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View Full Version : The United Federation of Charles review: "Not the best AC game, not the worst."



Charles_Phipps
11-01-2015, 08:50 PM
http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/2015/10/assassins-creed-syndicate-review.html

I think the side-activities in the game are amongst the most fun in the franchise with everything entertaining to do but nothing which really blew me away either. This isn't exactly Black Flag or AC 2, which were gamechangers in terms of new additions to the stuff. The Fryes are also likeable folk I didn't mind playing with for forty hours, unlike Arno who I wanted to punch in the face until he stopped being Arno, but they're not exactly possessed of a deep or meaningful character arc either. The Modern plotline is as absent as before even though Shaun and Rebecca's presence disguises this.

It's FUN, though.

Which is good.

Just not great.

Pr0metheus 1962
11-02-2015, 02:36 AM
It is fun. But the huge collective sigh of relief that AC fans breathed when they saw that this game was "not awful" nicely illustrates how incredibly appalling Unity was. In my opinion, Syndicate just barely squeaks by with a B- grade, which basically means that AC has 4 bad games (Revelations, AC3, Rogue and Unity) and 5 good games (AC1, 2, Brotherhood, Black Flag and Syndicate), so they're still barely managing to keep the franchise alive and off life support in my book. The next game had better be at least as good as Syndicate or the series will be in trouble again.

VestigialLlama4
11-02-2015, 04:18 AM
Good review.

I like Syndicate on the whole, it's not a terribly ambitious game and that might be the big takeaway for Ubisoft from this, which might be good and it might be had. It's a lot more clear and precise about what it wants to do than Unity was for sure.

It's basically Shanghai Knights the game, and you know Ubisoft had a portrayal of Karl Marx that wasn't an anti-semitic caricature nor a Communist Red Cape superhero, that takes some bit of guts.


The next game had better be at least as good as Syndicate or the series will be in trouble again.

I think Ubisoft have learned not to rock the boat. So from now on, better than Unity will be their low-self-evaluating grade.

Pr0metheus 1962
11-02-2015, 04:41 AM
...from now on, better than Unity will be their low-self-evaluating grade.

I'm just worried it's going to be all they'll be aiming for in future games. If games of the same level as Syndicate are all we can hope for in the future, that's not a good thing. AC really ought to be Ubisoft's GTA, and as things stand, it's not even in the same league.

VestigialLlama4
11-02-2015, 04:57 AM
I'm just worried it's going to be all they'll be aiming for in future games. If games of the same level as Syndicate are all we can hope for in the future, that's not a good thing.

Well the thing is Unity was meant to achieve what Syndicate achieves. It was intended to be a safe, commercial, market-friendly product that dialled down the lore so it could attract new fans. It did it by basically stripping all the deeper elements that made these games interesting. Syndicate basically did Unity's job for it. SYNDICATE is also much the same but it's smarter: it attracts new fans by giving them Victorian London so they can indulge in their Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes/Shanghai Knights/Downton Abbey (which is Edwardian but same difference...) fantasies and it gives them a female protagonist.

UNITY just sent mixed signals, it's Revolutionary Paris but everyone speaks BBC-Radio, you have four player co-op but none of them are characters, they are all "you" and you can't customize as female, one of the trailers promised a Templar girlfriend and the idea was that the Assassins and Templars would join forces. Basically the game created expectations, either by mistake or accident, that it never had any intention of delivering on any level. SYNDICATE is a much more honest and clear game, we were told we can play Evie but they didn't overpromote her disproportionately like they did Elise and in fact there's more Evie in the game than what we expected. Right from the start we were told we're getting Punk Rock Victorian London and the game delivered on that, including the fact that the punk rockers sell out and join the establishment.

So I think it's more about clarity of goals. Like if Ubisoft wants to deliver a big ambitious game or a minor game that focuses on giving a specific thing, they have to cater to what they do and present the game accordingly.


AC really ought to be Ubisoft's GTA, and as things stand, it's not even in the same league.

Well I don't know, I mean AC doesn't have that same level of fame and cultural impact but it's pretty big. And you know GTA in terms of story and content changes far less often than AC does.

LoyalACFan
11-02-2015, 08:29 AM
And you know GTA in terms of story and content changes far less often than AC does.

Yeah, because it doesn't NEED to. GTA is a series about driving fast cars, blowing s*** up, causing mayhem, all the while poking fun at American society and its hypocrisies. And it has NAILED that formula. AC doesn't have that same strong identity, because every year or two it undergoes a massive tonal shift (from AC1's heart-attack-serious lore, to AC2's adventure tale, to Unity's pretentious faux-moralizing, to Syndicate's goofball comedy, and so on) and jumbles up the mechanics again. I'd argue that we've never actually had an AC game that fully and satisfyingly delivered on the original "historical Assassin simulator" premise. Whereas GTA (whether you're a fan of the premise or not) consistently delivers on its promises, and with a level of world-building detail and polish that makes AC look like the kiddie leagues.

