Assassin's Creed's debut on next-gen consoles will bring - among other new features - more intense environments that, Ubisoft says, will allow for greater immersion. "When you get into a bush in stealth mode you really feel like you are hidden there in this next gen bush," Assassin's Creed 4's associate producer Sylvain Trottier told Eurogamer. Quite.
"On next-gen we take current gen assets and up-res them, add parallax mapping so rocks look even more like rocks, we add plant physics so they move with the wind that you can't do on current gen," added Trottier. Assassin's Creed isn't the only cross-gen game from Ubisoft, of course, with Watch Dogs also due to land later this year - and that particular open-world game is promising next-gen wind.
Like Watch Dogs, Assassin's Creed 4's also bound for pretty much every system around when it launches, with six versions lined up. "It's a challenge, but everything when you do a game is a challenge," said Trottier.
"And it's a cool one - we have more power to work with on the new consoles, we have new tech like DX11. From there, when we first saw the new consoles we started working on technology, doing R&D thinking what are we going to do that's going to bring the best return on investment. What would look nice, and have the most impact visually on our game without costing too much in production? We don't want to redo the game twice, we just want to make sure the game looks sexier on next gen. It's a challenge, but it's a challenge that's doable."
Alongside the next-gen shrubs and DX11 support, Assassin's Creed 4 on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 will also be able to fill in more detail - in the forest there will be god rays shining through the branches and insects climbing the trees, while out on the oceans there'll be volumetric fog rolling off the sea. "On the next gen we've got the bandwidth and the power to do these things, so we're doing it," said Trottier.
The PC version will benefit from these improvements, too, and it's directly influenced the next-gen console versions too. "For a long time the PC was our test bed for next-gen because of DX11, and we could have more RAM," said Trottier. "It was the closest thing to the next gen console, so yes it was. PC's always going to be one step ahead of any generation of consoles, so we're still going to push tech and experiment with other stuff that could benefit Assassin's Creed afterwards. For example all the DX11 work on the PC version of Assassin's Creed 3, we started from there to make our base for DX11 GPUs that are on the next gen consoles."
There are other, less powerful new consoles that Assassin's Creed 4's heading to too. The Wii U version is still very much on course, and like the port of Assassin's Creed 3 before it, the GamePad will be used for off-screen play. With an Assassin's Creed companion app accompanying this year's release, though, there's still no word whether the second screen on Nintendo's console will be used to replicate its features. "Right now it's in discussion," says Trottier. "We'd still like to bring the iPad app to the Wii U."
And that's not the only second screen Ubisoft's had to consider. There won't be a bespoke PlayStation Vita version this year - as was revealed yesterday, the Liberation team's too busy getting Black Flag up and running - but it will be possible to play Assassin's Creed 4 on Sony's handheld via remote play on the PlayStation 4. You'll be able to leave your main screen and switch it all on to the Vita," said Trottier. "This is going to be a supported feature in Assassin's Creed 4. All we have to do is make sure the controls are good on the Vita because it's missing a few buttons."
So despite there being no follow-up to Liberation this year it's not so bad - you'll soon be able to take those next-gen bushes with you all over the house after all.
This article was based on a press trip to Ubisoft's studios in Singapore and Montreal. Ubisoft paid for travel and accommodation.