Assassin’s Creed Unity Just Doesn’t Run Very Well On PS4 Or Xbox One

Assassin’s Creed Unity Just Doesn’t Run Very Well On PS4 Or Xbox One

We’ve been seeing complaints all day about Assassin’s Creed Unity‘s performance on consoles. Here’s what we know from our own experience, and from what others are reporting around the internet.

I’ve played a fair bit of the game on Xbox One, and have found the frame-rate to be a real bummer. To my eye, it generally seemed like it was hovering somewhere south of the 30fps that most gamers expect as a bare minimum, and frequently dropped well below that. When I’d play online on my otherwise stable internet connection, things were worse.

I haven’t played the PS4 version of the game, but unexpectedly, Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry reports that it’s actually worse than the Xbox One. That’s unusual, given that the majority of console games perform slightly better on Sony’s system. Regardless, it seems that no matter which console is attempting to run it, Assassin’s Creed Unity is unable to run smoothly.

(As for the PC version, it will likely depend on various users’ setups. I’ve had wildly inconsistent performance on my i7 4770k rig with SLI’d GTX 770 graphics cards, despite having the latest Nvidia drivers, but others have said they have gotten the game working ok.)

Here’s a console frame-rate analysis from Digital Foundry, with both console versions coming in under 30fps for prolonged stretches of the game, which matches up with my previous impressions. Sony’s console does markedly worse than Microsoft’s, dipping down to the 20fps mark for distressing periods of time:

Unity is the first graphically intensive third-party game this year to be developed for Xbox One and PS4, but not for Xbox 360 and PS3. (That is, it’s the first big-budget game made by a platform-agnostic publisher, rather than designed exclusively for one console or the other.) The idea has been that by cutting the older systems loose, we’d get a game that could really show us what these new boxes could do. It’s an exciting prospect! Unfortunately, this time we got a lesson in how even one of the the world’s most well-staffed game development studios can still bite off more than they can chew.

It’s a shame, because for all its faults, Unity is often lovely-looking. It can feel, at times, like a terrific showcase for what these new consoles are capable of. (A+ kissing scene, Ubisoft!) But its technical stumbles are a reminder that any new hardware is going to suffer from some growing pains, and that we’re probably going to get a few more lemons before game developers get their heads around these new machines.

Obviously, it sucks that people might pay for a game and get something that doesn’t work very well. PC gamers can always tweak their settings to try to find a compromise that works, but the unspoken promise of console gaming has long been that console owners won’t have to worry about all of that. Pop the game in, and it works. Unity fails to live up to that promise, leaving console users with little recourse but to hope for a post-release patch from Ubisoft that will improve the game’s performance. That sort of thing has happened before, though the performance issues here are pervasive enough that I doubt Unity will ever run as smoothly as, say, last year’s Assassin’s Creed IV did on PS4 and Xbox One. (Not a fair direct comparison, of course: Unity is clearly demanding a hell of a lot more of both consoles than last year’s game.)

I’ll admit that I’m more sensitive to this stuff than some — my boss Stephen, for example, doesn’t really mind sub-optimal frame rates, and said as much in his Unity review. Over the last couple of years, I’ve become one of those people whose eye twitches every time the counter in the corner of a PC game ticks from “60” down to “59” and the game stutters for a split second. So, the constant frame rate fluctuations in Unity bug me more than most.

Still, I sense that even a player who has no idea what frame-rates are would likely find Unity‘s performance lacking, even if they wouldn’t be able to clearly articulate why. It’s in the game’s general feeling of weird disconnectedness, the way it never quite seems to be “listening” to you or responding to your button presses. Get in a sword fight in the comparatively solid Shadow of Mordor, and you can immediately feel the difference. One game is right there for you, and as a result you feel connected with it in a satisfying way. The other game is too busy crunching numbers to respond.

