Assassin’s Creed Syndicate found itself in a bit of a tough spot when it was first leaked (at that time it was known as Victory). It was almost immediately after the release of Assassin’s Creed Unity, one of the roughest entries in the series. Plagued with launch-time bugs and burdened by micro-transactions (a word that enrages most gamers nowadays), Unity had caused most fans to write off the series entirely. Knowing this, Ubisoft set out to create a game that proves that they listened to the cries of fans, and that they want to make things right. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is that game, and if the hands-on demo is any indicator, they are definitely heading in the right direction.
From the moment you take a glance at Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, the first thing you’ll realize is the series’ telltale attention to detail. In my demo I got to take control of Jacob Frye (one of the two new protagonists) in the streets of London. In fact, it was the same demo that was shown off during the reveal of the game that had our assassin trying to catch the attention of Bloody Nora. Luckily, I was provided complete freedom to see how the game felt and try some of the new mechanics.
Control-wise, the game is nothing new. If you played the previous installments of the Assassin’s Creed Syndicate you won’t be lost here. You can free run, use stealth, climb, descend, attack, and everything else you’d expect to be able to do as a well-trained killing machine. Two new mechanics are horse and carriages, and the rope launcher.
Carriages are extremely fun to use… as long as you’re careful. You can walk up to any carriage you see standing around and hop right into the driver’s seat, even if that seat happens to be already occupied. Once inside, the carriage controls much like a car would in other video games. You accelerate, have the ability to boost, and can even ram enemies (or innocents, if that’s your thing). What makes carriages fun, though, is the fact that at any time you can switch to standing on top of the one you’re using in order to fight boarding enemies, jump to another one, or just look plain cool.
The rope launcher injects a bit of Batman into Assassin’s Creed Syndicate by allowing players to quickly scale buildings, use a zipline, and create high points where Jacob can wait for an enemy to pass under. It provides the ability to never be without the advantage if you’re really into keeping things quiet. It’s also an insanely quick way to get around. It may seem like a simple addition at a glance, but while I was infiltrating a gang stronghold during my demo, using the rope launcher to set myself up for each group of enemies was pretty neat. It adds a level of planning to stealth encounters, and anything that gives more options is definitely a plus when it comes to open-world games like Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.
Combat has received quite a change as well. Jacob is a brawler in the mean streets of London and every single attack reflects that. Quick punches, hard kicks, and a steady stream of headbutts has the player beating opponents senseless in close range combat. There are weapons as well, but not in the same way that fans of the Assassin’s Creed series may be used to. This is a time when walking with scabbards, armor, and large sharp weapons wasn’t exactly allowed, so assassins in this world have to be a bit more coy about their armory. Smaller weapons like the kukri can be stashed in a long coat, cane swords can be carried in broad daylight, and revolvers can be easily concealed. There is also the usual assortment of throwing weapons such as darts and knives to help players take down enemies with ease.
The combat really got a chance to shine during the gang war I was able to participate in. These are ten vs. ten battles that players must complete to take over an area. Throwing punches, stunning, dodging and executing enemies is fast and beautiful. You can hear the crunch of bones breaking and fists beating against flesh. Also, stunning enemies while having the right weapon equipped offers the opportunity for unique executions of opponents. While fighting, I equipped my revolver and proceeded to stun a rival gang member. Once the cue was given, I was able to knock him to the ground and shoot him in the head in one swift, visceral animation. The focus on speed and brutality is refreshing, especially when you consider how clean and precise previous assassins were in the series.
All in all, the hands-on time with Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was great. Visuals were stunning, the new speed in traversal of yet another highly detailed world is more than welcome, and the shift in combat style really makes Assassin’s Creed Syndicate a game that you can’t help but want to play. The only issue is that now we have to wait to finally get our hands on the complete game. This will be a tough wait indeed.