Warning: This review may contain spoilers. If you want to play this game through, you should stop reading now.
While Ubisoft got some parts of this game right, they got a lot of the parts very very wrong. And, this game cheats, badly. Let’s explore.
As with most Assassin’s Creed games, Syndicate is filled with lots of very compelling gameplay in its open world environment. The stories are decent, but short and the assassinations make it feel like Assassin’s Creed I (mostly). They’ve done well to bring back a lot of what made Assassin’s Creed I fun. Unfortunately, there’s also a whole lot of bad go with that fun. And, if you’re sneaky enough, you get the chance to use cover assassinations, air assassinations and haystack assassinations with much more regularity. Unfortunately, this game is about equally outweighed by the bad and the ugly.
As with every single Assassin’s Creed game, the controls get harder and harder to work as the game progresses. And by harder and harder, I mean the designers require much more fine grained control over button presses or else you miss the opportunity to do whatever it is they have you doing. This usually means you miss your opportunity do take down an enemy, you fall off of a building, you can’t escape a fight or whatever.
For example, a person steals something and you have to tackle the thief. Unfortunately, as you happen to be running after the thief, if you also happen to straddle along side a carriage, the carriage will usurp the tackle button and you’ll end up stealing a carriage (all the while letting the thief get away). The really bad part is that you cannot break out of the carriage stealing maneuver and attempt to continue on with the thief chase. Oh no, you have to watch the entire motion capture playback from beginning to end all while your thief you were inches away from tackling runs away.
As another example, there are times where you begin a fight and a ton of enemies surround you. Then, one of them takes a swing and practically knocks you out with one blow. You don’t even get enough time to press the medicine button before you’re dead or desynchronized.
On top of this, the game still does not tell you every side mission requirement in advance. You only find them out after you’ve failed them.
And this is not the only incident of these types of bad controls. Once you get the zipline gun, it’s handy to use for quick getaways to the top of a building. That is all except, when the designers prevent you from using it. And they do prevent its use intentionally in some areas. Meaning, you can stand in front of some buildings and the zipline control appears. In others, nothing. This is especially true in areas where you have to complete a mission. So, you’ll be down on the ground and spotted, the first thing to do is find a rooftop to zipline to the top. Unfortunately, you can’t in a lot of mission areas. In some you can, in others you can’t.
Ubisoft, if you’re going to give me the zipline gun, let us use it on any building of any size. Not just those you randomly allow. This is so frustrating.
When you’re sneaking around as an assassin, the pedestrians around you are constantly saying things like, “I hope he knows he can be seen” and other stupid things. While it doesn’t bring attention from enemies, it’s just nonsensical and stupid. Most people would merely ignore someone doing something like skulking around. Worse, it’s not like we have control over day or night in this game. Clearly, for most of the work of an assassin, it should be done at night under the cover of darkness. Instead, you’re out doing this stuff at noon.
Syndicate? What syndicate? Sure, you have a gang that you can find and call together on the street, but you barely ever get to use them alone let alone on missions. You can rope in a few at a time, but it’s almost worthless. When you enter into any place, they only thing they end up doing is drawing attention to you. As an assassin, that’s the last thing you want. You want stealth kills, not big grandiose street kill events. This is not Street Fighter. Other than that, there is no other syndicate. It’s not like you can switch to and play Greenie, which would have been a cool thing. It’s not like there were other assassins roaming the city that join in on the cause. I was hoping the syndicate would have been a huge group of assassins who all band together to get something done. Nope.
On some levels, you don’t get recognized quickly. On others, it’s almost instantaneous. It’s really frustrating that there is not one level of recognition that you get with this game. Instead, it’s random and haphazard based on the level designer’s whim.
While it may not be anywhere near as bad as Unity, it’s still bad enough that you have to start (and restart) missions over to complete them. I’ve had glitches which locked my character up in a move that I had to quit out of the game to stop. I’ve had glitches where Jacob falls off of a rooftop merely by standing there. I’ve had glitches where I stand inches from an enemy and don’t get the assassinate action. I can hang below windows with enemies standing in front of me with no assassinate action. I’ve fallen off of the zipline for no reason.
