Tag Archive: Ubisoft Quebec


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Slice and dice

Assassin’s Creed’s story-driven DLC packs have always tried to offer something different from their main story counterparts. From spiritual animal visions to freeing slaves, these post-release expansions have pushed the boundaries of what we expect from the series—especially gameplay-wise. In many ways, the newest addition to this lineage, the Jack the Ripper DLC for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, continues this trend.

Set in the fall of 1888—20 years after Syndicate and during the height of the Jack the Ripper murders—master assassin Jacob Frye has a dark secret that he’s hiding: he knows who the Ripper is. Jacob hopes to catch the madman before the police in an effort to rehabilitate Jack, but then suddenly ends up missing. A month later, Jacob’s twin sister Evie is forced to leave her home in India and return to London, in the hopes of finding her brother and putting a stop to Jack’s rampage permanently.

The most intriguing aspect of the Jack the Ripper DLC is that it tackles a subject with so many questions surrounding it. Considered the world’s first serial killer, Jack the Ripper was never caught nor his true identity revealed. Therefore, one might think it would give Ubisoft a wide berth in terms of how to work their narrative into this unsolved mystery. Unfortunately, it seemed to do the exact opposite.

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Part of the fun that stems from Assassin’s Creed is how the story finds ways to seep into the nooks and crannies of history, spinning well-defined, real-life events in a way that fits their conspiracy theory driven plot. Ubisoft took a great risk crafting their own tale to explain where Jack came from, how his methods evolved, and finally why his murder spree stopped. But because so little is known about the real-life Jack, the development of the character felt stifled, as there weren’t many ways to add depth to such a primal, one note villain to begin with without knowing something concrete about the man. Maybe part of this stems from the brevity of the DLC; a side expansion simply wasn’t enough to both introduce Jack and also turn him into a nemesis we could love to hate. Of course, the DLC alludes to Jacob and Evie having met Jack during the events of the main game, and yet there is no connecting between the two, unlike previous Assassin’s Creed DLCs. No matter the case, the result was a story that left me unsatisfied, even with its definitive ending.

Gameplay, on the other hand, added some surprising new wrinkles to the series—the foremost of which was actually playing as Jack the Ripper in several instances. Symbolic of the cat and mouse game Jack played with the actual police 125 years ago, the DLC sees Jack do the same with Evie, and there are several sequences where players can act out the brutality of Jack the Ripper as he leaves a trail of clues for our heroine. While these moments could’ve been used to better show Jack’s motivations—we see what he does, but never really get a clear sense as to why—they did offer a unique sense of freedom to how you would normally play an Assassin’s Creed game, now given the chance to step into the shoes of the villain as well as the hero.

Playing as Jack also introduced two new mechanics to the game (which then become available to Evie in non-lethal adaptations). The primary addition is a fear factor that allows you to instill terror in your enemies, so much so that they’ll run away instead of facing you. Building off of this is an supplement to melee combat called the Brutal Takedown, which—when pulled off successfully—can add to your ominous presence.

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The idea of using fear as a weapon is something that I didn’t realize had been lacking from Assassin’s Creed until now. Being able to double assassinate a couple of thugs, then do a Brutal Takedown on another that scares away a half-dozen other guards, is the most empowering tool in your repertoire yet. It also makes a lot of sense. If you were a lowly guard patrolling a manor, and just saw your buddy’s throat ripped out, would you stay and fight, or turn and run the other way? Of course, as you might expect, some enemies do stay and fight, but others quickly beat a hasty retreat. It also allows for more enemies per conflict, as you’re now not expecting to fight all of them. You can—and you can win—but it wouldn’t be very efficient nor Assassin-like.

The major issue with the fear system, however, is that it’s not limited to just Brutal Takedowns. Evie and Jack both carry tools such as fear grenades and spikes. While Evie uses her spikes to pin enemies to the ground, so that their screams inspire terror in fellow thugs, Jack impales them as grim examples of the carnage to come. Meanwhile, fear grenades allow you to strike terror from behind cover without being seen. While great for clearing an area, they also felt overpowered, as a fully-stocked assassin never even has to unsheathe their blade, as they simply had to chuck a couple of grenades into the crowd.

These new elements come courtesy of a foundation built on the main game of Syndicate, though. Jack the Ripper takes place entirely in the two most northern districts of the main game’s map—Whitechapel and City of London—which unfortunately gives you a much smaller piece of land to cover, expediting much of the experience. Thanksfully, there are some new side missions to complete from associates both new and old, and three new Black Box missions to partake in. All told, though, Jack the Ripper might feel a tad repetitive for anyone who immersed themselves in the main game when it comes down to helping Evie track down Jack.

