A return to form for Ubisoft’s open world adventure series
Game review: Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed) / Playstation 4 / PC
WHEN you first take step in Ubisoft Quebec’s vision of Victorian London, the first thing that strikes you is why it has taken so long for such a distinctive setting and era to feature in Assassin’s Creed. With wisps of thick smoke and blankets of smog hanging over familiar landmarks, it is a dirty, bustling grid, a city of industry and - unsurprisingly - danger. It looks and feels the part and instantly raises hopes for Syndicate, a game that signals a tentative return to form for the series.
Ubisoft have wisely pared back the bloated plot that plagued last year’s release, Unity, with present day events reserved for cutscenes. The narrative is easy to understand without being simplistic, focusing on the efforts of twins, Jacob and Evie Frye, to bring down Crawford Starrick, a nefarious Templar who has his fingers in nearly every pie of the capital’s industrial revolution, and his hordes of acolytes and thugs, who mostly take the form of a vicious street gang known as The Blighters.
Historical figures like Alexander Graham Bell feature
Whether stalking around the grim environs of Whitechapel, scurrying up a chimney stack, or boarding a creaking vessel as it makes its way along the Thames, the locale is ideally suited to Ubisoft’s open world design. It has also made creative use of historical figures. An early mission sees you tasked with snuffing out Jedburgh-born physicist, Sir David Roxburgh, while other leading lights of the age feature, including Charles Dickens and Alexander Graham Bell.
The gameplay itself is a composite of the mechanics that make Assassin’s Creed thrilling yet frustrating. Dealing with the bad first, the parkour can at times feel imprecise, not helped by the decision to map several controls to the one button, which will occasionally see you cursing the developers as Jacob or Evie come tumbling down from a ledge when your intention was to climb up it. And in terms of the open world design, there are too many repetitive side quests, a perennial scourge of the series.
A tweaked combat system is improved if imperfect
On the other hand, entering stealth mode now sees you take cover automatically and a tweaked combat system feels much more robust, if not quite at the level of Rocksteady’s Batman games. The best addition, however, is the grappling rope which allows you traverse the cityscape quicker. In a game that prizes exploration and verticality, its introduction invites to while away hours simply traversing a grimy London.
Bar the occasional texture pop in and stuttering frame rate, Syndicate does not have any of the technical flaws which marred the release of Unity and while some fans of the series will have hoped for a more thorough overhaul of the standard missions and quests, Syndicate does enough to get Assassin’s Creed back on track.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
The rope launcher’s most obvious use is for reaching hard to climb rooftops, but it can also be employed to take out assassin targets quickly and from distance.
Switch between the twins to make use of their strengths. Jacob excels at combat while Evie is better suited to stealth sections.
Use the crafting system to improve your gear and make new weapons.