The controls get worse and worse as the game progresses, to the point that if you want to get anything done, you nearly can’t.
Cinematics you can’t abort
Throughout the game, you’ll find that when you click a button to enter a carriage or zipline to the top of the building, you cannot break out of that action until it’s fully complete. If you were trying to do something else and accidentally launched into one of these cinematics, you have to fully complete the action entirely before you get control back.
The introduction of character levels is just plain stupid. I understand why they are in the game, but the reality is, they make no sense. Fighting a level 9 versus a level 2 is not at all realistic. You don’t have levels in real life. You have people who are more skilled than others, but not levels. These enemies are no more skilled than any other. If I walk into an area, my level should not dictate how hard it is to kill an enemy. I should be able to perform moves on a level 2 or level 9 in the same way and take them down at the same rate. In fact, enemies shouldn’t even have levels.
Bosses & Gang Wars
As you complete a section of the city, it unlocks a gang war segment. So, your gang fights their gang. Except, it’s not really a gang war. Instead, it’s half a gang war. The first segment starts out as a gang war where your gang fights theirs and you get to participate. After that first segment is complete, you must fight 5 to 6 of their gang members alone (including the boss). That’s not exactly a gang war. That’s an unfair fight. Where is my 4 to 5 other gang members to help me out. If it’s a gang war, make it a gang war. If it’s to be a 1 on 1 fight then make it so. Ganging up 5 or 6 against 1 is not a gang war and is in no way fair. I know some gamers like beating these odds, but I find it contrived and stupid. If it’s supposed to be a gang war, make it a fight between gangs.
The only consolation is that the game gives you one shot at taking down the section boss right before the gang war. If you can manage to kill them then, you don’t have to do that segment during the gang war. Still, a gang war should be about gangs.
Desynchronization and Load Times
This is one of the most ugly parts of this game. If you fall off a building and die, you have to wait through an excruciatingly long load time. So long, in fact, you could go make yourself a cup of coffee and be back in time for it to finally load. I mean, this is a PS4 and the game is loaded on the hard drive. Yet, it still takes nearly 2-4 minutes just to reload a level? I’m amazed (not in a good way) at how long it takes to reload. Once the game finally does reload, it drops you off some distance away from where you were. This is also frustrating. Why can’t you drop my character exactly in the location or at least close enough that I don’t have to run a ton just to get back there.
Starrick Boss Level
This level is ultimately the most asinine fail level of the entire game. Once you finally find the shroud (which is the whole point to the present day piece of this game), the game should immediately stop and move to present day. No. Instead, you have to attempt to assassinate Starrick in one of THE most asinine levels I’ve ever played in a game.
Evie and Jacob, the two twins, have to be the two most stupid people on Earth. Otherwise, they would simply realize they could cut and drag that shroud off of him with a good cut of their knives and then stab him. No. Instead, you have to attempt to wear-him-down while wearing the shroud. As if that were possible with the supposed healing shroud. If it were truly as healing as it is shown to be, there would be no way to wear his health down ever. I’m not sure what the writers were thinking here, but this level is about as stupid as it gets.
Worse, there are times where Starrick gets these hammer-on-your-character-without-fighting-back segments. Starrick just punches your character and you just stand there taking it. Really? There’s no reason given for these segments. These just wear down your health without any method of fighting back, breaking out of it or countering it. Now that’s just plain out cheating from a game. There is absolutely no need for this part of the fight. When in real life would this ever happen? Like, never. It makes the ending twice as hard without any real payoff.
