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Assassin’s Creed Syndicate had a lot of work to do to make up for last years shambolic Unity. And from the announcements trailers, It seems Ubisoft were pulling out all the stops, with a stunning Victorian London as your playground and promising new gameplay elements to freshen the series up.
Unfortunately in reality your Victorian London setting is where the highlights of this new game start and finish. Well, actually, that’s a bit harsh. The story and main characters stand out too, at least compared to last years. You take on the role of twin assassins Jacob and Evie Frye who have come to London to rid the city from an evil Templar Industrialist Crawford Starrick, who in turn runs the gangs of London. He must be rid of. Syndicate manages to strike a nice balance between actually doing some good and being an outright killing machine, something I have felt missing from previous games. It’s certainly no Dickens masterpiece but certainly keeps you playing.
The good news is that London is a fantastic city to explore and run around. Ubisoft have decided to do away with historic accuracy in favour of an open world that is much more fun to navigate. All the bloat has gone, the fat has been trimmed, so it no longer feels like your character is constantly running into things. the streets feel emptier, but for the better. It never seems dead however, just less claustrophobic.
However, once the magnificence of London has settled on your retinas it’s clear from the off that despite the lick of paint and new city, nothing has actually changed with the Assassin’s Creed formula. I mean there is a saying, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. But Assassin’s Creed is broken and has been since the very first game. The sticky parkour, the constant climbing up the wrong obstacle, the pauses in your free run as the game can’t quite work out what you want to do and the clumsy fighting. Speaking of fighting, Syndicate has taken a step back. For the most part it’s just a case of bashing X, and countering. the fluidity from other games who copy the Arkham formula is missing, and the enemies that surround you flash for an attack (letting you know they are going to attack) so you press circle to counter.
Thankfully, to some degree the mission structure comes to the aid of Assassin’s Creed’s creaking mechanics. The more open design of London helps settle things down a bit. No longer do main missions involve a lot of generic bloated nonsense in an attempt to pad out the mission, now all the extras have been placed as side missions which you can choose to do or not, leaving the actual main missions far more involved, unique and substantial.
That’s not to say the side missions should be skipped, far from it, these have also been beefed up somewhat. the most obvious one is being to conquer each of the districts of gangs. Mainly you’ll completing small missions and then taking out the ring leader and these are actually great fun, and remind me of the gang warfare section from San Andreas. Other side missions include fight clubs and carriage racing. And then there are the historical figures, don’t expect to learn any history here as their interpretation uses a hell of a lot of artistic licence. But what you do get from these figures are treasure hunts, and exporting cargo for extra goodies. Generally speaking these side missions go far and beyond what you would expect from an Assassin’s Creed game.
Of course the main point of Assassin’s Creed is to assassinate people and being London these missions are epic in scale. I mean where else can you be placed in the Bank of England, the Tower of London, Lambeth Asylum or get to climb all over the Houses of Parliament. And as usual, you have the ability to complete your goal in anyway you see fit. It’s quite something. Jacob and Evie bring some new moves too like being able to play dead, or get out of trouble super quick thanks to the new grappling hook.
The grappling hook. A fantastic way to traverse the city and climb the tallest of buildings. It’s a welcome addition, although not quite a silky smooth as Batman’s from the Arkham games. It just feels a little hit and miss where you can actually use the thing. I found myself standing around looking at the scenery waiting for the L1 prompt to pop up, but a nice addition nonetheless.
Ubisoft have clearly tried to right the wrongs from last years Unity, and to some degree they have succeeded. Making London more open is the smartest move they have made. The addition of the grappling hook has made navigating the city a breeze (when it works). The two characters, the highlight being Evie, bring some much needed character back to the um, characters. But the same faults that have plagued all Assassin’s Creed are still present. And this is worrying, they have had eight games to give the mechanics some genuine polish and still, the same problems linger.
Still, Syndicate is far better than Unity, but still a long way from the giddy heights of Black Flag. It’s an enjoyable romp through a Dickensian London that’s for sure and the few new features that Syndicate brings work for the most part. The flaws that are present are annoying, more because they are the same flaws as always but thankfully they don’t detract from the fun you’re having.
It boils down to if you’re expecting something fresh and new to reinvigorate the AC series then you’ll be disappointed, if however you’re looking for more of the same, then Syndicate will do exactly what you expect.
For more impressions from the team on Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, head here.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is out now on PS4 (reviewed) and Xbox One. Coming soon to PC.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided a review code from the publisher.
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