Although a little light on the content side, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate: Jack the Ripper is still a fun side excursion in the Assassin’s Creed universe. New mechanics and characters meshing with familiar ones from the main game make this DLC a fun experience overall—one that won’t disappoint most fans, all while filling in more gaps along the ever more convoluted timeline of Assassin’s Creed.

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Developer: Ubisoft Quebec • Publisher: Ubisoft • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 12.17.15
7.5
Striking fear into Evie’s enemies may be a bit overpowered, and Jack may not be the formidable bad guy we hoped he would be, but this DLC is still a fun adventure that serves as a nice excuse to return to Assassin’s Creed’s take on Victorian-Era London.
The Good New fear mechanic provides a fresh take on familiar gameplay…
The Bad …that is also overpowered and too heavily relied on.
The Ugly Jack the Ripper would make the easiest Dickens Fair cosplay.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate: Jack the Ripper is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Ubisoft for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

Hey there everyone. It’s been a long time, but I had a chance to get some extra footage of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate when I went to London, England, to preview the game. In this video, I played as Evie in Sequence 7 and took on the side mission “Stalk the Stalker”, where I help out train conductor Agnes with a problem. We see some rope launcher gameplay, some assassinations, some tailing, and even a quick look at Evie’s upgrade menu. Be sure to stay tuned as hopefully this is the start of me bringing this channel back to life. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate will be out on October 23 for Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

I had a chance to play a chunk of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate in a preview event in London several weeks ago and here is some of the footage from that gameplay time.

This particular video shows the first mission in Sequence 7 where Jacob Frye is in the middle of his manhunt for all of Templar Grandmaster Crawford Starrick’s lieutenants. While searching for a mysterious Templar codenamed “B”, Jacob uncovers the beginnings of a plot involving England’s Prime Minister.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate will be available for Xbox One, PS4, and PC on October 23rd.

We all know that Ubisoft has gone on record saying they wanted to get back to the roots of the Assassin’s Creed series with Syndicate. It’s why they removed multiplayer and co-op, turning their sole attention onto the single player experience. Until I was able to go hands-on with a couple of the game’s early sequences last week at a special London event, however, I wasn’t sure just what that would entail.

Well, it meant we’d get what could be some of the most memorable characters the series has yet to offer. New villain Crawford Starrick, the Templar Grandmaster who has wrapped an iron fist around 19th century London, made his power felt right from the get-go of our time with Syndicate. A cruel, ruthless man, Starrick takes no prisoners when it comes to making sure things are done his way, and has zero tolerance for the Assassin Brotherhood.

His early emergence in Syndicate was a welcome sight, as it gives the Frye twins a clear and ever-present goal throughout the narrative. Eliminate Starrick and save London; not since Rodrigo Borgia and Ezio have the battle lines between Templar and Assassin been so clearly drawn. Nor have they been so fun.

Getting to Starrick is, not surprisingly, going to be very difficult. Between him and our would-be Assassin heroes are Starrick’s seven lieutenants, each in charge of a key part of what keeps London ticking. High-rolling bankers, members of Parliament, even the city’s most prominent crime boss all get their marching orders from Starrick, and only by drawing them out and removing them first from their respective territories will you have a chance of luring out the Grandmaster himself.

To do this, you’ll have to perform a variety of both new and familiar side quests. As an added bonus, many of these missions take advantage of the new mechanics introduced courtesy of the time period. For example, one set of side quests requires you to kidnap key Templar targets and then transport them via stagecoach across London for interrogation. Others missions more recognizable to fans of the series will require you to tail a particular target and listen in for information, or remove a certain number of Templar thugs from an area before claiming it in the name of the Brotherhood. Thankfully, new devices like the rope launcher make it easier than ever to traverse across rooftops or line up air assassinations in large, open courtyards.

Not all the memorable characters have aligned themselves with the Templars, however. Some of history’s greatest faces from the Victorian era have thrown in with the Assassins—although not all knowingly. Famed author Charles Dickens is a man about town, is as well connected as they come, and the Frye twins will surely use his contacts to ascertain vital information. Inventor Alexander Graham Bell provides the Frye twins with some of their greatest weapons and gadgets, as well as a kind ear to bounce ideas off of. Not since Benjamin Franklin or Leonardo da Vinci have we had such a colorful confidant standing side-by-side with the Brotherhood. And then there’s Henry Green, the Indian Assassin mentor who guides Evie and Jacob throughout their adventure and knows just where, who, and when to strike the Templars to cause the most harm to their cause. There’s even some comedy relief from Agnes, the train conductor, who maintains the Assassin’s locomotive base of operations.

