Assassins Creed Syndicate - Playstation 4/XBox One/Microsoft Windows

The latest incarnation of Assassins Creed has a lot to make up for. Not “live up to”. Make up for. After the rampaging, pirate themed fun that was Black Flag, the predecessor to this instalment (AC Unity) seemed almost a step back. Unity was good, with some new ideas, and an almost oil-painting-like beauty, as opposed to the more cartoony Black Flag, but it lacked something.

That something is back in spades with Assassins Creed Syndicate. Graphically this is the most ambitious AC yet - from the start the gritty, Victorian dystopia draws you in. The character animations, smoky London skyline, soot-blackened buildings reflecting in the puddles of the cobbled streets, are all beautifully rendered. Confinement to just one city once again, as in Unity, rather than sailing the oceans in Black Flag, does at first feels like returning to previous formulaic AC games.

Introducing some new game mechanics and characters, however, ensures Syndicate will hold your interest. The much lauded, slightly Batman-a-like, “grappling-hook” feels like a natural and often integral addition to gameplay, rather than just a tacked-on gimmick. The train hideaway is inexplicably cool (who doesn’t love sword fights on top of a train?). Then there’s “the twins”, Evie and Jacob Frie - Syndicate’s protagonists. Seemingly an attempt to flog a dead horse in a slightly different way, the dynamic between these siblings actually provides humour, drives the plot, and works well. Jacob is the fight first, sneak later alpha-male, whereas Evie is equally tough, but forward-planning and the more stealthy of the pair. Character development and simultaneous levelling-up of both in tandem, but with specialist perks for each, reflects and accents their individual styles.

While there are still glaring flaws (the free-running mechanic is closer to Unity, feeling clumsy at first, forcing decent amounts of practice to master, opposed to the ‘point-and-run-at-it’ technique of Black Flag); like when the intended victim escapes, in a disjointed chase mission - Syndicate will doubtless see some controllers hurled across the room as you once again plummet to your death on the cobbles. Or the usual nit-picking - seemingly blind crowds of NPCs, the “Mission Feedback” which feels like a constant BETA test, and long load times.
Yet you can easily ignore all this as you’re romping around 1860’s London, dressed in a period Steampunk top-hat, and grappling up the face of Big Ben. Offering hours of fun, endless amounts of side quests, and mainly excellent story-telling, featuring beloved literary figures from British history, this is a welcome return to form for Assassins Creed.
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