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Assassin's Creed Syndicate Review

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Graphics:

 

9.0

Gameplay:

 

9.0

Sound:

 

9.5

Control:

 

8.8

Replay Value:

 

9.3

Overall Rating:       9.1

 

 

Online Gameplay:

Not Rated

Publisher:

Ubisoft

Developer:

Ubisoft Quebec

Number Of Players:

1-2

Genre:

Action/Adventure

Release Date:

October 23, 2015

If I’m understanding the review process correctly, we’re supposed to compare a game to the competition – recent titles and games that come out around the same time – and if it’s part of a franchise, you also compare it to recent iterations. If this is true, I fail to see how Assassin’s Creed Syndicate can be seen as anything but a marked improvement. With mechanical, technical and even atmospheric enhancements that bolster the gameplay and immersion, along with better characters and a more cohesive storyline, one wonders what exactly it is that naysayers want. “Oh, it’s just the same” is too idiotic to dignify with a response, as most new franchise entries don’t offer as many upgrades and additions as this one.

Love it or hate it, that’s a fact.

As has always been the case, Assassin’s Creed thrives on the environmental appeal. From the moment you step into one of these dynamically inspired historic set pieces, you’re enthralled. We all have our favorite locales and while one could argue that Ubisoft has yet to top Italy, there’s no doubt in my mind that 1868 London ranks right up there with the very best presentations to date. It’s jam-packed with things to see and do, the city streets teem with activity at almost all hours of the day, and the overall design is nigh-on unparalleled. There are a few very minor graphical bugaboos but they’re rarely significant enough to matter and they almost never impact the gameplay. With gorgeous character modeling and styling, superb animations, and a wonderfully authentic veneer, Syndicate is a thing of beauty.

Other positive traits for which this series is so well known: Fantastically orchestrated music, stellar voice performances and top-notch effects. With the exception of a few muddled action effects, the latest Assassin’s Creed excels in all facets of audio production. The voice acting is better than ever and the rich, diverse score amplifies the awe and wonder of Victorian-Era London. In open-world environments, it’s important to present the player with an all-encompassing sound structure, as even the most miniscule effects play a role. The subtlety of ambient background noise gels with the in-your-face flair of high-powered effects, leaving your senses awash with aural goodness. As always, the sound is an absolute highlight, continually challenging your perception. It’s fiction, yes, but it’ll do its damndest to convince you otherwise.

As the sun sets on another busy London afternoon, I crouch atop one of the amazingly ornamented buildings in the town square, looking down on the waning activity. There’s a sense of completeness because you feel as if you’re enfolded in a truly realistic setting, but there’s also a palpable sense of motion. In other words, you almost feel the life force of the city hurtling onward, as you would in real life when getting an eagle-eye’s view of a thriving metropolis. The period in time is irrelevant; what the more sentimental side of you acknowledges is that humanity has always struggled forward, regardless of the challenges. This is one of the most modern playgrounds we’ve visited in the series but what stands out is the authenticity of each individual NPC as they go about their fictitious lives.

This is one of the reasons why I have such difficulty stopping. You actually feel like you’re part of something special, as opposed to simply running around a clearly fantastical land that makes no bones about its absurdity. There is little to no absurdity here. There is only a strident attempt at an alternate reality and that’s what I tend to appreciate. The general structure is another reason I can’t stop playing: One minute you’re in search of hidden treasure, running around with Jacob, and the next, you step into Evie’s talented boots and embark on a mission to free enslaved children. Missions and side-quests show up organically as you traverse the environment, further enhancing the seamlessness of your immersion, and the dual protagonist concept works out exceedingly well.

Let me see if I can explain why it’s incorrect to ascribe the dreaded “rehash” tag to Syndicate. If the dual protagonist setup isn’t enough (and it’s huge, of course), there’s a better-paced and more involving storyline, the addition of various forms of transportation – most notably, locomotives and horse-drawn carriages – and several new additions to the standard gameplay. For instance, the rope launcher dramatically changes how you maneuver around the city, and the new Threat Ring, which tells you where enemies are in relation to your current position, is a huge boon to your strategic planning. Then there’s the AI, which isn’t fantastic yet but definitely better, and a refinement and polish for the basic controls that eliminates past problems, such as the “stickiness” of the main character in Unity.

Is that not enough? For most franchises, that would be considered massive; perhaps even seen as a partial overhaul to strengthen and refine. But of course, you have to deal with morons who have already determined to hate the game and hence, they will hate it. Leave them and their ignorance behind and simply use the eye test; what’s listed above comprises the most drastic upgrades and additions, but that’s hardly all the improvements. Control is perhaps the most controversial aspect of the franchise – has been since free-running was first introduced in the original title way back when – so maybe I should dive into that, so players understand what to expect. This is probably the tightest, most dynamic, and perhaps even the most realistic platforming and combat mechanics we’ve seen thus far in Assassin’s Creed.