Yes, you did not misread. Much like Monteriggioni or Café Theatre, the Frye twins have their own base of operations. And in fitting Industrial Revolution fashion, it’s always moving. Through a series of fortunate events, the twins come to acquire an entire train, and enlist the aid of its conductor, Agnes. From there you can collect coin from parts of the city you’ve liberated from Templar control, receive new quests, keep track of upgrades, and more.

But, of course, the most important characters in the game are the ones you play as, and Evie and Jacob are as different as they are similar. Jacob’s brashness and Evie’s thoughtfulness provide some brilliant banter between the two, whether in the company of others or on their own, planning their next movie. Their ever-growing personalities will surely influence you when it comes time to take control of one or the other while exploring the open world Syndicate provides. The other aspect of this is that they both play very differently, each with their own set of upgrades, equipment, and special abilities that can be unlocked as they level up by exploring and freeing more of London from Templar control.

There is still one more character that I haven’t touched on yet, though, and that is London itself. From its iconic architecture like Big Ben and St. Paul’s Cathedral, to the small alley markets teeming with life, London gives off a personality unlike any city we’ve seen yet from Assassin’s Creed. Each neighborhood truly comes across as unique, with stark contrasts that you can see and feel. You’ll instantly be able to recognize when you’ve moved from the seedier parts of town like Devil’s Acre or Whitechapel to the more affluent avenues of high society in Westminster or Buckingham. Syndicate’s London may be the most impressive city Assassin’s Creed has recreated yet.

If getting back to the early days of Assassin’s Creed was the plan all along for Syndicate, then from the two sequences I played, it could well be on its way to doing that. The team at Ubisoft Quebec seem to be crafting a narrative and a setting that looks to suck players in right from the start, and lead them by the nose through one of the deepest adventures the series has provided yet. We’ll just have to wait for October to see if it can follow through and deliver on this lofty promise.

 

I had a chance to go hands-on with the Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Gamescom demo recently, which allowed us to play as Evie Frye for the first time. The demo tasked us with eliminating Templar Lucy Thorne who has critical info on the location of the Shroud of Turin—one of the Pieces of Eden—and a prize that Evie has been hunting for some time at this point.

The demo also re-introduces us to the Blackbox Assassination Missions from Assassin’s Creed Unity. Evie has several opportunities at her disposal to try to get close to Lucy and make the kill.

For the sake of time, several inconsequential cuts were made removing some of Evie traversing through the environment (climbing buildings, sliding down every zipline with the rope launcher, etc.).

To get my full impressions of what I thought of the demo, be sure to check out my written preview from earlier in the week.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate will be available for Xbox One, PS4, and PC on October 23.

To say that last year’s Assassin’s Creed Unity had issues when it launched would be an understatement. But for as many problems as it had, there were a few glimmers of good gameplay that the folks at Ubisoft Quebec have polished up and are re-implementing in their freshman effort, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Of these returning ideas, the most significant one might be the Blackbox assassination missions.

These open-ended efforts still task players with assassinating a high value Templar target and continue to offer up multiple paths to do so. You can take your time and use all of the extra distractions to your advantage for a cake-walk assassination, employ a few that better fit your fancy and your playstyle, or ignore them completely and charge head first into the fray, causing as much chaos as possible.

During my hands-on time with the Gamescom demo of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, I had a chance to play one of these missions and—for the first time—take control of Evie Frye, the more level-headed of the twins that serve as Syndicate’s protagonists. Evie interestingly plays far more differently from her brother, Jacob, than I ever would have expected. While she still has the trademark tools of an assassin of the era, she carries more throwing knives than her brother, sports a special “Voltaic Bomb” that acts as a type of stun grenade when it explodes into electrified shrapnel, and can utilize a unique “Chameleon Skill” that allows her to completely blend into her environment, even seemingly out in the open, when she remains perfectly still.

More throwing knives make sense, and I didn’t mind the Voltaic Bomb (even if it did seem to be a bit of a stretch for the era) but I worry about the Chameleon Skill being almost game-breaking. Unfortunately, the demo was brief enough that I didn’t really get to put the Chameleon Skill through its paces to know for sure. Still, considering how important fixed hiding points have been in the past in Assassin’s Creed games, I’m hesitant about what on-demand invisibility might do to the balance of the game’s stealth.

