Wheel out the hidden blades and hoods-it's time for a new Assassin's Creed. This year's entry, Syndicate, finally brings the game's Forrest Gump-esque historical tourism into the modern era. We've done the Crusades, the Renaissance, the Colonial era, and now it's time for Victorian England, for "Please sir, can I 'ave s'more?" and bobbies and steampunk without any of the cool steampunk stuff.
But it's 1868, so we still get new modes of transportation (carriages, trains), new gadgets (a zipline?), and soldiers in silly hats. Actually, silly hats all around-those enormous furry black hats for the Queen's Guard, top hats for everyone else. Probably handkerchiefs too.
And two new protagonists, of course. Ubisoft hammered home during our recent demo that each character plays slightly differently in Syndicate. Jacob's your stereotypical post-Ezio Assassin's Creed protagonist, a brooding young man with a flair for fashion and fisticuffs. His sister Evie is the stealthier of Syndicate's dual protagonists, though she can also hold her own in a fight.
It was Evie we used in our hands-on last week. The mission: Infiltrate the Tower of London and kill off Lucy Thorne. A quick Google search makes me believe Lucy Thorne was not a real person, though I can't be sure. A quick use of my brain tells me that in the context of Assassin's Creed, Lucy Thorne is almost certainly a Templar.
The assassination mission we played through was similar to the enhanced, "Seriously it's called Assassin's Creed," missions in last year's Unity. Upon arriving at the Tower of London, I was shown a number of ways to infiltrate the fortress's White Tower-a rogue guard, the Master of Keys, or an imprisoned constable. These are the "stealth" options, though stealth is on a sliding scale. Or you can just walk in and kill Lucy Thorne, if you're so inclined.
I decided to take the Master of Keys route. I scaled the side of the White Tower with the new zipline/grappling hook thing, which cuts traversal time to a fraction of its former length. It's a bit of an odd choice-one that indicates this series is increasingly less about the parkour that made it famous to begin with.
Regardless, I entered the central courtyard, watched the Master of Keys walking in circles (for some reason), dropped down, and shoved a knife so hard through that guy's back. "You could've just...taken the keys," said the developer watching over my shoulder, clearly not understanding that he's working on a game titled Assassin's Creed.
But he did take this opportunity to show me one of Evie's new features-"Chameleon," a.k.a. that cloak Frodo had in Lord of the Rings that made him look like a rock. At any point, Evie can stop moving and just sort of blend into the environment. Guards need to essentially trip over her in order to discover she's there.
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