The first time you load up Assassin’s Creed III, you’re prompted to input your Uplay passport. As far as I can tell, a Uplay passport allows access to Ubisoft’s database online and allows access to a special, separate kind of achievement. For inputting your info and registering the game online, you’re awarded with a handful of extra kit in the multiplayer section and an XP boost, presumably as an incentive to buy the game new rather than pick one up, passportless, second-hand.
You can choose to input the code, buy a new code online for actual money, or carry on without registering. I don’t give a shit about multiplayer – there’s not anything wrong with it, it’s just not what I enjoy doing of an evening – so of the options offered to me, I opted to proceed without entering the data.
“What’s that?” the game says, playing coy. “You can’t have meant you wanted to miss out on all the exclusive offers. Surely not.”
METAL TO THE KIDNEYS
So rather than let you play the game, it takes you to a second screen which presents the same information again. Except this time the options to input or buy your code are bigger and the option to continue without entering it is tucked away at the top left corner of the screen, a place where no-one ever looks ever. It took me ten seconds of searching to find it. On a menu with three options.
Shady? Perhaps. And then, only then, are you allowed to play the game. You fire up the animus. Pop on your old-fashioned hoodie and run around the New World introducing sharp bits of metal to the kidneys of unaware men. It’s classic stuff. A bit rusty by this point, sure, and riddled with glitches and errors, but it still remains a joyful experience when it shines.
Then next time you load up the console, you’re prompted – again – to input your Uplay passport details. And you say No Thankyou, and you’re again directed to that same second page, and you have to navigate past it to get to the actual game that you went out to a shop and paid money for.
(Full disclosure: I didn’t pay money for the game. I got a copy sent to me because I was covering it for FHM and needed to play it to do my job. I’ve got a few complaints with it, but on the other hand I played it for five hours straight this morning so it must be doing something right. I like Ubisoft. On the whole they make great games and they’re very, very pleasant people to chat to.)
IN MY FACE
This happens every single time you fire up the game. One screen I could forgive; after all, odds are you’ve brought the game new and Ubisoft want you to realise that you get some extra gubbins with the game as a result. That’s fine. I’d rather they didn’t push it in my face, but fine. I can live with that.
Two screens, maybe, I could forgive too. After all, this provides some useful kit for the multiplayer game. You might barge past the first screen in an effort to play the actual game, and miss out on the fact that you can effectively upgrade your product in exchange for registering on Ubisoft’s little social gaming network.
But two screens every time you turn on the console goes past bad design. That’s pestering. That’s hoping to get in people’s way enough that, in order to skip the rigmarole, they just acquiesce and input their data. Or so it seems. I’m hard-pressed to come up with an alternative explanation.
There’s no option for the game to remember that you don’t want to put in the passport data; instead, it asks you twice every time you switch the game on. What if you didn’t buy it new? What if you went out and – legitimately, mind, there’s no crime against this – purchased it preowned, and didn’t have a code of your own to input?
Ubisoft have made a menu that is designed to intentionally irritate the player in order to earn them profit – whether that’s cash in the bank from preowned players buying a new passport, advertising revenue, or just the benefit of collecting valuable player data. There’s something worrying about that.