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Ubisoft defends Assassin's Creed: Unity graphics lock for parity on PS4, Xbox One

UPDATE: Final specs could still change, Ubisoft now says.

UPDATE 7/10/14 11.40am: Ubisoft has told Eurogamer that Assassin's Creed Unity's final technical specifications for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are actually still to be locked down.

With around six weeks to go until the game's launch, the developer revealed in a new expanded statement that there was still room for things to change.

"Final specs for Assassin's Creed Unity aren't cemented yet," a Ubisoft spokesperson explained, "but we can say we showed Assassin's Creed Unity at 900p during our hands-on preview event last week. We're confident that gamers will be thrilled with the gorgeous graphics and how Paris is brought to life in Assassin's Creed Unity.

"The development team has been hard at work delivering the best Assassin's Creed possible on next generation consoles. Regardless of which platform you're playing on, Assassin's Creed Unity will answer what an Assassin's Creed game built from the ground up for the next generation of gaming looks like and will be the best looking Assassin's Creed game ever developed."

ORIGINAL STORY 7/10/14 10.00am: Assassin's Creed: Unity developer Ubisoft has defended its decision to lock both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game at 900p and 30fps.

The Assassin's Creed: Unity parity debate has already sparked a number of memes.

Unity producer Vincent Pontbriand yesterday said that both consoles had been deliberately kept at the same graphical level.

"We decided to lock them at the same specs to avoid all the debates and stuff," Pontbriand told Videogamer.

"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 tenfold improvement over everything AI-wise, and we realised it was going to be pretty hard. It's not the number of polygons that affect the framerate. We could be running at 100fps if it was just graphics, but because of AI, we're still limited to 30 frames per second."

Assassin's Creed fans responded in anger at the suggestion that the game might have been held back on PS4 to ensure parity with the Xbox One version.

But in a new statement issued last night, Ubisoft explained that the producer had been "misinterpreted".

"We understand how senior producer Vincent Pontbriand's quotes have been misinterpreted. To set the record straight, we did not lower the specs for Assassin's Creed: Unity to account for any one system over the other," a Ubisoft spokesperson said.

"Assassin's Creed: Unity has been engineered from the ground up for next-generation consoles. Over the past four years, we have created Assassin's Creed: Unity to attain the tremendous level of quality we have now achieved on Xbox One, PS4 and PC. It's a process of building up toward our goals, not scaling down, and we're proud to say that we have reached those goals on all SKUs.

"At no point did we decide to reduce the ambitions of any SKU. All benefited from the full dedication of all of our available optimisation resources to help them reach the level of quality we have today with the core Assassin's Creed: Unity experience."

Last year's Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag also released on PS4 and Xbox One at 900p and 30fps, but Ubisoft was able to increase the PS4 version's resolution to 1080p via a post-launch patch.

Some fans have even pointed to the fact that this year - for the first time in many years - the brand is allied to Xbox, rather than PlayStation. Microsoft will be able to feature the game in its Christmas Xbox marketing, and the game will - for once - not include any PlayStation-exclusive content.

"Ubisoft's original statement highlights to me something I've noticed when speaking to several developers - that often they aren't quite so invested in the format wars and platform comparison as the players seem to be," Digital Foundry editor Rich Leadbetter commented.

"Their emphasis is on getting a great product together first and foremost, and a good experience for all is more important to them than maxing any particular platform.

"That said, the design of Xbox One and PlayStation 4 makes the decision to lock specs on Assassin's Creed: Unity difficult to fathom. Time and time again, we've seen evidence that the Xbox One graphics hardware operates almost like a subset of the PS4's - perhaps not surprising bearing in mind that Sony's GPU is essentially a larger version of Microsoft's. We often see resolution differentials on cutting edge titles, and even though the difference is frequently less of an issue than the raw numbers suggest, a cleaner presentation overall is obviously welcome.

"We're a bit puzzled by the ACU situation and had a chat about it amongst ourselves. Internal bandwidth is shared between CPU and GPU on both machines which can result in a battle for resources, and if ACU is as CPU-heavy as Ubisoft says it is, that could potentially have ramifications - the only problem with this theory is that there's very little evidence that other titles have experienced the same issue, certainly not judged by Ubisoft's own output.

"I think the main problem here is that the initial story suggests that the publisher has put platform parity politics over getting the best possible game out there, while the updated statement offers no real answers to the questions gamers actually have. If there's a technical reason that prevents PS4 offering a full 1080p presentation - or something closer to it compared to the Xbox One's 900p - I'm really curious to know what it is."

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