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Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Preview
Ubisoft has opened up to the fans, allowing them to get a chance to play a 20 minute demo of their upcoming London epic: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. It is the same demo that those at E3 got to play. As a long-time fan and critic of the series, I jumped upon the opportunity to play it before release date and I booked a seven o’clock date with Assassin’s Creed Syndicate on Wednesday 17th of June.
As this wasn’t a press event, there was a lot of consumer marketing to wade through before I began beating Templars into the ground. There was a presentation, where the male protagonist Jacob Frye gave me a rousing speech about joining his gang to take back the streets of London. Then my small group of about 20 were directed into a second presentation where we were introduced to the setting and both protagonists, Jacob and his sister Evie Frye. My frustrations continued when I was guided to another room where the opportunities to get a temporary tattoo or a shave from a man with an electric razor beckoned. It was a very authentic representation of 19th Century London.
I climbed a flight of stairs, downed a free Red Bull, and finally sat down in front of a Playstation 4 ready to play Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. I immediately noticed the stuck pixel on the left hand side of the screen, shining green and gaining a lot more of my attention that it deserved. I pressed start on the Dualshock 4 and so began my demo. The last three paragraphs hopefully gave you an idea of what it is like to move through unnecessary filler until you get to the thing you came for.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is fast, frantic, and brash. At least, that’s what Jacob Frye, the character I was treated to playing as, is like. His punches land on your enemies’ faces with the impact of a train and his finishing animations are enough to wince at with every enemy defeated. Combat is no longer about who is the best with a sword, but is about who is better with fists. Whilst you still have weapons, characters stand much closer together, fist fighting to victory and use their weapons to inventively kill their enemies for your satisfaction.
Enemies crowd around you and attack unpredictably, without a care of whether you are mid-counter or not. They feel independent of one another with enough intelligence to co-ordinate attacks to take you down. Also, combat is much easier to navigate as you can attack specific enemies easily, moving between enemies to eliminate them as you see fit. One criticism I have had with previous games is the combat feels too much like clockwork. Face an enemy, attack, counter, kill, then rotate slightly and deal with the next enemy. Syndicate liberates this formula from the combat and opens up the fight to move as you do, allowing combat to feel much more fluid. With the addition of fast paced fighting, the combat feels fresh and much more fun than previous efforts.
A new hydraulic rope launcher attached to the assassin’s wrist allows you to launch up to rooftops much more quickly and, again, makes the game feel faster. Surveying the area is much easier as at the touch of a button you can be on a roof and escaping groups of enemies is incredibly fun as you suddenly rocket to the heavens. Rather haphazardly however, it can prove infuriating when Jacob jumps to a ledge you aren’t aiming for. If Ubisoft can improve the auto-aim that the rope launcher uses, it can be a very useful tool for both free running and escaping sticky situations.
Another new addition is carriages to roam the streets on. If you ever felt like the Assassin’s Creed series was missing some vehicle combat outside of the seven seas, here is your answer. Hijacking a horse and cart from civilians and rampaging through the streets of London is just as fun as the equivalent in Grand Theft Auto. Enemy carriages chase you through the streets too, resulting in some hair-raising chase scenes. Also, enemies jump onto your carriage and fight you as your horses carve their own path through the city to add some extra adrenaline to the mix. In the demo, the carriages would twist and turn round corners in ways that did not look consistent with the physics that govern our world. I often thought I was going to topple my carriage over as I made a near 90 degree turn but, to my surprise, the carriage remained upright and drifting round corners that should not have been possible.
In my first carriage engagement, I was ramming my wooden death-trap into an enemy carriage. Wood chips flew across the screen and the sound of wood crumbling under the collisions crunched through my headphones. It was then the lady behind me who was governing my demo politely asked me not to throw the carriages around so carelessly. She said that the build I was playing was a little unpredictable when it came to the carriages and she wasn’t sure if the game would be able to take that amount of action. It is worth noting, however, that when she wasn’t looking I continued to throw the carts around like I was playing Burnout and Syndicate had no problem keeping up.
Visually, the game looks lovely and the frame rate was a consistent 30 FPS. It was not at 1080p, but at pre-alpha level, with a large number of NPCs walking around, carriages roaming the streets, and a fairly large area to explore, it is promising. Even with my Fast & Furious style driving, the frame rate refused to dive. With the frame rate problems Assassin’s Creed Unity had at launch, Syndicate needs to come out strong at a consistent 30 FPS. Otherwise, the series could risk becoming overshadowed by its technical incompetencies.
Once the 20 minute mark was hit, I shot a bad guy with a revolver, which felt very satisfying, and thanked the people working there. They gave me a free poster, and I left rather pleased. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate looks to be one of the best in the series, just from the little part I’ve played. It’s exciting, and the addition of carriages could be an excellent change of pace. If you are an Assassin’s Creed fan, there is a lot to be excited about.