Review: Assassin's Creed Syndicate (PlayStation 4)

Assassin's Creed Syndicate: Official GBAtemp Review

PlayStation 4 3,384 views 6 likes 9 comments
Reviewed by Thomas Hugh, posted Oct 26, 2015, last updated Oct 27, 2015
Oct 26, 2015
  • Release Date (NA): October 23, 2015
  • Release Date (EU): October 23, 2015
  • Release Date (JP): November 12, 2015
  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
  • Genres: Action Adventure
  • ESRB Rating: Mature
  • PEGI Rating: Eighteen years and older
  • Also For: Computer, Xbox One
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Ubisoft are back with this year's installment of the Assassin's Creed franchise: Assassin's Creed Syndicate.
Thomas Hugh

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Ubisoft have a lot to prove after the disastrous launch of AC Unity back in 2014. This year's installment of the annual juggernaut franchise makes some drastic changes to the usual AC formula, but are they enough to convince fans and newcomers alike that Syndicate is a worthy entry to the long-running series?

Control London, Control the World

Set in 1868 Victorian London, AC Syndicate tells the story of Jacob and Evie Frye, twin assassins who are trying to free the smog filled city of the oppression and child labor monopoly from the Templar tyrant Crawford Starrick. As is the case with many of the Assassin's Creed titles, the best character in the game is the setting itself. Victorian London is beautifully realized, with the finest monuments of the city being faithfully recreated for the player to discover, traverse and ultimately leap off into the series standard carts of hay, or in this case piles of leaves. Buildings are vast and the general architecture is higher than ever, and this may be why Ubisoft Quebec have introduced one of the few new mechanics to gameplay.

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Assassin's Creed or Arkham City?

Using the brand new Rope Launcher tool makes scaling a building to the roof, or reaching the top of a chimney stack almost instant and nearly makes climbing redundant altogether. Unfortunately you can't aim it wherever you like, and instead it hooks onto to preset points of each structure. Similar to Batman's Line Launcher, the tool can also be used to connect one building to the next, creating a zipline for the protagonists to zoom down or climb up and across on. This speeds up overall movement around the city when travelling on foot, which is a blessing when playing on the largest game map in the series to date.

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Hijackable horse drawn carriages are another welcome addition to the game world, making it faster to reach the next mission, create a speedy getaway or bundle in a kidnapped Blighter. Driving the carriages feels great and some of my favourite missions involved smashing into the pesky enemy Blighters as they tried to board my coach whilst we raced off into the night. It's weird how you gain XP for mowing down street lamp posts with a horse, causing wanton destruction, but hey, I'll take it! 

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Gangs of old London

Blighters are the common enemy and footsoldiers running each of the areas on the map. They take care of all of Crawford's industries such as the steelworks, breweries and shipyards, using children to carry out the labor. It's up to Jacob and Evie to liberate each district by freeing children and killing or capturing the bosses of each borough.

When you have cleared out an area, the game triggers a Gang Fight where you take on the boss and his henchmen. You are assisted by your own gang of Rooks, npcs you can recruit whenever you see them in the streets, building them up via their own menu of skills and perks. Rooks are very handy at fighting by your side, useful to cause a quick distraction or send into hideouts to take on enemies while you gaze upon the ensuing carnage from a distance.

Jacob is more of a heavy brawler using a variety of knuckle dusters and pistols, whilst Evie feels slightly more nimble and uses a cane weapon that can split into a dagger or short sword. She is also the more stealthier of the two and my personal favourite to play as. Weapons are interchangeable so you can still go with whatever you like the most for each character. Players can switch between the twins at will unless they are in a character specific mission. Both of the twins are likeable with good writing backing up their personae. There's a lot of banter between them, often cracking jokes and trying to one up each other. Jacob is more focused on building up the gang whereas Evie wants to find the pieces, and shroud of Eden, artefacts related to the Assassin's Creed lore and series story arc.

The twins each have their own skill trees to unlock new moves and perks, but they are largely the same with only 3 unique final skills per character. XP pools aren't shared either but duplicated, so if you play as Evie for an extended amount of time and then switch to Jacob, you will instantly have a ton of XP to use leveling him up. Experience is gained from completing story quests, freeing areas and killing Blighters. There are still loads of side quests and objectives, this time featuring famous characters from British history. I had to test out electric shock grenades for Alexander Graham Bell, hunt ghosts with Charles Dickens  and retrieve medicine supplies for Florence Nightingale. These characters are a fun distraction from the main questline and offer up unique weapons and items, for completing more fleshed out objectives than seen in previous entries to the series.

Combat I feel is the game's weakest feature. It's clunky and animations don't flow well between the player characters and foes. Syndicate aims for Arkham-lite style combat but it falls short and feels messy. It's not enjoyable until late game when you have gained enough skills to dominate groups of enemies with ease.

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I'm afraid to close my eyes, I'm afraid to open them.

Although AC Syndicate doesn't quite look as good as Unity  graphically, Its art style and recreation of London is fantastic. I may be slightly biased because I'm English myself; roaming around the Capital City is my favourite setting in any Assassin's Creed game to date.

It's not all smooth sailing though, the usual mishaps still persist in this latest entry; floating glitched out npcs skate and fly around in the air or launch through ceilings when entering a room. They stand on tables or stare blankly, faces inches away from a wall like in the final scene of The Blair Witch Project. You would think by the ninth mainline game in the series, Ubisoft would have tidied this up or stamped it out altogether. It only occurs now and then, but when it does it breaks any immersion you may have had with the world.

Even if you can overlook these small annoyances, mission structures are starting to feel old, with instant desyncs if you don't carry out or complete a task exactly the way Ubisoft intended you to. Open world games have dominated 2015 and now I've been given multiple, real true ways of tackling objectives in other games, I want the same from Assassin's Creed. Having 2 or 3 entry points to a building isn't enough to call it open-ended mission design and just doesn't cut it any more. I don't want to run through a bunch of objective check boxes created by the developer with no real difference to the outcome.

With that being said, I like AC Syndicate a lot. It's fun to play and is easily the best AC since Black Flag. The twin's constantly-moving train base hideout is a brilliant feature and jumping from ship to ship across the murky Thames  never gets old. It still has a bit of the modern day Abstergo nonsense in it, but at this point who really cares about that? Luckily the Abstergo parts are few and far between and are presented as non-interactive cutscenes.

Verdict
Pros
+ Amazing setting
+ Rope Line
+ Carriages
+ Gangs
Cons
- Dull combat
- Mission structures feel dated
9 Presentation
Syndicates looks amazing and is dripping with atmosphere. Easily my favorite setting of any of the AC games, Victorian London is the perfect playground for an Assassin.
8 Gameplay
The general Assassin's Creed gameplay and mechanics return, only this time the addition of the Rope Launcher and carriages gives new, quicker options to movement and missions.
8 Lasting Appeal
Main story missions will take 25-30 hours to get through and that doesn't include retries for a 100% sync. Like Unity, there are a ton of collectibles and side quests but this time they are spread out more coherently on the map, so you don't feel so overwhelmed when mopping up an area.
8.5
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
The Rope Launcher feels like it should have always been in the game and horse drawn carriages are fun to drive and cause mayhem with. It's still Assassin's Creed, but these new options are a welcome addition to what was already dubbed a stale franchise. It will be interesting to see where the series goes now, as it can't go back and remove these new features.
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