Review: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Romps Victorian London
They say history repeats itself, and that’s never been truer than with the Assassin’s Creed series.
They say history repeats itself, and that’s never been truer than with the Assassin’s Creed series. No matter where and when each game takes place, you know you’ll get a hearty historical romp loaded with breathtaking acrobatics, bewildering conspiracies and beautifully realized re-creations of the world’s great cities.
Some chapters have been better than others. The rollicking pirate tale Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was a high point, but last year’s French Revolution drama Unity was marred by frequent technical glitches. The new Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (Ubisoft, for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One) falls somewhere in between.
This time, the centuries-long feud between the Assassins and the Templars rears its head in Victorian London. The Assassin heroes are Jacob and Evie Frye, twins who find themselves on the bad side of a ruthless Templar industrialist named Crawford Starrick.
The Fryes have to fight their way up the corporate ladder before they can take on the moustache-twirling villain – and if they can break up some street gangs and free some child labourers along the way, all the better.
Jacob Frye is much like previous assassins: Cocky, sarcastic and smooth with the ladies. Evie, the first female protagonist in the main Assassin’s Creed series, is a more refreshing addition. Jacob is better with the fisticuffs while Evie is sneakier, but they’re both adept at the high-flying parkour at the heart of the game – especially with the addition of a “rope launcher,” a zip line that makes you feel like a sort of Victorian Batman as you soar between the London rooftops.
This particular era of merry old London is teeming with legends like Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Darwin who could use the help of a pair of low-profile fixers. Charles Dickens recruits the Fryes to look into suspicious supernatural events; Karl Marx invites them to rally workers against the capitalist machine. There are dozens of other side missions – assassinations, kidnappings, train robberies, even carriage races that turn the game into something like “Grand Theft Horse-and-Buggy.”
The primary missions revolving around Starrick are more complex, requiring thoughtful planning while offering a variety of approaches, noisy or subtle. The adventure takes some clever twists and turns — the Fryes’ efforts have some unintended consequences — and while the overarching Assassin-Templar conspiracy remains opaque, this particular chapter builds to a worthy climax.
As expected in this kind of sprawling open world, there are some technical goofs: Important characters who don’t respond to your actions and scenarios that end abruptly for no apparent reason. But Syndicate is a tighter ship than Unity and I only ran into a few game-stopping glitches.
Overall, Ubisoft’s London is one of its most inviting playgrounds yet, matching detailed re-creations of familiar landmarks with a lush, period-appropriate score. But the main attractions are Evie and Jacob, two of the most charming characters you’ll ever meet when they aren’t slitting Templar throats.
Three Quints out of five.
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