In regards to the mission itself, Evie had to infiltrate a castle to find her target and hopefully obtain more info on the Shroud of Turin, a Piece of Eden she was hunting while Jacob was building his gangland army. There were three possible paths before her. The first would have her try to steal the keys from one of the castle guards, which would allow her access through each and every door. A second route would see her free a captured constable, who would then call police reinforcements to cause a ruckus and result in the perfect distraction. The third—and my personal favorite—method was for Evie to befriend a castle guard and pretend to be captured, allowing her to walk right up to her target to deliver the killing blow.

No matter the method I tried (I sampled all three), I found myself relying on the rope launcher far more than even I had originally expected to, since it provides such quick access around environments. And since it seems no one ever looks up in an Assassin’s Creed game, I was able to launch Evie across wide open courtyards, from tower to tower, to almost always put myself in the best position possible to make my kill.

The only time I got into trouble was when I botched the assassination of a guard I needed to remove before I attempted the fake capture plot. Another guard that I’d failed to notice turned a corner and saw me just as I finished stabbed his cohort in the neck. Needing a quick escape, I naturally wanted to turn back to the rope launcher. In the heat of the moment, however, I found myself fumbling over the brief window of time it takes to line up shots with the gadget—although I would finally recover and make my getaway on foot.

Now, I hate comparing two unrelated games, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d been ruined by the simplicity of Batman’s grappling hook in the Arkham games. I was so used to just pressing a button and launching to the nearest perch, away from danger, that aiming to line up my escape felt foreign. I’m sure that once I’ve spent more time with Syndicate, I’ll be able to unlearn my habits and use the rope launcher as intended, but for the moment I feel like the manual aiming could wind up leaving it a clunkier imitator of a feature we’ve already seen.

Rope launcher quibbles aside, it felt great to jump back into an assassination mission like this. Evie has a flourish all her own that makes her truly stand apart from how her brother plays. Jacob’s clear emphasis on fisticuffs from when I played the E3 demo and Evie’s penchant for stealth here are so obviously defined that each player should have an easy decision when they choose who to play as in the open world. And considering you’ll get a taste of both when you follow the main story, I wouldn’t be surprised if at least a few gamers find whole new ways to play and enjoy an Assassin’s Creed game when Syndicate drops on October 23.

A new trailer for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate released at Gamescom shows Jacob and Evie’s motivations for fighting the Templars in Industrial Revolution London.

This new trailer explores the psyches of the Frye twins a bit more while also highlighting some of the iconic locations the dual protagonists will get to explore as the fight against the Templars plays out all over London.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate will be available on October 23 for Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

British actress Victoria Atkin reveals how she landed the role of Evie Frye in an interview she did with the LA Times at San Diego ComicCon.

Because Ubisoft always uses full performance capture and mocap suits, Victoria was expected to be able to show her physicality in her audition. It was the exact opposite, though, that seems to have won over the Ubisoft casting people.

“I’m a television and film actress predominantly, so the audition was kind of similar to that,” starts Atkin. “I did a tape from home, although there were instructions to run around the floor and do kicks and jumps and things like that, as well as the normal asides that you’d have for a character.

“The casting director told me that a lot of people followed these instructions and did everything. I looked at those instructions and kind of decided that I was just going to run in, do a kick and a jump, and then stop. So, I rebelled, which is not something that I’d normally do, but apparently the director and everybody loved it because it was the character of Evie from the very start.”

Being able to easily do a London accent sealed the deal and before Victoria knew it, she was off to Quebec to start recording lines.

You can see Victoria as Evie Frye in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate on October 23 for Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

For the first time in Assassin’s Creed history, the heroes of the story will use contemporary firearms when taking the fight to the Templars. Sure, guns have been in Assassin’s Creed for several games, but all those previous weapons were slow-loading, single-shot muskets or flintlocks. Now, six-shot revolvers allow new protagonists Jacob and Evie Frye the chance to remove multiple targets quickly from afar. The closest players have ever gotten to anything like this was when Edward Kenway would carry four single-shot pistols on his person, and that was after fishing and hunting all day in the Caribbean to earn the necessary holster upgrades.

Just because Jacob and Evie can use guns, though, doesn’t mean they should. I found during my demo of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate that while I was often strongly tempted to pull out the revolver, it best to use it only in dire situations. There is nothing stealthy about a gun. Using one to eliminate a target, no matter how high-ranking or difficult they may be, immediately draws the attention of dozens of enemy guards, police or rival gang members and turns a manageable situation into an unmanageable one.

