Assassins Creed:Syndicate Review
Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (later)
Version Reviewed: PS4
I can't stop thinking about the Thames. Every Assassin's Creed game has something truly great about it. Black Flag had nautical pirate combat, Unity had its staggering library of bugs. Syndicate has Victorian era London, but more specifically, it has the Thames.
Traversing this mess of boats and seaborne detritus is one of my favourite part of the game. The Thames of 1868 London is packed full of traffic and dumped cargo floating in the river; jumping from ship to ship and occasionally fighting your way through boats filled with enemies as they float past is hands down my favourite part of the game.
Assassin's Creed: Syndicate is absolutely a return to form for the series, but that's not quite the glowing recommendation you might expect.
Much like the history it apes for its subject matter, Assassin's Creed is also indebted to its own history; awful design choices made much earlier in the series' history continue to be a hinderance. While the setting and aesthetic go back to Victorian times, often the mechanics feel positively prehistoric.
The controls sometimes feel like you're steering a barge through the aforementioned Thames; simple actions like scaling a ladder or jumping down from a speeding carriage often end up being way more tricky than they should be. While you can get used to the controls after a while and eventually develop something akin to Stockholm Syndrome. They're still bad, but you forget quite how awful they are enough to actually play.
There's also a metric buttload of collectibles. You can collect glitches (seriously), weapons, capes, belts, crafting materials, beer bottles, pressed flowers, royal letters and even music boxes. The high points you need to scale for synchronisation are still here too, although much less important.
It's impossible to play an Ubisoft title now and actually know which one it is. Is this the one where I skin animals for crafting materials or the one where children thieve them for me?
A small note on bugs: I haven't seen any while playing on the PS4. However, I've seen so much evidence of them and I've heard so often about them, that I think it's fair to say they're in there. I just haven't run into them yet, somehow. I'm a little disappointed.
But when it's good, it's really very good.
One of the best additions is the dual characters. In theory, Jacob and Evie Frye are supposed to have their own set of skills - Jacob is your brawler while Evie is a little slighter, built for stealth and the more standard Assassin's Creed experience.
I've found that to be bollocks. Jacob is kind of a dick and I find Evie and her brutal one-liners to be much more exciting, so I've mostly played her, grimacing when I'm forced to play Jacob for the occasional story mission.
Evie Frye is, with a few upgrades, the goddamned Victorian Batman. Knives whistle out of the night to take down her enemies before Evie appears in a cloud of smoke, knocking a man to his knees, executing him with her pistol.