After my preview in August, I came away with high hopes for AC Syndicate, despite Unity’s failure sticking in its side like a rusty hidden blade, I was hoping that this will be a return to form and re-establish the Assassin’s franchise, righting the wrongs from the previous games. I was wrong.
Things start off incredibly slowly in Syndicate with one of the dullest, mind numbing tutorial I’ve ever played in an Assassin’s game. Talk about being forced to suck eggs, It wouldn’t be so bad if there was something interesting going on, but it almost feels you’ve just tuned in half way in a TV show where lead characters Evie and Jacob are getting the low down by a fellow assassin before setting off on their mission. While it does get better after thirty minutes with some intense action, it’s not the best of starts
After escaping the talons of the tutorial, you finally get to explore Victorian London, and it looks great, the horse and carts passing by, the countless chimneys populating the horizon and the steam trains look lovely. Syndicate isn’t visually on par with Unity, but it holds up very well. I’ve I’ve not experienced any frame rate issues, and the game runs at 900p and 30fps. The streets are alive with crowds of people going about their business; there are bands, choirs, children playing and fights. Motion capture is also impressive during cut-scenes with characters looking realistic, including strong vocal performances. The soundtrack is really nice as well (it features Cellos and Violins; at times, I felt I was being reminded of The Order 1886).
With the crowds of people and things going on, It all seems very lively until you kill someone and the A.I simply doesn’t know how to react, kill an enemy in front of a child and the NPC will simply stand there and say “Oh no”. Even during fights NPCs will just walk through like it’s another day in old London, they appear soulless and disconnected from the world. When the Police turn up to a crime scene, they just acknowledge that someone is dead, shrug and walk off. In terms of appearance, especially the enemies there’s very little variation, I’ve lost count as to how many big burly bold headed men I’ve killed. They’re everywhere! If only enemies were as diverse as the character customization.
Syndicate also suffers from technical issues, and at times it feels incredibly sloppy, cut scenes with invisible characters, floating NPCs and idiotic A.I holds the game back being anything more than mediocre. Considering Ubisoft ‘promised’ they will learn from past mistakes they clearly haven’t. My jaw dropped when I was treated to a two-minute scene of a floating gun and box of books. This is not what I expected to see at all, especially after reading the long list of the day one patch notes claiming to ‘Fix’ everything, there’re clearly more issues that need to be dealt with.
At its core, Syndicate is a next-gen game with decade-old game play mechanics that have now become tired and boring. Gameplay is what you would expect, if you played any previous Assassin’s creed it’s the same old stuff you’ve done before; Liberating districts, killing Templars and solving mysteries while the latter is more fun it’s the manor in how you go about it that grows stale. The combat is also a bit clunky it doesn’t hold up to the likes of Batman or Shadow of Mordor. Free running still has its issues, again, at times I simply just can’t go where I want to go, it took me four attempts to climb a ladder. The line launcher does cut a lot of these issues out. However, and makes traversing the environment a little less stressful. Mission structure varies from good to bad; some missions seem incredibly pointless, while others capture what makes the Assassin’s Creed games interesting with mysteries and conspiracies to discover.
Thankfully, the game’s story is pushed forward with a likable cast of characters from Charles Dickens to Alexander Bell all with their own interesting stories and outcomes. Switching between the two protagonists makes a nice change of pace, although Jacob becomes more prominent in later stages. Personality wise Evie is the more interesting of the two while Jacob is your cliché Assassin’s Creed protagonist; they both work towards taking over London much like two other famous twins known as The Crays. They also come with their own skill trees. However, aside two or three abilities, they’re basically identical. I get they’re twins but there’s no reason they should play exactly the same too. I was under the impression that Jacob was CQC hit heavy and hard tough guy and Evie were the stealth expert and that the characters would be developed that way, but that’s not the case which results in them feeling same with the only difference being their choice of attire. You can try to play them to their stereotypes, but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter.
One new aspect is your hideout, unlike in previous games where it was some abandoned building, you now have your very own Steam Train which circles London and acts as your base of operations. I’m still not sure if it’s the most practical choice of hideouts due to the fact it’s a train. And If the Templars wanted to find you, they could just all chill out at Westminster and wait for your arrival. You can also expect to spend some time fighting on top of trains, jumping of horse carriages and throwing knocked-out bodies onto train tracks if you’re feeling devilish. Abstergo Animus rubbish is back again, and it´s as forgettable as ever, while not playing a huge part it simply needs to be cut from the game, it feels crowbarred and unnecessary, and I can’t stand the excuse that when issues happen during the game they’re passed off as ‘Glitches in the Animus’ it’s just rubbish.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate feels old; it’s not re-establishing the franchise or doing anything innovative. It’s more of the same, which is a disappointment because we’ve had several years of the same tried and tested formula with little to no innovation, bar Black Flag (the best pirate game ever). It feels a waste because a lot of work has been put into the world and London does look amazing, especially when turning off the cluttered HUD. Unfortunately due to the way Ubisoft like to do things the game is held back significantly. While it’s not a complete yawn fest I’d find it hard to recommend AC Syndicate as a worthy purchase. It’s about time Ubisoft considers doing something major to fix this series, and that doesn’t mean releasing another game next year with another promise ready to be broken.
+ London Looks Lovely
+ Likeable Characters
+ Steam Trains
– Technical issues
– Same old stuff
– Repetitive enemies.
It’s not a return to form or re-establishing faith in the franchise, expect to see its folly presented as GIFs on your Twitter feed.
Title: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
Format: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Genre: Action Adventure
Resolution: 900p, 30FPS
Release date: 2015-23-10
Spent time: 12 hours
Average grade internationally: 76.12%
PEGI age rating: 18
Price: From £42.00 to £49.99
The Gaming Ground
More by Sharn Daniels: