AC: Syndicate. A Red Mode Review

It is with an overwhelming relief that I am able to bring a very positive and honest recount of my experiences with Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed: Syndicate. It was with much speculation after my previous experience with the Assassin's Creed instalment, Unity but I did go in hopeful. It did not take very long before it was proven to be a good thing that I took this chance. With the initial steam punk presentation of London in the industrial 1800s era to the favourable chemistry between the twin protagonists Jacob and Evie Frye. I was quickly drawn in and felt involved in the David VS Goliath style uprising genre that lends itself to the overarching story.  In a nutshell, Jacob and Evie take it upon themselves to go against the more traditional teachings from the Assassin's guild of patience and decide to take it upon themselves to liberate the people of London from the dictator style control by magnate Crawford Starrick. Syndicate is quickly aligned with the main staples of any Assassin's Creed game with Starrick using his Templar connections in order to control everything from the economy to politics, henceforth giving us our life long nemesis, the Templars.

The first notable positive feeling in the game was most importantly the general movement and ability to navigate the game world with ease and fluidity. Unity introduced us to the ability to hold a specific button while in free run to initiate movement up or down safely without the clunky jumping to one's death with obscurity. In complete complimentary fashion is the fighting mechanics which has been simplified from its predecessor and made feel downright fun as opposed to over technical. Not unlike a typical Batman (Arkham series) game with dodge, break defence and attack, Syndicate really captures the London era of true slugger style close quarter combat. It is quite brutal with joints dislocating and bones breaking, coupled with three different weapon classes with their own combos and overall style. It truly needs to be experienced to gain the full fluidity and overall enjoyment that the combat produces.

With Syndicate taking a note out of Unity's book with customisable and upgradable weapons and outfits, it clearly was not as in depth leading to Syndicate being much more accessible and welcoming. To surmise, with each ranking or level achieved, new armour, weapons and accessories become available. I mentioned earlier there were three different weapon classes, so to outline them quickly, you have a choice between a Kukri (a machete sized hooked blade), a Cane-Sword (a concealable blade within a walking cane frame) and the old trusty knuckle dusters (no explanation required). Coinciding with the use of one the before mentioned melee style weapons we also have the use of a pistol and a slew of throwables not unlike any other instalment in the series.

In order to level up you have to spend skill points that are obtained with every 1000 exp gained throughout partaking in many different activities around London. Considering there are two characters at play here I am happy to report for every skill point Jacob earns Evie has the skill point to allocate also and vice versa. This ensures that we do not feel dictated to by having to use each character as individuals, but more of a team. There are a couple of upgrades that can only be applied to a specific character but this does help to build two differing styles of gameplay and overall approach. To emphasize, Jacob is a more 'up in your face' style character whom is always down to brawl and his character specific upgrades very much lend themselves to this style of gameplay. Evie on the other hand is very stealth orientated. This gives you the overall decision on how to attack each different scenario.

Although I mentioned above that Syndicate does not dictate to you which character you have to be at any given stage, this is slightly incorrect but not to the point where we feel obligated. There are certain missions where you need to use Evie and likewise for Jacob but this only heightens the experience of the game due to fact that the twins each have their own ideal on how to combat the Templar threat. Evie is more compelled to understand the situation and use stealth in order to get the information that explains what is going on and Jacob is more inclined to go in blind and kill his way to reform. This somewhat inharmonious approach by the two leads to some very fulfilling and well written banter and overall narrative to the plot.

You come across some very notable historical characters in the game from Charles Dickens, Karl Marx and Alexander Bell to just name a few, which not only serves as somewhat of a history lesson but also enhances the game with side missions helping to serve their needs. It is the initial meeting with Bell that throws you your first major improvement implemented in Syndicate. You obtain the use of a grappling hook that greatly increase the speed of scaling the vast buildings and environment that Syndicate boasts. At first I felt this to be a rip on the original formula of classic Assassin's Creed but quickly changed my tune and fell in love with its ability, not only to climb but more its practical use as a zip line between buildings. It wasn't long until the grappling hook lent itself and undoubtedly earns its place as a useful assassin's tool.

As with any Assassin's Creed title the collectibles are a plenty, but they serve a greater purpose with many useful resources to be found within and not just currency. My play style dictates that I clean up most of the map prior to pursuing the main narrative and with Syndicate this was no different. Unlike the feeling of being bogged down in Unity with an overwhelming amount of map covering collectibles, Syndicate not only felt very accessible and was ultimately rewarding.

With the first observation of Syndicate's map one could not help but feel a little daunted, as the map of London is HUGE. The map is split up into its main sections with each section being split up into its own subsections. At the beginning of the game the whole map is red indicating that the section is under the rule of an opposing gang. There are many different activities required to relinquish the hold by opposing gangs, be it stronghold take overs, criminal bounties or Templar hunts among others. Jacob and Evie tackle each of these objectives when chosen with the help from their gang, The Rooks as donned by Jacob. The Rooks grow in size and stature when upgraded and their presence are felt stronger with each region liberated. Upon liberating each sub section within a main section of the map you then have the ability to consolidate control with a gang war. Although nothing on the scale of the motion picture but it has a very fond resemblance to the feel from the motion picture Gangs of New York.  

Each memory sequence of the main campaign is broken down into bite size pieces sometimes requiring the specific skill set of each of the twins but ultimately leading up to a sequence ending Templar assassination and the removal of a major cog in Starrick's dominance and overall grip on the situation at hand, drawing the twins closer and closer to a meeting with the man himself. Syndicate redefined what Unity attempted to do by giving you multiple different choices on how to approach each assassination the only difference being in Syndicate it feels a little more natural and it actually works.

Allowing approximately 20 hours for the main narrative or about 50 hours for full completion, AC: Syndicate has a lot to offer from casual gamers and AC fanatics a like. With stunning graphics, enjoyable and user friendly controls and a very complete feel to the story, I can say without a doubt Syndicate rates up in my top three most favourite AC experiences and it was a major step in the right direction to resurrecting the series after last year's debacle. I would love to hear your thoughts whether it be in the comment section below or at our Facebook page, where you can enjoy a surrounding of likeminded people. I very much appreciate you making it this far and hope if you have not played this yet that maybe my opinions will sway you towards a very pleasurable experience.

Cheers Red

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