Either of the twins could cut and pull the shroud off of him. It’s very simple. Then just assassinate him like anyone else. Why is it that you must melee this guy to death? These are assassins who kill from the shadows or by using other stealth methods. Assassins are not street fighters. That the game turns AC into Street Fighter is just plain stupid. This is NOT WHY I BUY Assassin’s Creed games. If I wanted a fighting game, I’d go buy Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter. The game devs have lost it. Whomever thought it would be a great idea to end this Assassin’s Creed game by turning it into a stupid fighting game should leave the game development field and specifically be fired from Ubisoft. That person has no business making gaming choices for this (or any) game franchise.
I give this game 4.0 stars out of 10. It’s a reasonable effort in places, but it’s in no way innovative and the ending plain out sucks from so many perspectives. The zipline is cool, but it doesn’t really help you as much as it needs to. There’s way too much carriage driving. The boss levels are mostly okay up until Sequence 8 as a Street Fighter ending… especially considering that the ‘present day’ part only needed to confirm where the shroud was located. After locating the shroud, the game should have immediately transitioned to present day. There is absolutely no need to kill Starrick, especially in a Street Fighter way. These people are assassins, not fighters. Sure, they can fight, but this tag-team-switching-melee-brawl-that-only-intends-to-wear-down-health is just insanely stupid, especially considering just how quickly that fight would be over by cutting that shroud off of him. I don’t even know how many times either of the two of them had gotten close enough to yank that thing off of him. Yet, the game insists on throwing punches to bring him down.
Ultimately, it has an insanely stupid ending that is majorly out of character for a game franchise that deserves so much better and which offered so much promise. And, of course, where is the Syndicate in all of this melee stuff? Why is it the gang is not there? Instead, Starrick should have been killed by a standard overhead assassination by both of them simultaneously through instant decapitation. I’d have preferred if Greenie had been in on the action and then have all three of them take Starrick out. Even the most healing shroud in the world couldn’t heal a severed head… and it should have been done in one big maneuver by both or all three of the assassins at once. That would have been an ending befitting of the name Assassin’s Creed.
As you may or may not know, I also like gaming. Specifically, RPG and first and third person shooters. Well, at least some first and third person shooters, anyway. Whether I like it depends on how it’s done. In this case Resident Evil 6 is not done well at all.
Resident Evil Franchise
Even though this game series has turned into a fairly hefty cash cow for both Milla Jovovich (and hubby) in the celluloid format, the games have been relatively uninspired for the last several years. The last really good Resident Evil game was RE4 and that was years ago. Well, I’m sad to say that Resident Evil 6 is a complete and total disappointment in the gaming department. Capcom just can’t figure this out. For whatever reasons, the developers over at Capcom Japan just aren’t with the program.
The absolute best game of this franchise is still, bar none, Resident Evil 4. This game had all the makings of turning the franchise into a smash hit. Unfortunately, the game developers decided to try something new with whole tag-along partner thing in RE5 which failed miserably, by the way. That game was an unmitigated disaster. It had no depth, the story was boring, the fights were stupid and the fact that you had to keep your partner alive in the middle of the fights was asinine. There was no fun to be had with that game at all.
You’d think Capcom could have figured out that the reason Resident Evil 5 flopped so badly was that it was just so poorly done. Yet, here we are with Resident Evil 6 bringing in much of the boring and silly storylines from 5 even though Leon is heading this chapter up. It’s unfortunate, too. This could have been such a great addition if Capcom had even minimally listened to its fanbase. No, they did their own thing again and assumed this is what we wanted in a game. They could not have been more wrong.
Seriously, Resident Evil 6 doesn’t even have a pause button!?!? You can’t even pause the effing game. I mean, seriously? Why not? Every other game on the planet has figured out how to pause, why is Resident Evil 6 the exception? You can’t even step away to go take a pee without some zombies nailing you. What fun is there in that?
Worse, when you restart the game, it takes you back almost an entire chapter just to begin again. You can’t even start at the point where you left off. Seriously, this is one extremely badly designed game. On top of just these stupid design issues, the gameplay is sluggish, awkward and the collision detection is some of the worst I’ve seen in a game in a very long time.
