Assassin's Creed Syndicate (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 06.11.2015

Review for Assassin

Last year's instalment in the Assassin's Creed series, Unity, was the weakest so far. Game breaking bugs and hasty patches made for an all-around ruined experience. With negaative reviews and bad press across the board, Ubisoft has a lot of work to do to win back its fans. Now, with this latest iteration, Ubisoft has apparently taken a lot of fan feedback on board, and is trying to deliver a return to form with a jaunt to ye olde cockney England in Assassin's Creed Syndicate.

This entry's story follows two protagonists, sibling assassins Evie and Jacob Frye. The Fryes have come to London to try and take back the city from Templar control, though they have differing opinions on how to do it. This results in Evie and Jacob each having their own stories to play through, which follows their own plans for best restoring the Creed. Evie is looking to gather up artefacts and is hunting a piece of Eden while Jacob is more interested in restoring the numbers of assassins and uniting the criminal underground of London by building up a gang known as The Rooks, expanding their powerbase against the Templars. When outside of these individual story missions, each of the twins can be switched between freely and they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Evie is the stealthy, quick assassin who would rather take out targets from the shadows and slip away unseen whereas Jacob is a British brawler, happier storming through the front door and breaking skulls.

The skill system supports this too, with generic skills in the trees for both, but also specialist abilities for each, Evie can vanish from enemy's view if she stays motionless in shadows while Jacob can be turned into a walking tank, absorbing hits and delivering serious punishment. It's not just in the gameplay where the twins are well utilised, during the story they're great too; there is some fantastic writing, along with some great performances, that creates a truly likeable duo and believable siblings.

Anyone who has played an Assassin's Creed title, and it would be hard to find anyone who hasn't at this point, will know what to expect from the gameplay. On open world setting, with plenty of side activities and collectables in every corner, assassination missions, a war against Templars, hunting for magical artefacts, time spent in the "future", and, of course, the iconic cameos from historic figures. The series has always taken considerable artistic license with the use of iconic figures from history and Syndicate continues the trend, this time including Alexander Graham Bell, Charles Dickens, and even Charles Darwin amongst others. As expected there are some funny moments, but also some cringe-inducing moments, "I'm working on a Phonographic Telegraph," says Bell, "That's a bit of a mouthful… how about Telephone!" suggests Evie! Nod, nod, wink, wink… Thankfully the characters aren't just there for Bill and Ted style moments and instead provide plenty of interesting story based sidequests.

Screenshot for Assassin's Creed Syndicate on PlayStation 4

Syndicate may keep many of the series mainstays, but thankfully also brings with it some new innovations. The combat system has had a bit of a rework, the underlying combat is much the same as it always has been, but it now has implemented aspects from the latest Batman Arkham games; the chain combos, counters, and group takedowns feel quite familiar to those of the Dark Knight. The combat definitely looks the best it has thus far, whether it's Evie's pirouetting around a group, slitting throats with a sleek flourish of her sword, or Jacob delivering severe impacts that look legitimately painful with his brass knuckles, the combat all looks superb.

It's not just within the combat that the Frey twins take some influence; they also seem to be fans of Batman's method of hopping between buildings. For the first time, this iteration introduces a hook shot or grappling hook style attachment to the iconic assassin bracer, giving Evie and Jacob the ability to propel up and down buildings or even to anchor it into a point and zip slide across. It fits with the style of open world and is a fantastic addition to the mechanics, making the exploration and parkour even more enjoyable.

The other new method of travel, the horse carriages, is a bit hit and miss. While they make for a fast way to traverse the boroughs, and can result in some fun sequences, they seem to have been designed by someone who has never seen a horse in real life, only had one explained to them. They can be used to barge and slam into enemies on either side, the animation for this throws the horse and its carriage into a sharp and strange looking "powerslide" as if the horse had jets attached to its flanks.

Screenshot for Assassin's Creed Syndicate on PlayStation 4

For parkour lovers and avid collectable hunters there is plenty to enjoy with Syndicate, traversing through the environments, especially with the new mechanics, is thoroughly enjoyable and there are a multitude of collectables scattered across London: rare bottles of alcohol to drink, illustrations to tear from walls, helix glitches, and chests filled with different crafting materials and types of currency.

However, the problem when it comes to these different types of currencies and collectables is the focus on microtransactions. Every screen that requires some sort of spending of in-game currency also offers the option to use real money to pay, which is often quicker. It really would be ideal if there was an option towards the start of the game to disable microtransactions, rather than have them insidiously pervade throughout all of the menus and different aspects of the game.

The graphics look beautiful on the PlayStation 4, any Londoners playing will be amazed at just how faithful the game is, with an impressive scope and scale to the city. It's a great backdrop for the Assassin's Creed style, the squat buildings mixed with warehouses and occasionally broken up with baroque constructions. The act of zip-lining from Big Ben, or hopping between boats on the Thames, makes for truly beautiful and iconic set pieces. While the landscapes are fantastic, however, it's hard not to feel a major sense of deja-vu throughout, especially when it comes to the inhabitants of London town. There seems to only be a handful of character models and they are used over and over… it gets quite jarring to see the same lumbering bald lackey on every side of a fight, with the only way to distinguish whether they should be helped or stabbed in the throat being the colour of the clothes they're wearing. Similarly, it seems the only requirement of entry for Victorian London's Metropolitan Police is to look like all the other officers.

Screenshot for Assassin's Creed Syndicate on PlayStation 4

Perhaps it's a petty complaint, perhaps it could be attributed away by saying it's an issue with the memories or the animus, but it just feels lazy. It breaks the immersion to the game and is inexcusable with the power behind the game. Then again, this is from the same company who previously lacked female playable characters because it would be too much to map their animations, maybe they pay their models a great deal of money and so could only afford six for the gang of NPCs. The frame rate suffers at points also, making for some stunted and broken moments. Thankfully, this is nowhere near the level of Unity, but it's still quite noticeable when it starts to hit.

London is a surprisingly effective location for the game. It's still disappointing, however, to still not have reached Asia. At this point, Ubisoft may be tired of seeing the question asked, but it's crazy that there has still yet to be a major title in the franchise set in China or Japan. It is a perfect fit and, with the demise of the Tenchu series, there are plenty of fans who would kill for the opportunity to return to stealth Ninja action. With such a rich tapestry of history in the regions, there is plenty to pull from and base a game around, including numerous periods and well-known characters. There is still hope that the franchise will be visiting Japan soon, the Assassin's Creed: Black Flag art book contained an image of Big Ben and the iconic Sensoji Temple from Asakusa in Japan. Big Ben was delivered this year, hopefully 2016 will bring with it what fans have been begging for since the inception of the series.

Screenshot for Assassin's Creed Syndicate on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

A great return to form and on par with Black Flag for the best in the series. It's certainly not flawless, but Ubisoft has clearly taken the criticisms on board and hopefully will continue the series with this kind of quality. The combat, exploration, and parkour are highly enjoyable, and the story and characters well written and compelling. Definitely worth a second chance for those driven away by Unity.


Ubisoft Quebec







C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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