of the distinct locations is a joy to walk around in and explore, running with a smooth frame rate that makes all of the parkour antics feel slick. There’s a large number of people hustling and bustling around each location, too, another series trademark, although their faces do look awful, a Quest VR symptom that is not resolved here.
Regardless, whether you’re admiring the statues in Ancient Greece or enjoying the carnival in Italy, those blemishes are easily forgiven, and the audio successfully adds to the vibe, making cities feel lived in and having you firmly planted in their gorgeous historical settings.
Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR somehow manages to bring a fully fleshed-out Assassin’s Creed campaign to VR, while nailing its core components that have made the series so popular in the first place. Parkour feels awesome, climbing is great, the leap of faith is iconic and stealth sections, complete with satisfying assassinations, bring it home. Combat can be a pain but the decent narrative and ability to step into the shoes of some truly loved former protagonists more than make up for any frustrations. If you’re looking to live your ultimate fantasy as an assassin in this universe, Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR more than scratches that itch.