No awards for this turd
As much as Capcom seems to think this is some award winning thing, it’s a festering piece of feces covered in flies. It has no redeeming value at all. This game is so bad, it’ll be in the bargain bin in 60 days. Less, I’d venture. If you really want this game, just wait about 30 days and pick it up on the cheap. Even then, why waste your time with this dreadful game? Go pick up Skyrim or Fallout 3 or Portal or some other much better game than this and spend some time with a quality game. If you really love Resident Evil, pick up Resident Evil 4. It’s still far far outshines anything Capcom has ever done to date in this series. RE4 is, in fact, so far ahead of every other RE game that I can’t even fathom that Capcom had a hand in writing it. In fact, they probably didn’t.
It’s unfortunate that Capcom doesn’t quite get the gaming landscape today. Resident Evil 6 had so much it could have been and the developers just squandered away that opportunity. This is and will be the last Resident Evil game I buy from Capcom. No more throwing good money after bad. Capcom get with the program. As they say, once bitten, twice shy. No more Capcom titles in my house.
[UPDATE 2012-10-24: Thanks Riko]
Apparently you can pause the game, but only if you turn off multiplayer (?) features. Note, however, that I didn’t ‘turn on’ any multiplayer features when I played. I just played the game with however the campaign started. If that enables multiplayer features, I didn’t know it. Worse, I wasn’t playing multiplayer at all, however. I was playing the game in as though it were a single person campaign. That this game apparently turns on multiplayer features even though you are not using it (and worse, blocking the pause feature) is just stupid game design. I have to agree with Riko. This game is one big turd named starting with an s and ending with a t.
Stars: 1/2 out of 5 (Capcom gets the 1/2 star for effort).
Video game consoles, such as the PS3, Wii and Xbox 360 (and even PC’s) have gotten more complex and provide impressive 3D capabilities and 5.1 sound. Yet, video games have not. There was a time many years ago when video game designers would take chances and create unique and unusual titles. Games that challenge the mind and challenge the video gamer’s thought processes. Games used to be fun to play.
In recent years…
Today, most games fall into a very small subset of genres: First/Third Person Shooter, Fighting, RPG, Simulation, Sports or Music (with a few lesser genres appearing occasionally). While the innovation in the hardware continues to progress, the video game designers are not progressing. Sure, it takes time to get actors into a studio to record tracks. Sure, it takes time to build and rig up 3D models. Sure, it takes time to motion capture realistic action to plug into those 3D models. Yes, it takes time to program all of those complex algorithms to make it all work as a whole. I understand all of that. But that’s the process, not the innovation. These are the tools necessary to get the job done. They are a means to an end and not the end in itself.
For whatever reason, big video game executives have it in their heads that the tried-and-true model sells a video game. That may be true to some degree, but you can also wear-out-your-welcome with overused techniques. In other words, when a game title sucks, the word spreads FAST in the video game community. That can stop a video game’s sales dead.
When starting a new game project, the producer and creative staff need to decide whether or not they are planning on introducing something new and innovative. First and third person shooters (FPS/TPS) have already been done and done and done and done again ad nauseam. That’s not to say that yet another TPS or FPS can’t be successful. It can.. IF there’s something compelling to the game… and that’s a big IF.
Sure, there are video gamers who will play anything they can get their hands on (known as video game fanatics). But, as a game developer, you can’t rely on these gamers to carry your title to success. These gamers do not necessarily make up the majority of the game buying public. As far as myself, I am an much more discriminating buyer. I simply won’t buy every title that comes along. I pick and choose the titles based on the styles of games I know that I like to play. For example, I do not buy turn-based games of any sort. I don’t care if it’s based on dice rolls or card draws whether in a fighting, FPS or RPG game. I won’t buy them because turn-based games get in the way of actual playing. Turn-based games also tend to be antiquated. I understand where turn-based play came from (i.e., board games). But, it has no place in a 3D world based video game.