There’s no question that both the Xbox One and the PS4 can run amazing-looking games. Both the PS4’s Infamous: Second Son and the Xbox One’s Sunset Overdrive are open-world games that look brilliant and run smoothly. So, sure, Unity could be an anomaly. Given the host of other issues the game has, it does seem like the technical shortcomings I’m noting here are at least partly just expressions of a more generally troubled development. Still, it’s disappointing to see one of the alleged standard-bearers for the new console generation stumble so badly out of the gate.


  • wow the ps4 is really struggling, while the Xbox is only slightly better. I would hate to have bought a ps4 thinking all my games would run better…..ha

    • I read somewhere that the PS4 is likely to have issues running AI for large crowds while the Xbone has seemingly proven itself to have a little less graphical grunt than the PS4.

      I have no idea how much truth there is to the AI thing but I guess that would make sense.

      It would be interesting to see how a game like Dead Rising 3 would have run on the PS4. Although it didn’t run wonderfully on the Xbone to be fair.

      • Well, considering how it runs on PC… probably just as badly as the X1. TBH, it’s probably because very few games are made for multi-core. Heck, there are videos surfacing of people running Unity on core i3’s (AC4 also apparently only makes use of 2 CPU cores most of the time). Even if that’s not the case, as a PC guy, a 150mhz over clock isn’t really going to produce too much of a noticeable difference in the majority of games IMO.

        On a side note, I’ve also seen tests showing the ps4 being both better and worse than the XB1 in the CPU department depending on the tests, just interesting.

        On another side note, this game is a decent looking game, not the best, but certainly nicer looking than AC4. (With more people on the streets than houses to house them, little overkill considering the performance of the game IMHO.)

        But I really don’t think this is what either system is capable of. And if it is, then both should have gotten lower settings with fewer people in the crowds etc, cause this is the worse running ‘next-gen’ game out IMHO, and the graphics, while good, are not good enough to warrant this performance.

        Well… I guess in the end, my point is: this game doesn’t run on either console, and I think ubi very much want us to blame the consoles weak CPU’s instead of their efforts. I don’t want games this gen to start being 18-28fps, with tearing (like the end of last gen) after only 1 year!

    • I was waiting for the first game to come out which runs worse on PS4. Goes to show that its not just the power of the systems that has bearing on how games run or the potential of each console.

    • TLDR: No one is a ‘winner’ here.

      Edit: it’s strange that the scenes with large crowds are not the worst running scenes, often with both consoles performing neck in neck (even 30fps at times, check out 6:46 lol). What is the real bottleneck then?! It’s besides me -.-

      IMHO: It doesn’t run well on PS4 and, while a little better, the Xbox 1 version is still not something I would ‘want’ to play. Drops to low 20’s are drops to low 20’s no matter how we look at it. (PC is apparently a mess as well, even on 780’s people are experiencing drops. Interesting enough as well that people are running the game on dual core i3’s with similar performance issues as i5’s.)

      Shocking that developers are already putting out games that run in the low 20 FPS mark most of the time. Regardless of which system ‘should’ be more powerful or which console normally ‘wins’.

      TBH, as a PC/ WiiU/ PS4 owner I’m so fatigued by this ‘wining’ notion. (I’m not saying that’s what you’re saying, just that many people are saying that one systems 20 FPS is better than another’s… Kinda pointless really.).

    • Didn’t they scale the PS4 back to run the same as the Xbone?.. maybe they scaled it a little too far back?

      Meh doesn’t bother me until my SLI OC 680s run the game at 1 frame per hour.. I don’t think I’ve played a well optimised PC game this year.

        • Well, 30FPS no. IMHO, it would most likely run very similarly as it is right now.

          The thing is, I’ve been testing out some games running on a 7870 underclocked to 800mhz (making it almost exactly like the ps4’s GPU) and a core i5 underclocked to 1.6ghz (I know its still not an amd chip etc etc but it’s as close as I can get)

          The games I have seen performing badly, like Assassisns Creed freedom cry, don’t benefit much from dropping the screen resolution. At 1080p (almost any settings) Freedom Cry runs 23ish FPS. At 900p it runs 23-5ish FPS. The GPU shows only 40-60% utilization at 900p and around 80-90% at 1080p. The Cpu cores show 60% utilisation on 3 cores and 99% on the last one (I.E. the game isn’t scaling the best across multiple cores.)