VestigialLlama4
11-02-2015, 10:03 AM
AC doesn't have that same strong identity, because every year or two it undergoes a massive tonal shift (from AC1's heart-attack-serious lore, to AC2's adventure tale, to Unity's pretentious faux-moralizing, to Syndicate's goofball comedy, and so on) and jumbles up the mechanics again.

I actually think that lack of stable formula is a good thing. It allows each game to stand out. Whereas Rockstar can't really change the tone at all. This is clear when they went serious with GTA 4 and tried to create actual three dimensionsal characters and even that fully didn't work out. They tried again with Red Dead Redemption but even there they ran into problems because the subtle character interaction with Martston and Bonnie MacFarlane clashes horribly with the over-the-top caricatures you had everywhere else. GTA V was back to the lighter and wackier style and it is far more loved than GTA 4.


Whereas GTA (whether you're a fan of the premise or not) consistently delivers on its promises, and with a level of world-building detail and polish...

There I disagree. The fact is that in GTA you never truly feel you are changing or controlling the environment. Like Tommy Vercetti and other characters take over the city but there's no radio acknowledging you as the notorious new criminal, no lawsuits brought against you or criminal cases, there's no blowback or response for your actions. There's no feedback at all.

GTA still does stuff in a very old-fashioned way, a lot of character exposition comes in cutscenes of varying standards of animation and dialogues. The recent games introduce a very stupid choice mechanic as well and then there's GTA 4 where you are constantly invited to come and go bowling and keep getting irritating text messages...so like life. Likewise the games don't do interiors at all, and most of the map is there for driving and traversal. In AC games, the map is meant to be fully interactive, climb every building, you have topography, various levels and heights and so on.

Tyrhydion
11-02-2015, 01:53 PM
Syndicate has less of everything than the highly ambitious Unity game had to offer - and everyone is clapping their hands and screams yeah. I dont get it, to me Syndicate feels boring and bleak, and the controls are the most painful. I for one liked Arno, particularly maybe for the fact that the game started with him as a little boy witnessing his fathers murder. That makes him relatable. Also Elise was an outstanding and intriguing character. Jacob instead with the same pastoral voice like any other AC character is almost at the same level as Rakonethan, at least he puts on a smug grin from time to time, and Evie is no way more interesting than Elise was. Unity had drama and intrigue, something that Syndicate lacks or at least couldnt convey.

The three outstanding games of the franchise for me are: Brotherhood, Black Flag and Unity. Their sequels Revelations, Rogue and Syndicate are way more boring - I feel burnt out with these three games. Brotherhood and Black Flag also outperformed on their predecessing game. While AC II was fun, AC III was a chore, although the story was intriguing.

RzaRecta357
11-02-2015, 05:25 PM
Heh a poster above said Rogue was a bad game LOL. Sure it used the same mechanics but hey so did Ezio's games.

Story was great. Character was great. Gear was cool.

LoyalACFan
11-02-2015, 06:02 PM
I actually think that lack of stable formula is a good thing. It allows each game to stand out.

Not exactly; it allows some of the games to stand out, and others to crash and frickin' burn.


Whereas Rockstar can't really change the tone at all. This is clear when they went serious with GTA 4 and tried to create actual three dimensionsal characters and even that fully didn't work out. They tried again with Red Dead Redemption but even there they ran into problems because the subtle character interaction with Martston and Bonnie MacFarlane clashes horribly with the over-the-top caricatures you had everywhere else. GTA V was back to the lighter and wackier style and it is far more loved than GTA 4.

I mean, that may be your perspective, but nearly everyone I know who plays GTA loved Niko and Johnny K (Luis not so much) equally or even more so than the GTA5 characters. So I wouldn't say 5 is "much more loved," it's just newer and more popular right now. And RDR's story is among the most popular in gaming, honestly. I didn't think the overstated characters clashed with the subtle ones at all, it was just a different face of the game that livened things up and kept the 60-hour single-player from getting stale. Did the over-the-top caricature villains in Syndicate clash with the subtle character interactions between the twins?


There I disagree. The fact is that in GTA you never truly feel you are changing or controlling the environment. Like Tommy Vercetti and other characters take over the city but there's no radio acknowledging you as the notorious new criminal, no lawsuits brought against you or criminal cases, there's no blowback or response for your actions. There's no feedback at all.

Sure there is. Funny you mention the radio, because that's exactly where a lot of the feedback comes from. You hear play-by-play reports of all of your major crimes on the radio after each mission. Of course there's no freaking lawsuits brought against you, don't be ridiculous; nobody wants to play Litigation Simulator 2016. You're giving AC a completely free pass here when it's guilty of the exact same things; you get into a massive fight and slaughter twenty soldiers in the street, and there are exactly zero consequences. In a few of the games you might have to tear down a couple of wanted posters. Woo, much interactivity, very excite.

Hell, GTA is actually more realistic on this front; if you get too out of hand, you get a 5-star wanted level which is virtually impossible to escape from.


GTA still does stuff in a very old-fashioned way, a lot of character exposition comes in cutscenes of varying standards of animation and dialogues. The recent games introduce a very stupid choice mechanic as well and then there's GTA 4 where you are constantly invited to come and go bowling and keep getting irritating text messages...so like life. Likewise the games don't do interiors at all, and most of the map is there for driving and traversal. In AC games, the map is meant to be fully interactive, climb every building, you have topography, various levels and heights and so on.

