This E3 we got a chance to look at Ubisoft’s upcoming Assassin’s Creed Syndicate . Set during the Industrial Revolution, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate continues the political themes of last year’s Assassin’s Creed Unity . The Templars have the ruling class in their pocket, while the Assassins weave their way through the politics of rowdy street gangs, attempting to incite a revolution that will bring down the Templar Order.
You take the role of two main characters this time, twin brother and sister Jacob and Evie Frye. These two charismatic Londoners walk around with top hats and canes in the morning, and hoods and hidden blades in the evening. They are gathering intel and wiping out rival gangs, in the hope to unite all of London into one big unified turf.
As such, gang warfare will be a big part of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate . You will build up your gang, recruit more thugs, rescue key members, find the ringleaders of other gangs, and take them out. You’ll go into bars to have covert discussions with your informants. The whole game has this feeling of living a double life. When wearing the top hat, you give impassioned speeches about the corrupt dominance of the ruling class, calling allies to your aid. However, when wearing the hood, you are sneaking around and ruthlessly murdering anyone who might stand in your way.
To accomplish said murdering, you will have a number of new tools. The first we were shown, were a number of darts with hallucinogens on them. Firing these darts makes people start tripping out in a violent manner, attacking all those around them. This method has been used in the last few games as well, but the darts can now be aimed at fire pits in order to spread the hallucinogen more widely.
The second tool was a sword cane, or as we know it, a trickstaff. This walking cane allows you to remain hidden in plain sight during the day, yet still have a deadly stabbing weapon should anyone attack you.
The third tool was a brand new rope launcher. This is essentially a grappling hook and can latch onto the side of any building or object. Simply press a trigger and up you go, heading to the rafters. This is useful for many different reasons. First of all, it’s a quick escape from battle. Got an army of people chasing you down? Grapple to the rooftops. Second, it’s a far faster way to traverse the city than we have seen before. You can simply grapple from point to point in order to get across the map far faster than you would, simply parkouring from ledge to ledge. It kind of feels like the old Spiderman games, just with more top hats and knives.
Speaking of parkour, the downward traversal system introduced in Unity has been improved. Let me explain. For a while, you could simply leap from ledge to ledge in Assassin’s Creed simply by running at said ledges and holding a button. However, dropping down ledges wasn’t intuitive, and was rather slow. Unity made downward motion faster, but Syndicate makes it easier to control. You can now hold one button to scale heights upward, and another downward. For example, if you run at the edge of a roof holding one button, you’ll attempt to jump to another rooftop, but hold another button and you’ll jump to a window ledge below you to begin descending to street level.
Vehicles will play a very large part in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate . Targets will routinely hop into carriages in an attempt to outrun you and escape. You can hijack another carriage and chase after them, of course, but people will attempt to ram you off the road, and even jump into your carriage to hijack it back from you, or put a well placed revolver bullet in your face. To counter this, you can set your carriage on a “GPS path” that will follow the exact path a mark took in his carriage, while you get on top and fight it out with other enemies. Unfortunately, this GPS pathing is a little wonky right now. I ran into walls multiple times and other times my carriage came to a complete stop, which did nothing but make me lose my mark.
My biggest problem with Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is that nothing feels all that new. Building up your gang feels a lot like building up a pirate crew or a band of Assassins, which we have all done before. The grappling hook is interesting, allowing you to traverse the map quicker and get the drop on enemies, but all it’s really doing is shortening the time that you would normally take hopping from rooftop to rooftop. Your choice of killing methods seems arbitrary at best. Since gang violence is everywhere, I could just fist fight anyone I wanted to death. In fact, the whole carriage chase scene was pointless, as the only thing the mark was trying to do was reunite with a gang, and when I finally caught up, my gang was already there and we simply punched each other until the demo ended.
I guess that’s the biggest problem with Assassin’s Creed Syndicate : you never need to use the new things that you are given. I was given two hallucinogenic darts and I accidentally used them right away, but it didn’t matter because anyone could be taken out with a few swift punches. I was given a grappling hook, but I could just as easily run on the streets and no one seemed to care. I was shown a destructible piece of terrain where I could drop hanging barrels on bad guys in an almost Looney Tunes manner, but I didn’t because hey, I have a gun! All of these cool new gameplay elements are not only optional, they are easy to miss, which is why I had a handler point out all the cool new things about the game to me, and even then I still didn’t utilize them.
Perhaps the Assassin’s Creed formula has simply gotten stale, now that it has become a yearly release. Or maybe Ubisoft simply needs to work on tying together its core gameplay elements. Heck, I would even like it better if Ubisoft leaned heavier on the politics and less on the territory acquisition, which is something we have seen time and time again. Either way, I simply wasn’t that impressed with Assassin’s Creed Syndicate .
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate will release on October 23, 2015, for PC, Xbox One, and PS4.