It’s taken me a few entries in this popular franchise to really appreciate what it does. The only Assassin’s Creed game I ever completed was the last, somewhat controversial entry ‘Unity’ set in Paris which I’ll admit was the soul reason I gave it a go. I loved it however and unlike other entries, it held my interest.
This latest game is set in the very appealing setting of Victorian London and was initially to be called AC: Victory (although not a great title I’ll say). You play as twin brother and sister assassins Jacob & Evie Fry who are out to track down the Templars and in Evie’s case find the legendary pieces of Eden. Now it has to be said I never play these games for the story as they are convoluted and lacking in focus at the best of times (I still don’t really know what was going on in Unity). But what I do play it for is the detailed, highly atmospheric setting and the industry defining climbing and exploring and the excellent stealth mechanics. This game is no different and seems to have further developed both the parkour / free running and the stealth to make the game a real joy to play. The addition of a grappling hook is also very welcome and makes ascending tall structures a breeze. Graphically it is also a stunner – very detailed, tons going on on the cobbled streets, a welcome addition of a day-to-night cycle sorely missing from the previous games and decent weather / rain / particle and lighting effects throughout. It also helps that London has been realised fantastically with several large districts full of things to do and find. I was puzzled at the absence of Tower Bridge or The Tower of London, but I am only a little way into the game so maybe these areas open up later?
Screenshots taken directly from my PS4
The fact its very easy to get spotted by the wealth of gang members around the city gets annoying quickly and their cut & paste repeated appearances seems rather lazy. I think I’ve killed the exact same thugs now dozens of times and they tend to yell and complain with the same lines of dialogue also. The game isn’t without it’s bugs either as it has frozen on me during loading and had the odd cut-scene with missing / invisible characters in it (!). However with the usual implementation of key historical figures such as Charles Dickens and in forthcoming DLC, Jack the Ripper – this is a setting that is instantly attractive and intriguing. I love exploring the city and with two characters to play with, upgrading their abilities and swapping between the two for a slightly different feel to the game is a great idea. I hope to see this through to the end, and with very little on my gaming horizon until next year I’m sure I will.
Few director’s have the encyclopaedic knowledge of cinema that Martin Scorsese does. He’s a living and breathing movie historian, and the perfect choice to direct the adaptation of a children’s book that pays homage to the godfather of cinema, Georges Méliès .. a man who pioneered a wealth of camera techniques and special effects, delivering over 500 movies that pushed the definition of what was possible on film. The story here follows a young orphan boy named Hugo (Asa Butterfield), who following the death of his father (Jude Law), is given the responsibility of looking after all the clocks in a grand Parisian train station. Yet when his father leaves him a mechanical automaton, a quest to discover the secret of the device leads to a magnificent discovery.
This is a beautifully told, gently-paced fantasy, in the grand style of Charles Dickens and Frank Capra, with a cast of quality actors and keen attention to detail from the brilliant Martin Scorsese. Here he has created a fine example of the family adventure tale, somewhat a departure for a man better known for his violent gangster movies – but nails it with the panache and expertise you would expect from one of the best in the business. Supporting cast all add a great deal to proceedings, especially the increasingly charming Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass) and also a diverting, stand-out turn from Sasha Baron Cohen as a bumbling station guard. A special mention must also go to Ben Kingsley, excellently conflicted as Georges Méliès, bringing real class to the whole story. The young actor playing Hugo is good also, with his wide-eyed innocence capturing the feel of characters like Oliver Twist, which I’m guessing was the point. It is also probably one of the best looking movies I have ever seen, with the Paris-set location and a wealth of stunning effects shots all creating a magical atmosphere. My only real gripe is that the movie does drag its heals a bit in places, and it seems to conclude about three times – but these are very small things.
Overall though this is Scorsese breaking free of his more gritty, crime thriller routs and proving himself a master film maker, whatever the subject. Ironic when you consider this is about the rediscovery of a master film maker. A classic example of a director perfectly matched with material, and the kind of movie that reminds you why you love cinema. Essential.
I have always had a love of Charles Dickens’ timeless story, of fabled misery guts Ebenezer Scrooge getting a severe wake up call on Christmas Eve by the visit of three spirits. So naturally I jumped at this big budget, animated adaptation, starring Jim Carey and directed by Robert Zemeckis.
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