Assassin’s Creed Unity: PS4 vs Xbox One performance comparison

Ubisoft had a troublesome Assassin’s Creed Unity launch due to a plethora of graphics issues, including incredibly low frame rates, numerous glitches, lag, and texture pop-in on all platforms. Unity players can now learn more about upcoming patches and fixes on the new live blog Ubisoft has set in place exclusively for players of the game. Also, official forums are currently addressing every known issue of Assassin’s Creed Unity, while every bug is being labeled as “fixed,” “Working on it,” or “Workaround below.” Ubisoft is currently working on the ongoing frame rate issues of the game, although the developer did suggest an alternative which might improve in-game frame rate level. Here reads: “If playing single player, we suggest that you disconnect from your internet connection (wi-fi or network cable). It could potentially improve frame rate.”

Assassin’s Creed Unity was the subject of a couple of performance tests on current-gen platforms PS4 and Xbox One, which were again conducted by who else but Digital Foundry. As you may know, the game runs on a native 1600×900 resolution and 30FPS on both consoles, and at a first glance, it looks identical on both PS4 and Xbox One. However, Digital Foundry frame rate tests reveal a better and more stable performance for the Xbox One, which is much closer to the 30FPS cap than the PS4 in most gameplay scenes. This is quite surprising, considering that the PS4 had the upper hand in other previous tests thanks to its enhanced GPU capabilities. Unity producer, Vincent Pontbriand had recently revealed why the game runs on native 900p resolution and locked 30FPS on both consoles:

“We decided to lock them at the same specs to avoid all the debates and stuff,” he said. “Technically we’re CPU-bound. The GPUs are really powerful, obviously the graphics look pretty good, but it’s the CPU [that] has to process the AI, the number of NPCs we have on screen, all these systems running in parallel.”

“We were quickly bottlenecked by that and it was a bit frustrating,” he continued, “because we thought that this was going to be a ten-fold improvement over everything AI-wise, and we realized it was going to be pretty hard. It’s not the number of polygons that affect the frame-rate. We could be running at 100fps if it was just graphics, but because of AI, we’re still limited to 30 frames per second.”

There is no doubt that Assassin’s Creed Unity features significantly improved visuals compared to last year’s installment, as the title stepped into the new graphics era with a brand new engine which allowed for stunning feats to be implemented. Unity features major improvements in levels of geometry detail, characters and game environments, which are complemented by a more advanced texturing, better lighting and shader models working together impressively to give the game a “photo-realistic” look. Perhaps one of the most notable upgrades coincides with the major increase in the amount of NPCs present in the world of Unity, but as it turns out, this has a great impact on visual performance.

Unfortunately, Assassin’s Creed Unity fails to deliver the same level of performance we’ve been accustomed with in Black Flag, and this is mainly because Unity employs a huge amount of graphics detail compared to the previous title, and of course the poor optimization we’ve seen so far. What comes as a huge surprise is that the Xbox One copes with these performance issues a lot better than the PS4, succeeding to outrun its main rival frequently in many demanding scenes of the game, where numerous NPCs are wandering about on the crowded streets of Paris. The opening sequence of the above test footage clearly shows the frame rate disparity between the two consoles. Weaving through dozens of NPCs in a packed square of the French capital, the frame rate drops down to 20FPS for a prolonged period on the PS4, while the Xbox One outputs an additional 5FPS. Moving further into the gameplay, in the rooftop scene both the PS4 and Xbox One fluctuate between 25 to 30FPS, but again the Xbox One manages to do so more consistently.

Although performance is still far from the intended level on the Xbox One, the overall experience is much smoother than on the PS4. Frame rate drops are less frequent in large detail scenes, and the control feels more responsive. Also, the judder is reportedly more reduced on the One. Outside of more open areas, both consoles manage to deliver a constant 30FPS level for extended periods of time which is a welcomed plus for Unity’s next-gen graphics, fully showcased here. Scripted sequences set in closed environments allow the engine to show its full potential and display dynamic scenery beautifully depicted before the keen eye, followed by an array of particle effects, alpha and post-processing working in tandem to offer a fluent and judder free presentation. Combat wise, Assassin’s Creed Unity renders pretty much flawlessly on both consoles, the PS4 getting slightly better frame rates here. Sony’s console seems to be advantaged by cut-scenes, showing an increased and more stable performance compared to its Microsoft counterpart.

Assassin’s Creed Unity is certainly far from home in terms of visual performance, but from what we have seen so far, the title has its own strong points. Digital Foundry claims that overall image quality is identical across both consoles, with a performance plus for the Xbox One. The reasons why Microsoft’s console benefits more from the native 900p resolution remain unknown. Speculations are that the Xbox One has more CPU time at its disposal. As animation and AI rely heavily on the processor, this might be a plausible explanation. Meanwhile, additional analyses are expected to reveal a whole lot more about Assassin’s Creed Unity in the following weeks.