The surrounding NPCs react to your actions and movements better than ever as well. They’ll yell at you when you loot bodies, say hello and goodbye as you walk past, and respond accordingly when you do something silly. Even moving about the vast city can trigger different reactions and cause the soundtrack to swell or diminish, sometimes offering a new score that better encapsulates the area you’re in or the view you’re seeing. It’s a living portrait of London, no doubt about it, and you can enjoy it thanks to fluid, satisfying combat that goes well beyond the standard counterattacking of days past. Here, you select attack, counter, stun, or shoot from the d-pad and then execute your chosen strategy based on your foes and surroundings. You can string together deadly combos or attack from afar; it’s your choice, and it all works very well.

Free-running is about the same as it has been in the past; you simply hold down R2 and off you go. You still have to get into the rhythm of things and if you’re not familiar with the series, it might take some getting used to. And yes, there are still inconsistencies that haven’t been fixed, such as accidentally launching yourself off a wall when you wanted to climb up or down, and the occasional death leap. They also haven’t fixed the handholds and grips entirely, either, which is why I’m not saying the control is perfect. Nor am I saying the combat is perfect, as there are times when it still feels unbalanced and awkward. What I am saying is that if you’re seeking improvement and you gauge a new entry’s quality on such improvement, you will appreciate the changes.

The aforementioned Threat Ring is a great new feature that eliminates any annoyance related to enemy positioning and being seen by the unknown guard. If you’re paying attention to the Ring, you can easily spot any enemies in the vicinity. This also allows you to plan out your attack with all the requisite information and you’re not that concerned about one guard spoiling your well-laid plain, just because he was out of sight for a few seconds. In regards to movement, that rope launcher is just plain bad-ass; it not only opens up more of the game (some side-quests and extra cash are hidden up high), but it also grants you more strategic options. It’s a tool that molds itself beautifully to the accomplished assassin and while again, it’s not perfect from a mechanical standpoint, it rarely malfunctions and it’s always a blast to use.

The story is another big bonus. I actually liked the story in Unity a lot more than other people, but Syndicate is certainly better because the characters are more likable and the plot is more intriguing. Jacob and Evie are endlessly interesting and of course, meeting the likes of Charles Dickens, Karl Marx and Alexander Graham Bell adds to the historical attraction as well. There are just so many examples of better character development throughout the narrative, and it isn’t long before you actually start to care about the two protagonists. I haven’t really cared about an AC main character since Ezio, so this is a very big accomplishment in my eyes. On top of which, the differing strengths and weaknesses of Jacob and Evie have a direct impact on the gameplay, so this is another depth enhancement.

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of the vehicles in question. Trains were such a huge part of 1860s London that they absolutely have to be included, and I very much enjoy their presence. I don’t really care about using them as fast-travel tools, however (my rope launcher more than suffices), and I don’t bother much about the carriages, either. It’s not the control I don’t like – they control just fine – but I’m more about the stealth, platforming and combat components in these games and frankly, I’m not certain we even needed to access those carriages. Of course, if you couldn’t, you’d have a thousand people calling out the developers for not allowing that access, so I guess you can’t win. However, let me add that being able to hide bodies in carriages, and using carriages to transport prisoners, is awfully useful.

Getting back to Jacob and Evie for a minute, not only do they offer two contrasting styles of gameplay (Evie is more stealthy while Jacob often acts as a tank), but they also present the player with wildly differing personalities. Perhaps some will call each persona somewhat predictable and while there’s some truth to this, that doesn’t change the fact that such contrasts only bolster the game’s overall appeal. Besides, creating your own gang, the Rooks, with Jacob can be just as satisfying as slinking around with Evie and acting like the traditionally-trained, super-skilled assassin figure. The bottom line is that you have a wide variety of advancements on both an artistic and technical level, and with a great story, more extremely useful features, and refined control leading the way, there’s very little to complain about, as far as I’m concerned.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is a fantastic game. Let me repeat that: It’s a fantastic game. The lingering control issues (and even these are minimized) and some minor pacing issues as a result of the two-protagonist approach can’t taint this gargantuan project. There are improvements across the board and the stirring combination of artistic and functional contrasts, great new features and tools, and an unbelievably involving and authentic world is intoxicating. If you’re still going to find problems and you refuse to recognize the obvious progression here, then you’ve made your own biased decision that has no bearing on this product’s quality. And if you’re a confirmed fan of the franchise, there’s absolutely no doubt you’ll love it.

The Good: Gorgeous design, detailing and presentation; an unparalleled vision of 1868 London. Excellent voice performances and a wonderfully implemented score. Refined combat and platforming controls. Plenty of new improvements and features, such as the rope launcher and Threat Ring. Two protagonists enhance both the story and gameplay diversity. Remarkable characters amid a great story.

The Bad: Lingering control issues and eccentricities. Some pacing flaws in the overarching story. Didn’t really need the carriages as a form of transportation.

The Ugly: “Only the endless debate this series continues to spark, because in this case, there should be no debate.”

10/28/2015 Ben Dutka

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New Comment System


Legacy Comment System (25 posts)


vatoloco47
Wednesday, October 28, 2015 @ 10:11:14 PM
Reply

Great review Ben! Pointing out al the good things in this game that people seem to ignore.I'm over hearing "oh not another Assassins Creed game". If they keep making them this good I say keep them coming. Patiently waiting for either an Egyptian or Feudal Japanese era.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, October 28, 2015 @ 10:35:31 PM

I want medieval Europe (Knights of the Round Table, King Arthur, etc.) so bad it hurts.