          I started testing the games with different clock speeds. In games like AC Freedom Cry it became apparent that the game was running slow because of the CPU as adjusting the resolution, even down to 800×600, did VERY little to the FPS. (For interest sake, when I tested with the CPU running at 1.8Ghz, higher than the X1 but as close as I could get, showed a similar performance difference as ACU on PS4 and X1.)

          All this means that games like this are running fine graphicly but not CPU wise. Its simply down to the fact that, if the X1 can do 900p the PS4 technically has the spare ‘room’ on it’s GPU for 1080p. Dropping the resolution just isn’t going to yield the performance gain they are looking for, the bottleneck is on the CPU side. In which case, as we are seeing here, if it doesn’t run on the X1 then the PS4 is going to be a little further behind still. They should have dialled back on the CPU tasks on both systems.

          That brings me to the next point: In the video the game seems to run best in large crowds. I’m not sure what the bottleneck is. But I am sure it’s CPU related, and why the game doesn’t run particularly well on either console. 150mhz difference in CPU clock just doesn’t equate to enough to run the game smoothly. It was most likely made on PC (Poorly from what we have seen) and ported to console with very little optimisation apart from lowering graphics dials, a trick from last gen when the CPU’s were strong and the GPU’s were weak (The opposite of this gen). This low optimisation is a common trend this gen as more and more games are running better on similarly specced PC’s than the consoles. Something that traditionally doesn’t happen with closed systems.

          Sorry for the long post, I hope you at least found it interesting. In the end, ubisoft just delivered an under performer, even on PC.

          Edit: It’s worth pointing out that even AC freedom cry was poorly optimised in the CPU department. If my fully clocked core i5 struggles with the previous game in the series, the consoles WILL be struggling with this one. And they are, for what seem to be the same issues as we have been seing in AC games for years: Bad CPU optimisation, seemingly when doing no more than walking around cities, regardless of AI count. (Everyone remembers AC3’s new york issues).

          • You would have thought they’d have learnt with Watch_dogs but its clear they just don’t care.

  • I vote for lazy coding on the behalf of Ubisoft. I have no doubt they could pull much better frames but they would have to optimise for each platform properly which we all know they aren’t going to do.

    • Agreed, both consoles have proven to run games well with many examples over different styles ie open world, isometric, fps etc… That aside to get frame drops on a closed system seems odd, Apart from software update problems (ps4 had a update last night) the only real blame lays with ubi.

    • The author also said he had inconsistent performance playing it on the PC with a setup that is several times the power of the current consoles so I would definitely lean towards Ubi spending more time monetising than optimising.

    • I vote for time pressures and money constraints on the ability of the coders to do the job they would really like to. Not so much “Lazy”…

    • Not to mention they could have just reduced crowd size for consoles for better performance. But no, just chuck them in even if it destroys frame rate

    • I played the FC4 demo at PAX and it seemed really smooth (they were running on PS4s). It was a short, controlled demo so it may not be a true representation of the game, but it did look very promising.

      The one very noticeable issue however was the appalling load times – it literally took 2+ minutes to load into the demo level each time it launched. When I asked the booth rep about it they assured us that it was due to the way they were loading the demo, and it wouldn’t be an issue with the final release, so let hope that’s true… 🙂

      • Totally agree. The FC4 demo seemed to run at a decent frame rate.

        Hopefully the load times aren’t as terrible as the demo.


  • There are plenty of videos floating around now showing some massive frame drops and pop in… Very recently more PR from Ubisoft came out suggesting they are using all the power possibly of the XBOX and PS4…

    If we play along for the moment and believe what they are saying and the game still runs this poorly, then I have the 2 following opinions.

    1) AC:U is the new benchmark of trying to bite off way more they can chew, someone should have scaled the NPCs back a notch or two
    2) The new built from the ground up engine they have for this game is a step back from the one they were using on the PS360 gen.

