If there’s one complaint that many have about each annual installment of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, it’s the feeling of sameness. While the locations and times change, there’s always been buildings to climb, hay bails to land in, and people to mercilessly shank. This is still very much the case with this year’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, but this iteration of the game opts to focus on enhancing one mechanic more so than any other – traversal.
I learned this first-hand after making a trip over to Ubisoft’s Quebec City studio, where I was given four hours of hands-on time with the campaign for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Playing through Sequence 3 before jumping over to Sequence 7 of the game on PlayStation 4, I was given a good look at the new ways to get around the massive city of London, England, as well as a better understanding of the dynamic between newcomer, twin assassins Jacob and Evie Frye.
Something we’ve already spoken thoroughly about is the new Rope Launcher gadget, which we obtained in an earlier mission and then put to use thanks to the aid of the legendary inventor Alexander Graham Bell. But this time around I was given a much more in-depth and hands-on look at the carriages that Jacob and Evie can hijack and ride on a whim – something we’ve opted to go over separately.
While these have been well reported on in the past, one of the more interesting aspects of the new title that highlights the newfound focus of moving around the in-game environment is the addition of a base found on a train. This mobile point of operations will continuously move around on the railroad tracks surrounding London, allowing players to jump off or on to get to nearby missions and locations. It’s a truly fun addition to the series, and a nice change of pace from the standard hideouts that have appeared in most entries thus far.
Of course, the game still plays much like any Assassin’s Creed, which longtime fans of the franchise will be glad to hear, but several tweaks have been made that are immediately apparent. Largely, the combat has been designed to be context sensitive, allowing for some of the most brutal and environmentally appropriate kills to date. Whether pinning baddies to the wall with throwing knives during an execution animation or smashing rival gang members’ heads against a brick wall, the final blows are as gritty and violent as one would expect from the nature of Syndicate‘s time frame and location.
Then there’s the most important element of the new games, the dual protagonists. Evie and Jacob Frye are dramatically different characters from one another, and that shines through in the title’s cutscenes. While Jacob is a hot-headed and sharp-tongued chap that does things in the heat of the moment, Evie is much more calculated and witty than her sibling. This makes for an interesting dynamic that’s never been explored prior to Syndicate, with both feeling like very distinct protagonists that share the spotlight equally.
With that in mind, there are story-related missions that require the user to play as either Jacob or Evie specifically. This isn’t the case for every core mission, and players are free to select whichever twin they want whilst free roaming the city, but it’s done to better convey the game’s narrative. This decision is what allows for both characters to bask in the limelight simultaneously, and the end result makes for a much more engaging plot than would have existed otherwise.
The developers have done a solid job at providing users with various mission types as well. During my time with the title, I was liberating children being forced into labor, retrieving stolen printing plates to restore balance to the economy, brawling in all out gang fights, tailing suspicious characters, kidnapping baddies, protecting VIPs, and eavesdropping on members of the government. There was never a mission that felt like a simple rehash, which made me anticipate each new objective.
Last, but not least, it needs to be said that the environment itself is absolutely stunning. After climbing to the highest tower within sight, I couldn’t help but just stare out at the steam boats cruising through the River Thames or the distant puffs of smoke bellowing from London’s industrial district. With the accompanying soundtrack, I realized I was fully immersed in the world Ubisoft had created, and I’ve never been more eager to see more.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate will be available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on October 23, 2015. With a PC release set for November 19, 2015.