Near the end of my demo with Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR I ran into trouble: I was halfway up the wall of a crumbling tower when a guard on the adjoining scaffolding spotted me. Thinking fast, I reached over my shoulder for Ezio’s crossbow – but sheepishly tossed it away when I realized I’d need my other hand, still gripping the brickwork, to load in a bolt and pull back the string. The guard started to shout and wave his spear menacingly, so I grabbed at my chest for a throwing knife – but realized I’d left it in another guard earlier and neglected to retrieve it. So I did what any good Assassin would do: popped out my Hidden Blade with a flick of my wrist, heaved back with my other hand and flung myself at the guard, using the momentum to slam blade-first into his chest.
Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR isn’t quite like any other Assassin’s Creed game, and yet it is also the most Assassin’s Creed game. Launching exclusively for Meta Quest 2, 3, and Pro on November 16, the game lets players embody three of the series’ most beloved heroes – Ezio Auditore, Connor, and Kassandra – and sets them loose in big, open maps where they’re free to climb walls, blend with crowds to avoid detection, parkour across rooftops, and assassinate or battle guards, all in first-person VR. Players can take full advantage of their virtual-reality environments, portable arsenals, and Assassin abilities to accomplish their goals in creative ways.
There are, for example, lots of opportunities for stealth. Sneaking around at street level and blending in with clumps of foliage or groups of people is one option for tailing a target – and when you’re concealed, your in-game body will be helpfully outlined in white. Any hostiles who get in your way can also be silently dispatched with your Hidden Blade – deployed by holding a trigger and flicking your wrist – and dragged out of view before someone sees. There are sneaky ways to acquire what you want, also; in the mission I played, Ezio needed to steal a special Carnevale mask locked in a chest, which I could open by either pickpocketing the key from a guard (riskier, but faster), or picking the lock via a motion-controlled minigame (more fun, but also more time-consuming – and guards don’t stop patrolling just because you’re in the middle of something).
If skulking around in plain sight isn’t your style, however, you can also follow your quarry from the rooftops. Climbing in Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR is a fast, intuitive process by which players can use the motion controllers to latch on to just about anything that looks like a handhold – even the corners of buildings – and pull themselves up to the next one. From there, players can mantle up onto ledges or launch themselves in any direction – like onto that hapless guard mentioned above. You can even perform a Leap of Faith by holding your arms out straight and jumping off certain ledges (just be sure you’re aiming at a haystack when you do).
Parkour is even faster and feels consistent with other Assassin’s Creed games; while moving with the analog stick, players can hold a button to automatically free-run over obstacles and across platforms. The difference, of course, is that you’re experiencing it all in first-person, with the attendant sense of motion and height, and can fine-tune your trajectory by moving your head to look at where you want to go.
So long as you’re not in a stealth-only scenario, you’re free to pick fights with the guards instead. Combat against single opponents is largely about anticipating their swings and moving your weapon to block them – or ducking your head out of the way, if an onscreen indicator tells you to dodge. Blocking an enemy’s combo will briefly stagger them and leave them open to a counterattack – but if you spot an opening before then, you’re free to lunge at it. Or, as your opponent winds up to attack, back up and fire your crossbow. Or throw a knife. Or a nearby bottle. Or your sword. If it feels like you can or should be able to do something, odds are that it’s possible.
That feeling of possibility is underscored by the dozens of dynamic objects scattered around the world that players can freely interact with; plates can be aerodynamically thrown; glasses and bottles can be tossed, smashed, or even snatched from the hands of bystanders; and dice can be grabbed, shaken, and rolled – or dropped into another object, like a cup, and rolled that way.
Also, while you’re free to explore and discover your enemies as you go, you can also use the Animus Scout feature to get a bird’s-eye view of your surroundings and see exactly where enemies and other points of interest are lurking. Unlike the eagle and raven scouting of recent Assassin’s Creed games, Animus Scout lets you view the area like a dollhouse, leaning down to peek into rooms as if the whole scene was rendered in miniature. Just be aware that the in-game body you’ve temporarily abandoned can still be detected, so if the little enemies start to act alarmed and run in one direction, you probably didn’t do a thorough job concealing yourself.
While Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR can be experienced with full real-time movement – with players moving, sprinting, climbing, and fighting as smoothly as they would in any Assassin’s Creed game (albeit in first person) – it also features a range of options designed to make the game fully playable whatever your level of comfort with VR. One of the most significant is the Most Comfortable setting, which gives you the ability to teleport to different locations rather than walk or sprint there, which comes with a warning if your movement will trip a nearby guard’s awareness. This setting helped my co-worker who was prone to motion sickness to be able to play the game comfortably while still having an enjoyable experience with sneaking, climbing, and fighting. They could even take a Leap of Faith; in the Most Comfortable setting, a vignette effect is added to focus your vision on your landing point as you jump.
Assassin’s Creed Nexus launches on November 16 exclusively for Meta Quest 2, 3, and Pro. For more on Assassin’s Creed Nexus, check out its official