    • Whoever thought that having thousands of NPCs on screen at once was a good idea needs to be tarred and feathered. Even a few hundred NPCs would be impressive, and would likely reduce the CPU load.

  • Publisher wanting game out before Christmas but before it’s finished? Blow me down. Shocking though that they haven’t fully optimised it on the consoles.

    Yet another reason not to pick it up for me. At least Ubisoft have made my purchasing decisions easy for me seeing as disposable income is at a premium atm

  • Dont blame the games (completely). XB1 and PS4 really are under spec. Theyre not really that great.

    But, in saying that, Ubi do have a history of poorly optimised games.

  • Hmm, my only theory on this would be that maybe Ubi spent more time on optimising the Xbone version knowing it couldn’t handle the performance off the bat as well… otherwise I’m confused considering how similar the hardware is ._.

  • So here’s the real reason they capped it at 30fps on PS4 and Xbone, and it’s got nothing to do with the BS excuse they gave about it being more “cinematic”. The simple explanation is that they didn’t want the drop in frame rate to be quite as noticeable as it otherwise would be. Imagine if indoors the game ran at 60fps, then you go outside and it drops to 22fps. However if you cap the framerate at 30fps, then the drop is less of an issue. It’s balls that it’s an issue at all, and once again it speaks to the laziness and or incompetence of Ubisoft, but it’s less of a problem than it would have been.

    • I’m betting that there were some angry discussions going on at Ubisoft before release. Execs would not have wanted a delay past the holiday season, whilst the dev teams clearly were still a long way from squashing all the bugs and optimising performance. As always, the execs made the decision that sales would be ‘good enough’ even with any negative publicity from reviews. Makes you sad though that the execs shit all over the devs’ efforts by forcing a release in this state.

  • I dont care if it’s 30 or 60 as long as the frame rate is consistent, nothing worse than noticing frame rate drops during a game.

  • I don’t deny it is a pretty game, and the AI crows have to be pretty resource hungry. That being said, the fact the game still runs poorly on a damn 4770K and SLI’d 770s suggests it’s more down to Ubisoft being fucking lazy than anything else. Watch_Dogs all over again.

    • Well, maybe. But in the video we can see (Around the end especially) that the performance in crowds isn’t the worst part, suggesting that the issue lies elsewhere. The performance issues actually look similar to what we have been seeing in AC games on PC since Revelations: Random CPU spikes while walking around, regardless of NPC count. Think about the big cities in AC3, very similar issues, even with fewer people on the streets.

  • So remember how they dropped playable female characters due to budgetary and time constraints… Where did the money go exactly?

    • Frustrating as hell.
      “Adding a female protagonist will hardly take any time at all, you’ve got the time!”
      “We don’t have enough time.”
      “Bullshit! You’re just misogynists. Wait… OMG game released before it’s finished, go back and finish optimizing so it doesn’t run like shit!”

      Really makes you wonder what the fuck people think ‘annual franchise’ means and what kind of expectations they have of game development. Maybe next time someone in an AC team says they don’t have enough time for a feature, people will fucking listen to the project managers who see the whole picture instead of ignorant, blinkered animators on reddit who think their role in the process is the beginning and the end of the story.

  • I haven’t played the PS4 version of the game, but unexpectedly, Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry reports that it’s actually worse than the Xbox One.

    Day 1 patch fixes issues. Is out already.

  • Here’s the thing – the very first Assassins Creed had amazing graphics with vast crowds and only one instance of a slowdown (on the 360 – I know it was only one because it stood out like a sore thumb)

    IIRC the PS3 version had numerous slowdown issues

    Two years later Ass Creed II really dials down the graphics (hint compare the faces between the first and second games) but is otherwise a great game but this allows good performance on both consoles.

    I think they’re in the same boat this time – they’ve shot for minute detail and massive crowds and ended up sacrificing frames – hopefully they can dial something back with a patch to help it run properly but if they get a chance at a sequel I’ll bet you it’s spot on!

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