Normally a second review of a game isn’t needed, and the extra copy just gets a short little article about how the PC got a bad port or how those graphics are just so much better than on console. But I ended up playing the whole game and thought I would share a bit more information than that, especially seeing as how I am rather fond of the Assassin’s Creed (AC) franchise. As such its a pretty different review from normal.
If you haven’t yet, you can read Glen’s review of the game on PS4 here. After just playing Fallout 4 and hopping into AC, I learnt a lot about why I like AC, and also a lot about how Syndicate is feeling a bit long in the tooth now. Something drastic needs to arrive and shake the dust off the overly refined tried and true formula to breathe some life into the franchise. As it stand it is a really pretty game with a lot of exploring, a lot of killing and a chance to be a stealthy assassin who can climb up some famous buildings. Sadly the buildings have gotten larger and more impressive, but little else has happened in terms of growth.
We have done this all before
Once again you have to take control of a city from Templars, for reasons. To do this you slowly kill off everyone important to said Templar, who is apparently super evil but we never see how or why really. Sure he employs child labour, but don’t you use children as spies too? Yes he kills people but did you see that pile of corpses you just left behind? What is supposed to be about destabilising the Templar’s power looks a lot like bringing London down to its knees, as you destroy its medicine production, public transport network and even almost destabilise the value of British currency. This is all done on your quest to destroy the man who is “destroying” London.
You conquer the city in pretty much the same fashion as you did since AC1. You climb a tower to see what is happening in an area, and then do one of four activities to take control of a slice of a borough. If you want to conquer London, you need to do this for seven boroughs, with about nine activities in some of them, with a final activity of killing the gang leader. The first time you do this it is fun. You only need to do one of each activity and the gang leader tries to escape on a train, leading to a cool fight scene on top of a speeding section of car. This type of action in a gang fight doesn’t happen again, ending in a large brawl each time. The few interesting activities, like helping Darwin are few and far between, and are completely optional content. By the time you reach the last sections of the game there is some serious fatigue in kidnapping people or riding their carts around and sequence 8, while it is one of the rare moments for character development, is overly long for what it sets out to achieve.
It is only in the final mission where things feel fresh, as you take control of both Evie and Jacob to pull off the impossible, an assassination at the Queen’s palace during a ball. It is a fun mission that takes away your weapons or restricts your movements and it feels so much more grounded than a person suddenly being less visible by putting their hood on. Its a masterstroke and then the story of what is going on in the “real world” (a topic I won’t delve into now or we could be here all day) and much like in AC3, everything you have done is undone in a matter of moments. It is a frustrating method to push on a scarce narrative that threads the sequels together, and it hits hard and unfair, like a punch to an unprotected gut. It stings and doesn’t sit well with me, but I know I will be suckered into the next one, because I have invested far too much into seeing the story of the assassins, templar, Isu and the rest to let up now.
But what about the GRAPHICS?
The automated settings probably won’t give you the best performance to quality, so be prepared to fiddle a bit to reach what pleases you most. On a GeForce GTX 960 2GB I could run the game on the high preset, but the game wanted 2.7GB of VRAM to handle all the extra textures and shadows. As a result the game looked rather pretty, but would drop down towards 40fps as soon as too much was happening on screen. Shadow occlusion and draw distance is mind-bogglingly pretty but the amount of VRAM used might cause a bit of debate for you. Personally I don’t mind a game heading towards 40 fps as long as there is no judder in sweeping shots or crazy screen tear. Halfway through the game I was lucky enough to swap to a G-Sync monitor which solved my screen tear issues, but not everyone has that option. If your machine is crying, turn off those PCSS shadows.
Using a bigger GPU, like a 980 Ti allowed for even more eyecandy. Cranked up to 4K, setting everything to ultra requires more VRAM than what even a 6GB card can offer. Dropping anti-aliasing a bit or using a slightly lower shadow setting brings it to a comfortable 4GB used, but frame rates will still sit in-between the mid 30s to high 40s. This game is tough on your machine, tougher than Fallout 4 and Star Wars Battlefront, but does it look pretty. I played a bit of the game on console and then after seeing the PC version so many of the smaller details that I enjoy are there. From better draw distances to more fine, small details that just make the world around you come alive and pop, this is the drawcard that PC is supposed to have.
Here are some 4K screenshots.