Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate – or Assassin’s Creed Mary Poppins as I’ve been affectionately calling it – is set to be released for Playstation 4 and Xbox One on October 23 (a little later for PC) to what is in truth, a justifiably sceptical audience.
It wouldn’t be unfair to say that Ubisoft’s long running Assassin’s Creed franchise has fallen on hard times recently. For sure, the series has had its highlights – Assassin’s Creed 1 and 2 were both great, Brotherhood was pretty good and Black Flag was a swashbucklingly good time, but 2014’s Assassin’s Creed: Unity seemed like it might guillotine the entire franchise with its glitchy graphics and ho-hum storyline. No pressure on Syndicate then.
Jacob And Evie Frye, I Presume?
Your two main protagonists for Syndicate are the Frye twins, Jacob and Evie. Jacob is the wisecracking chucklefuck who swaggers around spouting hammy one-liners, while Evie gets the real shit done. You can chose to play as either in the game, though there’s not a great deal of difference between them – something that felt like a missed opportunity as Evie was hyped to be super-stealthy and Jacob a bit of a brawler.
Once you get past the fact that Syndicate isn’t pretending to take itself seriously, the dialogue actually becomes quite endearing, and everybody goes about their business like it’s normal to be an assassin in 1868. Well maybe it was, I wasn’t there.
Jacob and Evie are attempting to liberate London from the evil Crawford Starrick and his gang of evil Blighters (yeah, Blighters) by uniting the criminal underground with help from the likes of Alexander Graham Bell, Charles Darwin and Florence Nightingale. The story line is surprisingly engaging and robust considering it’s the same old same. Templars bad, assassins good – kill all the templars and the assassins live happily ever after. But it’s pulled off with a tongue stuck so firmly in its cheek that it’s easy to enjoy.
London Looks Beautiful.
After around 15 hours with the game and both small day-one patches installed, it should come as a relief that Syndicate seems to have largely addressed the graphical car crash of its predecessor. London is stunningly re-imagined in its Victorian heyday with a map roughly 30% larger than Paris was in Unity. Once you get out of the game’s pretty bland starting area, you’re greeted by a vibrant city, teeming with life.
I spent a good couple of hours just wandering the streets of Southwalk and Whitechapel, people-watching as muddy kids played in the street and market stall owners hawked their wares. If the game was about London, it would be a masterpiece.
Gameplay Needs Work.
For me, Assassin’s Creed is about combat and climbing, both of which feel stifled in Syndicate.
The combat system is the same as it’s ever been: wait until you’re attacked, press circle then hammer square until the baddies are dead. After 8 years of games, it feels like it should have evolved past this point, with repetitive animations and finishers.
The climbing too, left me frustrated in parts. Zipping around London like a Victorian Spider Man is pretty fun once you get the grapple gun, but the free-running can sometimes feel jilted as Evie or Jacob veer off to inexplicably scale a chimney spout and refuse to climb down.
It’s nice being able to see London from above, but it’s much more refreshing to get around in one of Syndicate’s horse-drawn carriages. You can hijack any carriage GTA style and stream around the cobbled streets, ploughing down literally anything in your way. Bollards, small children, lamposts, trees – everything is fair game as you and your tank-like cart lay waste with barely a ‘cor blimey guvner’ uttered from passers by.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is playing it safe from start to finish, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Ubisoft Quebec had a hell of a job revamping the franchise after Unity and to their credit, they’ve done a good job with it. Syndicate is an enjoyable romp for die-hard fans to get stuck into, and one that might bring back some who lost interest along the way.