Agree with this comment 4 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

vatoloco47
Wednesday, October 28, 2015 @ 10:50:26 PM

Yes! That too! It was similar time era in part 1 but it would work so much better now with all the features currently available.

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Temjin001
Wednesday, October 28, 2015 @ 10:51:41 PM

Feudal Japan would also be quite cool. I also liked the rumors of Ancient Egypt.

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Underdog15
Friday, October 30, 2015 @ 2:31:37 PM

I'm still pining for a Russian end of Czars period piece. :D

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Temjin001
Wednesday, October 28, 2015 @ 11:13:55 PM
Reply

I'll have to agree with the defensive posture over this series' rep. While I'm someone who has felt plenty of AC fatigue over the last few years, I do think the it gets too much of a heavy handed slap-down for annual releases.

I like the series largely because they're usually impressively built historical settings that are cool to experience. These sort of games really push technology to the limits.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 10/28/2015 11:15:26 PM

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Voyager236
Thursday, October 29, 2015 @ 1:19:48 AM
Reply

You gave 9+ for Unity too, just saying.

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FAREEZ
Thursday, October 29, 2015 @ 3:09:00 AM

Same game, same score bro...

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, October 29, 2015 @ 10:54:06 AM

Which was explained a dozen times over.

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Voyager236
Thursday, October 29, 2015 @ 12:06:27 PM

Yes Ben, soon after your score, Unity began to show issues and I doubt you have played enough to give 9+ to that failed game, the same for Syndicate.

Last edited by Voyager236 on 10/29/2015 12:13:13 PM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, October 29, 2015 @ 1:14:12 PM

That wasn't what happened at all. If you choose not to read the explanation, fine. Just don't assume you have any clue as to why I retracted the score.

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Broady
Friday, October 30, 2015 @ 5:33:18 AM

The score for unity was retracted due to its insistence on the game forcing you to use the app to access certain things (chests, etc). If it would have been a bit quicker I wouldn't have minded it, but that's personal choice. Something that wouldn't have been noticeable until a few weeks after the game released.
Once this was removed the game was certainly worthy of Ben's original score.

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Voyager236
Friday, October 30, 2015 @ 9:58:25 PM

No, it wasn't.

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Jalex
Thursday, October 29, 2015 @ 1:49:14 AM
Reply

I've been planning on waiting to start anything new until I get 'The Phantom Pain' to 100%, but this review really makes me want to pick up 'Syndicate' right away.
My thoughts on the series have really gone up and down over the years. I love the first two, my opinion slowly went down with the next three, then 'Black Flag' made me love the series again, and last year was just a waste. So I'm looking forward to trying this out, hopefully soon.

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MRSUCCESS
Thursday, October 29, 2015 @ 9:25:46 AM

Same here, bro. I completed all missions in S class. Just trying to finish all the side missions and then going back to the missions to get all the side task.

Phantom Pain is like drugs -- good drugs lol

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TrueAssassin86x
Thursday, October 29, 2015 @ 7:26:18 AM
Reply

This is a big middle finger to all the haters ..l.. ..l..

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FAREEZ
Thursday, October 29, 2015 @ 10:05:38 AM

^Failboy lol...

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TrueAssassin86x
Thursday, October 29, 2015 @ 10:52:15 AM

Says the Sony only Pony failboy

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MRSUCCESS
Thursday, October 29, 2015 @ 11:34:28 AM

You're one of the biggest haters around. You've gone on a rampage against this year's game of the year --MGS5.

AC: Syndicate scored well by some critics? Good for the game, I'm still not going to buy it even when it hits $29.99 by the holiday season. Not to mention I still have Unity in plastic sitting at home.

In other words -- no one cares.

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Godslim
Thursday, October 29, 2015 @ 3:17:45 PM

FAN BOY ALERT!

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TrueAssassin86x
Friday, October 30, 2015 @ 4:36:28 PM

Sony failboys alart and konmai cock suckers alart

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wambo
Thursday, October 29, 2015 @ 5:06:25 PM
Reply

Fantastic review ben, really do apreciate all the hard work you put into them, really am enjoying this game, its the first time ive played an assassin's creed game since the very first installment.

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MRSUCCESS
Thursday, October 29, 2015 @ 7:03:47 PM

Appreciation goes a long way. Ben does this for fun but getting appreciation always feels good.

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Godslim
Friday, October 30, 2015 @ 9:07:22 AM
Reply

Will probablly pick it up now after seeing this review Ben, just not right now as I still have a few games to finish. I did actually enjoy black flag for what it was I think the main issue with franchises like this is the whole milk annual releases with minimal changes, not to say they are bad games because ofc they arent.

Last edited by Godslim on 10/30/2015 9:10:39 AM

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Underdog15
Friday, October 30, 2015 @ 2:32:26 PM
Reply

Guess I'll have to get it sooner rather than later afterall....

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