AC: Syndicate Thoughts

Last Friday Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate was released and being a hardcore fan of the franchise of course I picked it up.  I’ve played a good 6 hours of the game and my initial impression is very good.  After the botched launch of Unity, it felt good to just be able to turn on the game and get down to it without bugs or logon issues.  What was really interesting to me was the reviews for the game seem to be all over the place.  Typically with most releases the ratings tend to be fairly close but Syndicate is running the gamut.  I don’t really understand why either.

 

IGN – 8.2/10

Gamespot – 9/10

Forbes – 7.5/10

The Telegraph – 2/5

 

I’m going to preface this whole piece by saying I usually take reviews with a grain of salt.  Reviews are always prone to subjectivity and you can’t always base your buying habits on reviews.  However, it is very interesting to me that this game caused so much confusion and wildly different ratings considering most of the reviews I’ve read pretty much say the same thing.  

Syndicate is an AC game, the solid gameplay is still there and the combat feels much more visceral than in other games.  Punching someone in the face and then throwing a kukri in their face just feels so intense.  The combat also feels more fluid than in other games in the series.  I had played through the last hour or so of Unity before going into Syndicate and it definitely is true, combat is in fact smoother.  Combos are interesting and being able to use finishers is also a welcome change.  As well as the AI being a little bit more unpredictable.  Some reviews say that the gameplay is the same and list it as a con which baffles me.  Why would you change something that fundamentally works?  I also am not sure how else you could possibly do it.  I also really like that the lock-picking mini-game is gone, it felt like a chore in Unity.

The story so far seems to be good.  In my opinion, changing the story to have you as the player actually be the character seemed lazy to me.  Ever since Desmond died, the story has suffered in my opinion.  It does seem to have less interruptions in terms of jumping back to the real world, which always seemed to be annoying after Desmond died, the content of the jump backs were never substantial.  It’s back to where players want to be, in the open world of London.

Another gripe was that the game looks “dull”.  I don’t understand that myself since London during that time period would have looked like that, smoke stacks everywhere and a general drab look.  To list that as a con and potentially take points away for essentially being historically accurate is mind boggling to me.

Another plus that most reviews didn’t touch on were the now manageable side missions, quests, and collectables.  By the end of the game, my Unity Map was essentially a wall of stuff, actually seeing the map became a chore of filtering out things.  So far in Syndicate they seem to have gotten control of it.  In Unity eventually I stopped trying to do everything and collect everything because I just felt so overwhelmed.  The same is true about Black Flag.  The other good thing is now the Side Missions actually help you work toward the overall conquering of the map and are not just there as filler content.

There are still some inconsistency with the wall climbing, jumping, and combat.  Most of the issues are when you combine those.  There has been quite a few times when my character vaults across  a length no man would ever be able to when doing an air assassinate.  There are some walls and ledges that you could clearly jump on or jump to but the game is hesitant to let you actually do it.  I spent several times just rolling the control stick in circles mashing the jump button trying to get the character to continue jumping.  This is probably the biggest issue for me, you would think at this point they could polish that up.

Having not completed the game yet, I can’t speak to the overall story or plot but from what I’ve read the ending ruins it.  I can’t imagine what could possibly be so bad that it ruins the entire game’s story but I guess I’ll figure it out.

In conclusion, I don’t agree with the majority of what various reviewers are saying about the game and cannot really understand the wildly different ratings.  The only thing I can say about it is the subjectivity of the reviews in general, depending on who you are, you’re going to have a different take on the game.  Which is why I think more review sites should take multiple reviewers and truly come up with a fair review.  Doesn’t that just make more sense?

 

Starwars Battlefront Beta (PC) Thoughts

The hype surrounding Star Wars Battlefront has been crazy over the past year.  With everything ramping up to the public beta that started yesterday.  The question is: does the game match the hype?  So far I am pleased to say that it does.

My main concern was that the game was going to end up being a re-skinned Battlefield 4 so my expectations going into the beta was pretty low.  I had tried to avoid watching too many gameplay videos as to go into it with a clear mind.  I am happy to report the game is definitely not a reskin.  In fact, to my surprise, it plays almost nothing like Battlefield.

