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I can’t play VR games, but Assassin’s Creed Nexus is the immersive experience that won’t make you hurl

Immersive gaming that will let you hold on to your lunch

Throughout my career in games I have played a number of VR titles despite only ever owning the original PS VR. Astrobot was a strong start, but everything else on the system left my head spinning. Rez, Tetris Effect, even short demos like Danganronpa all had me removing the headset after ten minutes or so. Then there was Elijah Wood’s Transference, which I couldn’t stomach for more than five minutes, and that’s not just because it’s terrible.

Attending an event at Ubisoft Montréal, I was keen to try out the two Assassin’s Creed games of 2023. While Mirage is now out, few people had the opportunity to try Nexus, a fully-fledged Assassin’s Creed game made exclusively for VR. Trying Glassbreakers at Gamescom earlier this year I had hopes that technology had advanced enough for me to have overcome my nausea. However, when I had to avert my eyes during a gameplay trailer or else call the biohazard crew, my faith wavered.

AC Nexus VR screenshot of Connor throwing an axe

AC Nexus VR will let you play as three of the series' most popular characters including Connor from Assassin's Creed III.

Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR tells three new stories from the lives of fan-favorite assassins. As voted on by the community, you can explore Italy as Ezio, Greece as Kassandra, and the USA as Connor. While each of the stories is shorter, as there are three to go through, the entire game is expected to be similar in length to the recently released Mirage, only with more diverse settings. We had 30 minutes to play as Ezio using a Meta Quest 2, as we were thrown straight into the middle of Venice, and told to just explore.

During the presentation about Nexus, I was told all about the innovative changes that have happened to VR over the years, and how nausea should no longer be a problem. There are four preset levels of ‘comfort’ settings, which you can then fiddle around with to find the level of nausea that’s right for you. Emboldened by the claim, I picked ‘Immersive,’ which is the most realistic experience, and thought I would vomit and fall over within a few seconds. However, within a few clicks of the button, I was on to a more ‘comfortable’ setting, and was shocked to have no ill effects. Like none at all.

Screenshot from Assassin's Creed Nexus VR showing fireworks over a bridge in Venice

Our hands-on preview was focused on Ezio's story set in Venice.

The only thing that I noticed was that there was a black cloud blocking out my peripheral vision somewhat, but I am told that many other small tricks were at play. The most interesting of which was that Ezio’s nose was now visible to me, but much like how you block your own nose from your vision, it’s invisible – except for right now as I remind you that your nose is in your vision, and while we’re at it, remember manual breathing?

The difference was dramatic, and with my stomach now ‘comfortable’ I was able to parkour around. Climbing up the side of a building was intuitive, and so rewarding in first person as you look for and manually grip the edges of buildings and window sills. There is an auto-parkour mode that will jump at the edge of surfaces, but there’s no guarantee you’ll land it. Instead, you have to make sure you’re ready to grab onto ledges in case you whiff, or suffer tumbling back to the bottom. If exploring a city from the sky is the reason you like Assassin’s Creed, then you cannot miss out on this one.

Assassin's Creed Nexus VR screenshot showing Venice

The series' trademark rooftop parkour and city exploration feels very rewarding in first person.

What everyone wanted to try was the Leap of Faith, the infamous part in each game where you climb a tall tower, step out onto a perch, scan the area, before diving into some hay. When I got out onto a ledge, I didn’t experience Synchronization – though I believe this was only because it had already been unlocked. I then jumped feet first into the hay, no dive, no sick spin. Aside from losing the theater of the Synchronization, this wasn’t as fun as I had hoped. I was told I’d have to dive myself, leaning over as far as I dared if I wanted the real deal, which will likely be great fun for those who are familiar with VR.

The one aspect that didn’t live up to the high expectations set by the rest of the game was the combat. Despite the innovations made in so many other areas of VR, fighting people just isn’t there yet. You can do a cool little flick with your wrist to pull out a hidden blade, or even grab the sword from your hip, but the feedback of hitting someone still isn’t there. I could see blood splatter, but couldn’t really tell if the enemy was wounded, I couldn’t even tell I had defeated him until a few seconds later when he hit the ground. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no worse than the feedback in other VR games, but as the rest of Nexus has come so far, I expected more from it.

Combat in Assassin's Creed Nexus VR

Melee combat in VR games, AC Nexus included, is not there yet.

Overall, Nexus really impressed me, though I didn’t see very much of the story. Technically, it’s almost there outside of combat. Then again, the assassins are supposed to be stealthy, and assassinations are still great. What will make Nexus great is if the characters and story are weighty enough to hold a whole Assassin’s Creed game. But for that we will have to wait for launch on November 16, 2023.