Saturday, 12 November 2016

London's syndicate of sibling rivalry

Assassin's Creed Syndicate

Platform tested: PlayStation 4

From a troubled debut on today's consoles, set in Paris, to the old cobbled streets of industrial aged London, Assassin's Creed is back. For me to review at least, this game is from 2015. The series seems to have taken a break from it's yearly schedule at this point. Not a bad idea if they plan on renewing the series with fresh ideas, even though Syndicate turned out to be a solid game!

There was only a matter of time before Ubisoft decided to travel to London in a AC game, the iconic city it is. Setting the era in Victorian times with the industrial age nicely accompanies the city's red brick built style too. This time around the story is set around two main playable characters rather than one, Evie and Jacob. Siblings competing and arguing their way around taking back control of the whole of London from a huge Templar syndicate gang. It's an interesting plot and nice sense of progression as you slowly take control of all the cities assets to keep it under control. Plus, finally we get a new female lead in the AC series!

In typical AC fashion there's a useless main plot set in the future once again, though why they even bother with this side story is beyond me. As little as you ever are in this modern time, you actually wonder what the hell it even is every time the game switches back to showing this world. Hell, in Syndicate it only shows this time at the beginning and at the end. Both Unity and Syndicate may as well have been set in their own time period completely. The main "storyline" has been dragged on far too long with minimal progression or any sense of where it's heading. The actual London story of Evie and Jacob is very good though, and has some interesting, and of course historic people, you meet along the way! I found the main bad guy to be a little weak though, and not really that threatening.

The ease of movement introduced in Unity has been retained, with dedicated buttons for climbing or descending while running. It makes traversing a far more enjoyable and easy affair, especially when you are in a hurry. Though there are still times you get stuck onto ledges or objects, breaking the sense of flow in a run. I also love the grappling hook they have introduced this time. It works basically like Batman's so you can instantly fly up the side of a building or across from one rooftop to the other. Perhaps the game takes the ease of climbing a little too far as trying to reach synchronisation points is rendered a one button affair with the grappling hook, rather than a strenuous and challenging climb. For the most part though, the more streamlined controls help the actual gameplay and missions requiring fast movement a more forgiving and less annoying touch.

Syndicate looks it's part, sporting the fantastic lighting engine Unity introduced us to back in 2014. This time around the insane amounts of pedestrians have been dialled back to give room for better performance at a more stable 30fps. Giving room for lots of horses with carriages on the roads too. It's a good compromise and perhaps a reminder of how much they pushed hardware technically in Unity. Running at 900p with some fairly washed out textures in the distance, the game can go from looking pretty to fairly rough in parts mind you. I get the scale when you gaze out over London is incredible, but it can also all look a bit grey and dull at times. The transition from a huge open city to detailed indoor environments by simply jumping in through a window or walking in a door is still impressive though!

I would have liked some more changes to a slightly over used AC formula. Syndicate feels like a repetition of missions you have played over and over in the series. The perfect balance of switching up the use of Evie and Jacob in the final mission reminds me of how cool the game would have been if they'd done this more often during all the missions. Maybe even letting the player choose which one of them they wished to use for each one. They could even have made their ability difference far diverse than some simple extra boxes on a skill chart too. It would have made the game far more fun to replay missions in. You get the sensation of having done mostly everything in recent AC games before as they never dare fare far off the formula. Even the coop missions have been removed this time, this game should have let you play the whole main game in coop with each player being one of the siblings!

If you enjoyed Unity's debut on either your PS4 or Xbox One and fancy a better game and story, well then Syndicate is tailored for you. For those that fancy a more diverse and off beat AC experience though, Black Flag still remains as being the more innovative and diverse AC game. All in all a more well rounded and solid entry than the previous attempt, that puts emphasis on making the game what Unity should have been at launch. Sadly it stays much to safe in it's well developed corner of an outdated formula in need of change. We can only hope the delayed new entry of the AC series is a sign the next game will bring something fundamentally new to the table.



    + Plus points

    • Once again a famous city is incredibly modelled from the past.
    • Great rivalry with two dynamic main characters, with more lighthearted dialogue.
    • A more technically polished game than Unity.

    - Minus points

    • Can look rough at times.
    • Extremely repetitive mission tasks.
    • Clumsy controls and annoyingly over hostile enemies still haunt the series.

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