Again, AC is every bit as old-fashioned as you're saying GTA is. Virtually all exposition is in cutscenes (and with much poorer animation quality than GTA, I feel I have to add) and every mission is triggered by just walking to a spot on the map and pressing X. GTA's text messages are annoying, sure, but you can turn the phone off and stop getting them... just like AC's equally annoying tutorial popups every five seconds.

And GTA's maps are every bit as explorable as AC's, it's just done in a different way because of the modern transportation available. Saying "well, you can't climb every building in GTA" is a bit disingenuous, because the game's not about parkour (plus you actually can reach every spot/rooftop/mountain on the map if you find the right vehicle, which is GTA's core transportation mechanic and is done quite well). The reverse is also true; "well, you can't fly a helicopter across a 5 mile map in AC," because yeah, of course you can't.

BananaBlighter
11-02-2015, 07:03 PM
And GTA's maps are every bit as explorable as AC's, it's just done in a different way because of the modern transportation available. Saying "well, you can't climb every building in GTA" is a bit disingenuous, because the game's not about parkour (plus you actually can reach every spot/rooftop/mountain on the map if you find the right vehicle, which is GTA's core transportation mechanic and is done quite well). The reverse is also true; "well, you can't fly a helicopter across a 5 mile map in AC," because yeah, of course you can't.

I dunno. There's something about parkour that really appeals to me. It gives a much better sense of freedom and I can't pinpoint why. Especially something like Unity with so many interiors, traversing is seamless and fluid.

I love when I'm roaming London and that when I need a carriage it's just there, and then when I want to I can hop off and zoom up the side of a building with my rope launcher, then run a few hundred metres seamlessly switching between parkour up, parkour down, running, ziplining. Suddenly a train appears and I run to catch it and just stand there on top admiring the view for a minute. It's all so easy and fluid, I don't have to go find a helicopter just because I feel like exploring every nook and cranny. Obviously it's the setting too. I find a bunch of skyscrapers a lot more boring than the beautiful varying architecture of AC that you don't see everyday.

VestigialLlama4
11-02-2015, 07:55 PM
Not exactly; it allows some of the games to stand out, and others to crash and frickin' burn.

There is virtue in trying and failing different things and that's a cool thing that annualization allows. I mean annualization is not wholly good or wholly bad, it creates a space to actually try and improvise new ideas just to see how it will look like. Compare that to GTA where the gameplay is unchanged and unvarying from GTA - 3 onwards. There are more features, more weapons, better combat and improved presentation of course. You have changes in mission design but until the triple protagonists of GTA-5 you had no innovations. And don't get me started on Rockstar's attitude to women, GTA-V was incredibly sexist, all falling under the label of "satire".


I mean, that may be your perspective, but nearly everyone I know who plays GTA loved Niko and Johnny K (Luis not so much) equally or even more so than the GTA5 characters.

Yeah but not as much as people loved Carl Johnson or Tommy Vercetti. Trevor from GTA V is probably the most popular character since Ray Liotta did Rockstar a favor in Vice City for which they got all huffy. Likewise, John Marston in RDR was a much more liked character than Niko.


Hell, GTA is actually more realistic on this front; if you get too out of hand, you get a 5-star wanted level which is virtually impossible to escape from.

That just makes it more absurd fundamentally. In any place that isn't fantasy land, and especially in a 21st Century city, you wouldn't walk out of jail. Your face would be everywhere as would your fingerprints. The historical setting of AC justifies all that far more than Rockstar games do. I mean GTA V just takes place in an America on the TV and it doesn't correspond in any meaningful way with the real things. Like Los Angeles is a city of heavy oppressive traffic but Los Santos in GTA V is perfectly navigable, it's about as realistic as the Super Horses of Syndicate. The games exagerrate criminality in America when the 21st Century after 9/11 is about America becoming a very heavily policed nation, where gun violence is a serious issue and problem and it basically is still stuck on the Tarantino parody that was all the rage in the 90s and can't grow out of that at all.

Heck, Arkham City and Arkham Knight with its Vigilante Hero who is basically a one man Private Military Corporation is more relevant than GTA. It addresses issues like prison reform and criminals being treated lower than dirt which is actually true of America's prison system. How does GTA 4's Lost and Damned end, you take a tank and bomb a prison and invade it and kill a guy and walk out...and then decamp in your Hideout that's in the same neighbourhood. Wow...


The reverse is also true; "well, you can't fly a helicopter across a 5 mile map in AC," because yeah, of course you can't.

Well what's the point of flying if stuff like wind, clouds and weather doesn't matter. Those stuff matters in AC's naval by the way. Ultimately flying in GTA is the same anywhere and it's not really all that different from the Leonardo missions of earlier games. Likewise, GTA introduced parachutes and para-gliding but Revelations made parachutes a tactical traversal tool in a way that GTA never does nor can it properly do, because it's not parkour.