Again, choosing to add turn-based play into your game is your decision as a developer. But, by doing so, you automatically exclude gamers who won’t buy turn-based games, like myself. There are gamers who do enjoy turn-based games, but I don’t know of any gamers who won’t buy real-time play styles and buy only turn-based. So, you automatically limit those who purchase your game to those who buy turn based. But, by making your game real-time, you include a much bigger audience.
These are up-front design considerations that, as a developer and producer, you need to understand about gamer buying habits. These are decisions that can directly affect the success of your video game title.
In the early days of 3D console games (mid-80s through mid-90s), game developers were willing to try new and unusual things. Of course, these were the days when 3D was limited to flat untextured surfaces. We’ve come a long way in the graphics arena. But, even as far as we’ve come in producing complex and unusual 3D worlds within the games, the play styles have become firmly stagnant. For example, most First/Third person shooters today rely on a very linear story to get from point A to point B. Driving the game along is an invisible path. So, while the complex 3D world is wonderfully constructed, the character can only see the world from a limited vantage point. The cameras are usually forced to be in one spot (near or behind the character). The character is forced to traverse the world through a specific path with invisible boundaries. So, exploration of the world is limited to what the game designer and story allow you to do.
This style of game is very confining. It forces the gamer to play the game on the programmer’s terms rather than on the gamer’s terms. Worse, when this play style is combined with checkpoint saves, health meters and other confining aspects, these games can easily become tedious and frustrating. So, what a game developer may consider to be ‘challenging’, in reality becomes frustration.
A shot of new innovation
The video game development world needs is to open is collective eyes. Don’t rely on the tried-and-true. Don’t relay on formulas. Don’t assume that because a previous game worked that your next game will also work. What works is what video gamers like. What doesn’t work is what video gamers don’t like. The video game community is very vocal, so listen to your audience and learn. Most of all, try new things… and by that I don’t mean tweaking an existing formula. I mean, take a risk. Try something new. Let gamers explore the world. Produce worlds that are open and complete. Let gamers build things. Let gamers take the game to whole new levels. Build in construction sets to allow gamers to create things you have never thought of. Build in ways to save the constructions to web sites and allow gamers to monetize the things they’ve built.
These are innovations that lead to progress. These are innovations that instill addictiveness into the game. These are innovations that keep your game alive for years to come. You only need to look at the popularity of Second Life, World of Warcraft and even the Elder Scrolls series to understand that an unlimited world with construction kits allow gamers to take the game into directions you’ve never even thought of.
Most games play through in only a few weeks (sometimes less than 1 week). The gamer buys it, plays it through and then trades it in never to touch it again. This is effectively a movie rental. So, once the gamers have had their fill, the game is effectively dead. This style of game does not provide your company with a continued stream of revenue from that title. Only titles that have open ends, that offer expansion packs, and that allow gamers to construct things on their own are the games that keep a title alive for years rather than a few weeks.
That may require a slightly bigger cash outlay in the beginning (to support a title that has a longer lifespan), but if done correctly, should also provide much more income for that game company. This is why titles like Fallout 3, Oblivion: Elder Scrolls IV and World of Warcraft are talked about months (and even years) after the game’s initial release. But, forgettable games like Fracture, Too Human or even Force Unleashed have no extra play value after the game ends.
Gaming elements incorrectly used
In too many game designs, programming elements are used incorrectly to ‘challenge’ the gamer. Game challenges should come in the form of story elements, puzzles, clues and riddles. Game challenge elements should not involve game saving, turn-based play, checkpoints, character deaths, camera movement, controller button sequences, or anything dealing with the real-world physicality of the gaming system. In other words, challenges should not be tied to something outside of the video game or outside of the story. So, as a designer.. you should always ask yourself: Does this challenge progress the game story forward? If the answer is no, the challenge is a failure. If yes, then the story becomes better by the challenge.