This is why Jacob and Evie remain extremely well-equipped for removing their targets from the field with an up close and personal flair. The first, and likely most obvious, weapon is the legendary hidden blade of the Assassin Order. Stabbing people from haystacks, from behind corners or after leaping from a rooftop are still the best and often stealthiest ways to get a job done. With players once again being able to whistle to draw unsuspecting enemies to a blind corner, leap from moving vehicles such as carriages or drop from a zipline created by the new rope launcher, the hidden blade has never been more effective than in Syndicate.

But that’s far from the only tool you’ll be able to use. It’s easy to conceal the Kukri — a small, sharp, curved blade of Indian origin — within one’s coat pocket; it’s great for giving you a bit more reach when needed and for defending yourself against knife-wielding thugs. Brass knuckles are also a classic choice for when you don’t want to kill your enemy, whether it be for interrogation or to send a special message back to the Templars. Instead, you can put them down for the count more quickly and definitely more brutally, than with your fists. Finally, the Cane Sword may be the most devious trick in the Fryes’ book since its sharpened, curved end can hook into enemies, while the bottom detaches to reveal another lethal blade in its shaft.

So, while the change in times has provided a new context for many of Syndicate’s weapons, stealth is always your best option and sometimes old-school strategies trump new-school technology. After all, what kind of an assassin would you be if everyone heard you coming?

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is coming out on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC on Oct. 23.

One of the most thrilling things about an Assassin’s Creed release is seeing how the world builders behind the game not only re-create iconic landmarks from the cities and regions they choose, but do so in a way that feels accurate for the time frame. With London’s tremendous history and potential, I give you the top five places I want to see and explore in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate’s Victorian England.

Get more info on how to get your own copy of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate here: http://bit.ly/1AUbKEl


Tower of London

Easily one of the oldest structures in London, this near millennium-old castle sits on the northern bank of the River Thames, and has had numerous uses over the centuries. Originally used as a key fortification on one of the main bridges into the city, the Tower of London has also served as a residence for the royal family, a menagerie, and continues to this day to house the Crown Jewels. With all the stories of ghosts roaming the Tower’s halls, and with its diverse history, one can only imagine that Syndicate would take advantage of this landmark—using its interior as the setting for at least some side missions, with the outside providing some perfect synchronization points.

Buckingham Palace

A perfect tie-in to Syndicate, Buckingham Palace did not become the official home of Britain’s royal family until Queen Victoria in 1837—who was of course in her ruling prime around the events of the game. Originally just a townhouse for the Duke of Buckingham, the Palace was built in 1703, and has had numerous additions made over the following three centuries. Besides being the current residence of the royal family, Buckingham Palace is world renowned for its gardens, the largest private ones in all of London. I’m sure they’d make a wonderful approach to sneak through if need be.

Palace of Westminster

Located on the Middlesex bank of the River Thames, the Palace of Westminster—where the Houses of Parliament meet, and whose clock tower houses good old Big Ben—may be the most recognizable of London’s landmarks. While it also once served as a royal residence, it is best known now for where all of England’s most important government decisions are made. What’s most fascinating is that the time period Syndicate takes place in coincides with the Palace still in the process of being rebuilt after an 1834 fire. While close to completion at that point (repairs were officially deemed done in 1870), there is still the potential for Jacob and Evie to work their way through half-completed corridors and hidden rooms, all while Parliament is in session. Not to mention that clock tower would make one heck of a climb.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

We couldn’t be talking Assassin’s Creed landmarks if we didn’t list at least one church, and few are as special as St. Paul’s. Sitting atop Ludgate Hill, the cathedral is at the highest point of all of London, looking down from above on all the people. At 365 feet tall, it was the tallest building in all of London until 1962—meaning it should be your most challenging climb in Syndicate. It’s dome remains one of London’s most recognizable sights, due to its domination of the skyline for over three centuries now. Often the site of many special and celebratory occasions in English history, it’d be surprising if Jacob and Evie didn’t have to infiltrate this structure at least once.

Piccadilly Circus

No, it’s not a circus in the traditional sense. In the case of Piccadilly, circus means “circle”, as in a round open space at a street junction, like a town square. Its location in London has made it a tourist attraction in and of itself due to its proximity to the shopping and entertainment centers in London’s West End. It’s this ideal location that means Jacob and Evie will likely be running through Piccadilly more often than not, in order to get to key areas in the game. And, although London’s Underground was open by the time Syndicate starts, I’m going to have to disappoint people by mentioning that Piccadilly’s own Underground station wasn’t constructed until the turn of the 20th century—meaning there shouldn’t be official tube station entrances near here in the game.