Please, sir, I want some more.

Not only is that a quote from a Charles Dickens' novel, an author that appears in the latest Assassin's Creed, but it sums up how we felt as our time with the preview build of Syndicate came to an end. Unlike Oliver Twist though, we weren't left unsatisfied, rather that we didn't want our gameplay session to stop as we were enjoying it so much. We wanted more.

Also unlike Oliver Twist, we're not fictional, but you get what we mean.

Assassin's Creed Syndicate will be available in the UK on PS4, Xbox One and PC from 23 October and if our elongated exposure to it is indicative of the rest of the game, we cannot wait. It might be set in far more modern times but this jaunt in Victorian London feels very much like a return to form for the franchise, back to the glory days and adventures of Ezio Auditore da Firenze.

It's certainly got a better unique feature than Unity had, more character too. While Unity expanded the open world play area significantly and introduced co-op gameplay, it felt like too much of a departure from previous Assassin's Creeds, and the narrative got lost somewhere along the way, we felt.

This year, however, the new element gels much more positively and, significantly, it improves the gameplay no end.

Playing as two different assassins, brother and sister pair Evie and Jacob Frye, gives you much more control over how you want to tackle different missions than ever before. That's because each of them has a different style; Evie prefers the stealth mode of getting in and out of situations unseen if she can help it, while Jacob prefers the rough and tumble of fistcuffs and worse. Some missions are easier with one or the other approach and some can be tackled in different ways. The beauty is that you can choose which of the Fryes to play as each time.

And that was the main purpose to our preview play. We played the entirety of sequence three and some of sequence seven, with the latter naturally a lot further into the game when certain, important game aspects are already unlocked.

We'll not detail them much here or how they come to be, as it would only spoil things, but will touch on some of gameplay features that we encountered.

Some of the gameplay aspects we discovered on our travels, along with important plot elements and new characters based on real-life people from the period (like Alexander Graham Bell), included a criminal takeover system similar to that in the Saints Row games. Certain areas of London regions are controlled by a rival gang and as you complete missions in each stronghold, it removes their influence over it and moves some of your own gang members in, who then roam freely around the streets.

You can then employ their help on further missions and side-missions, especially those that need extra muscle-power - important for Evie.

Each region also has a boss that is accessible once the rest has been cleared, and dispatching him will provide extra benefits to your characters.

Evie and Jacob can also be improved through the use of skill points. And equipment, weapons and all gang members can be upgraded through the use of collected materials and cold hard cash. The Assassin's Creed games have always had some form of levelling system throughout the generations, but the one in Syndicated seems more role-playing game like than ever before.


Another new element added to the game is the ability to drive carriages and that can definitely help traverse the enormous map of Victorian London more quickly. Getting from one mission point to another using just the rooftops can seem overly long and more like admin, so another, speedier travel option is most welcome.

There are also spectacular carriage chases along the way, so they are not just there for show.

Neither is London itself. It looks, quite simply, stunning. The landmarks we all know and love are not only rendered beautifully but there's plenty of occasion to interact with them too (climbing what is now known as The Elizabeth Tower, but more often referred to as Big Ben is a particular treat). And looking out over the city after reaching a high vantage point is perhaps the best it's ever been in the series.

Certainly, we can't think of a better setting than 1800s London for this year's outing.


First Impressions

Even though we only played for around three hours in a game that will clearly take 40 or more to complete (with side-missions), we can honestly say that the signs so far are good.

The storyline and characterisations are enough of a departure from former games to keep interest levels high. And we're thrilled that our previous worry that the lead cast would end up sounding like a barbecue around Danny Dyer's house seems to be unfounded. The main actors have an excellent grip on London accents without sounding like Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins.

Part of that is thanks to the employ of genuine historians during the script writing and making of the game, who also not only ensured the words coming out of the cast's mouths were apt for the era, but also that they were furnished with plenty of Victorian swear words.

We're big fans of the Assassin's Creed series and were concerned after Unity turned out to be a step too far away from the core values. From what we've seen so far, Syndicate is on far safer and more familiar ground.