 

Before we start, the specs of the computer I was playing on:

Geforce GTX 780 Ti

Intel Core i7 – 4770k @ 3.50 GHz

16 GB RAM

ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q @ 2560×1440, 144Hz

Windows 10 Pro

 

In the video below, I captured my first round playing Drop Zone.  Immediately, the game looks visually stunning.  The space / air battle going on above the play area is a beautiful touch and it also comes with it’s own sound effects.  I actually sometimes found myself almost confused as to what sound was enemy fire and what sounds were just ambient noise (which may just be that I don’t have a firm enough grasp on the nuances of blaster fire).

I definitely went into it with the Battlefield mindset.  I was using my iron sight / scope all the time and I assumed that crouching would make me more accurate.  Both of these assumptions were wrong.  There is no benefit to crouching other than to make you a smaller target and the accuracy between the scope and hip fire is not changed at all.  This changes the way you play the game.  Close range is hip fire 100% and mid to long range is scoped but even then, you don’t really have to.  In the video you can tell I didn’t realize this at first and probably had a lot more deaths than I should have.  The other little gameplay thing is that the laser beams actually take a bit of time to reach the target which really changes how you have to aim but on the upside you can really see exactly where you’re hitting.

The audio design is amazing, it sounds like it’s real (if blaster rifle’s were a real thing and wars were fought between the Imperials and the Rebel Alliance).  Even the transition between screens fades out like the transitions between scenes in the movies.  It’s little touches like these that make the game a pleasure to play.

The unlock system is really good.  Guns and Items unlock based on player level (you gain experience for playing and finishing games).  Once unlocked, you can use credits to buy them and use them.  Credits are accumulated at the end of games.  When you finish a match, the game divides your total experience earned in that match by 10 and that’s how many credits you get.  I’m not sure if that is the math that will be used in the final release but it seems to be pretty fair.

All of the items are referred to as cards and you can hold a max of 2 cards and one upgrade card (ie. Ion Shot for your blaster).  It looks like you’re going to be able to preset a few “hands” and be able to swap them back and forth depending on what you feel like doing (like a loadout in Battlefield games).  The guns are not classified as cards and you simply buy them when they unlock.  It looks like there are really no secondary weapons in Battlefront (ie. Pistols).  So far there is only a card that will give you a sniper rifle that acts like a second weapon.  I’m sure in full release there will be a ton of cards to unlock and play around with.

 

A few gripes:

  • You obviously don’t have to reload a blaster rifle but I constantly found myself hitting “R” to reload.  Muscle Memory is a hard thing  to break.  I just hope it doesn’t affect my Counter Strike.
  • On Drop Zone, there is no visual queue when the enemy is capping a pod, HUD or emote by the player.  This I found vaguely annoying because then everyone that even comes close to the pod needs to be shot and tactically that makes it hard to protect the pod.  They need to add a countdown HUD display or actually have the character look likes he’s punching buttons or something.  
  • The position of the radar is in the bottom left corner and almost all other shooters i’ve played the radar is in the top right corner.  Not sure why that design choice was made.
  • I hate third person view, but if you play competitively (not sure how much of that there will be) you will have to either turn it off or just use it all the time.  The problem with third person is that is gives you a much wider range of vision and even allows you to peer over cover and around corners, so a person playing in 1st person view is almost at a disadvantage.
  • No prone.  I don’t know why they chose to not include it.

 

Nasty Bug:

  • After the first match, I kept playing (see the video below) and my game started to stutter and skip around, almost like I was dropping frame rate.  It got so bad the game became unplayable.  I thought it was due to Shadowplay so I stopped recording but the stutter wouldn’t go away.  It was so bad I couldn’t navigate around the menus and I had to just open the task manager to close it.  I left the task manager open to troubleshoot and went back into the game and now it was just stuttering from the very moment I opened the game.  I noticed that my processor usage was at 100% and holding steady.  So I closed the game and the processor went back to normal.  Opened the game again and it spiked back up to 100%.  Frustrated, I closed Origin and opened it back up then went into the game and there was no stuttering.  Then I thought the Origin Overlay was causing it so I turned off the in-game overlay and continued to play.  I finished and then went to go play some Starcraft 2 and Starcraft 2 started to stutter and my processor again was at 100%.  I closed Origin and it went back to working normally.  I can’t say for certain what the issue is, but it’s got something to do with Origin and Battlefront.  I just hope they fix it in the final release.

 

Overall I am very pleased with the state of the game and am looking forward to playing the final release.  Until then, may the force be with you!