For example, requiring the gamer to respond to a sequence of button presses in a very specific real-world time limit is not challenging. This is frustrating. This means the gamer needs to trial-and-error this section until they can make it through the timed sequence of buttons. This is a failed and incorrectly used ‘challenge’ event. This section does not challenge. Instead, this sequence requires the gamer to ‘get through’ that section. Note that ‘getting through’ is not a positive gaming aspect. Worse, if this game section comes in a FPS game, but only occasionally (only to fight a boss), this is also incorrectly used. If this play style is used regularly and consistently throughout the game, then the gamer knows that it’s coming. If it’s used only at certain undisclosed points rarely, then the gamer has to fumble to realize what’s going on when there is no warning.
Another common, but also incorrectly used gaming element is the character death sequence. For some reason, recent games have promoted the use of character deaths as part of the challenge element. So, there are sections of some games where the designers specifically designed the level so the gamer has to ‘die’ his way through the level. These trial and error sequences, again, are incorrectly used and do not aid in moving the story or the game forward. These also tend to promote deaths as a way to solve problems. This is not appropriate.
Games should always promote the positive aspects of life and not promote death as a means to an end. Worse, games like Too Human take the death sequence to an extreme and make the gamer wait through an excruciatingly long cinematic each time the character dies. This, again, is an inappropriate use of a gaming element. The game should be designed for the GAMER and not for the game designer. Long death sequences such as what’s in Too Human overly emphasizes death. This is, again, not appropriate.
Health meters are another common gaming element that are incorrectly used, or lack thereof. Every game that allows the character to ‘die’ needs to have a visible health meter. Games that use the Unreal engine do not have this. Instead, when your character takes enough ‘damage’, the screen will become red with a halo. The problem with this system (and this is also why its incorrectly used) is that the gamer doesn’t know how far from ‘death’ the character is. This is not a challenge. This is annoying and frustrating. This leaves the gamer wondering just how much health they have.
Again, story elements move the game forward. Having the gamer stop and reload a game takes the gamer OUT of the game and forces them to restart from some arbitrary point. Checkpoint games are particularly bad about this. When checkpoints are the only way to save a game, this means the gamer must waste their real-world time through trial-and-error gaming. This means, the user must wait through character deaths and then the subsequent reload of the level to restart at the checkpoint. Again, this is not a challenge… it’s simply a waste of time. When levels are designed such that the gamer’s character will die at least once to get through the level, the level has failed. This forces a reload of a previous save. This element, again, is misued as a challenge element. Taking the gamer out of the game by forcing a reload ruins the game experience and disrupts the story you, as a developer, worked so hard to make cohesive.
Future of Gaming
Even as game developers are now stuck in the genre rut, they do have the power to break out of it. They do have the means to produce games with more compelling and addictive content. Instead of using old formulas that used to work, designers need to look for new ways to innovate, monetize and bring video gamers into their game worlds and keep them there. Games shouldn’t be viewed as a short term point A to B entity. Games need to move to open ended and free exploration worlds. Worlds that let the gamer play on the gamer’s terms. Sure, there can be story elements that tie the game together like Fallout 3 and Oblivion. In fact, I’d expect that. But, these game threads should start and end inside the game as quests. You can play them when you want to and you can leave them hanging if you don’t want to complete it.
Game elements like checkpoints, saves and button sequences need to be rethought. Some of these elements can be successfully used, like checkpoints if implemented thoughtfully. However, allowing the gamer to save anywhere lets the gamer save and start at their leisure. But, that manual save process leaves it up to the gamer to remember to save. For this reason, checkpoints when combined with save-anywhere is the best alternative when gaming. After all, the game was supposed to be produced for the gamer.
Designers, creators and developers need to challenge the notion of what is a video game. They need to use the 3D worlds in creative NEW ways. Let the users explore the worlds on their terms, not on some dictated path and story. Designers need to take a page from Bethesda’s book on free-roaming RPGs and expand on this. Closed ended, path based games have limited playability and definitely no replay value. Monetarily, developers need to understand that open ended construction based games let gamers take ownership of the game and make it their own. Closed, narrow pathed games do not.