Ready for yet another Assassin’s Creed game? Too bad! Ubisoft is releasing Assassin’s Creed Unity$59.96 at Amazon on the Xbox One and PS4 later this year, but it might not be the next-gen experience you’ve been hoping for. A Ubisoft representative caused an internet uproar earlier this week when he explained that the game is currently limited to 900p at 30 fps on both consoles. Sub-1080p game releases are slightly disappointing in general, but the specific wording around this game lead many to believe that the PS4 edition is being intentionally hobbled for the sake of platform parity.
In an interview at Video Gamer, Ubisoft’s Vincent Pontbriand explains the large amount of AI computation required for Assassin’s Creed Unity is what’s impacting performance the most. The CPU — not the GPU — is the bottleneck here. If that’s true, that certainly explains why both versions of the game are running at a lower resolution and frame rate. While the PS4 does have a superior GPU, both consoles are using very similar AMD Jaguar CPUs.
The crux of the issue comes down to the way Pontbriand explained the limitations. Specifically, he said “We decided to lock [both versions] at the same specs to avoid all the debates and stuff.” To some, that was PR-speak for “The PS4 is being hobbled to make it look on par to the Xbox One version.” However, that doesn’t actually seem to be the case.
Read: Xbox One vs. PS4: How the final hardware specs compare
In a statement made to Kotaku, a Ubisoft representative unambiguously states “We did not lower the specs for Assassin’s Creed Unity to account for any one system over the other.” Considering that Pontbriand claims in the original article that the engine could run at 100 fps on the current hardware if the bottleneck around AI computation wasn’t in the mix, I believe Ubisoft’s denial. This seems like a legitimate limitation of the CPUs in the current crop of consoles — not a back-room business deal.
It is notable that it’s the relatively wimpy Jaguar CPU that’s being scrutinized, and not the usual my-GPU-is-bigger-than-yours argument that has dominated Xbox One/PS4 hardware spec debate so far. If developers are already running into issues with complex CPU-limited tasks, then it doesn’t bode overly well for the rest of the eighth generation.
Unfortunately, this seems to be a recurring issue for this generation of consoles. For many developers, there is a choice that has to be made between next-gen graphics or next-gen gameplay. Ubisoft is obviously willing to sacrifice frame rate and resolution in favor of drastically improved AI, but that seems to leave a bad taste in the mouths of many gamers and members of the enthusiast press. Frankly, it’s just disappointing to see so many games fail to hit 1080p60 in a world where 4K televisions and high frame rate video are proliferating so quickly.