Assassin’s Creed Syndicate – impressions


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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.

acsyndicateevieThis 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

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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.

Recommended.

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The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec


Viewed – 17 August 2013  Blu-ray

At one time Luc Besson was regarded as one of the coolest directors around and for me at least crafted one of the finest thrillers ever made, Leon.  Although he continued with various moderate hits (most notably The Fifth Element) he soon disappeared, preferring to put his talents to writing and producing other people’s movies (Taken, The Transporter), as if still wishing to keep his name out there but rarely committing himself to directing again … until now.

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This French take on Indiana Jones and based itself on a series of graphic novels stars the rather gorgeous Louise Bourgoin as a popular writer and globe trotting adventurer in early 20th century France who is seeking a cure for her twin sister’s illness.  She travels to Egypt to unearth a pharaoh’s tomb, whilst in Paris an ageing scientist unwittingly resurrects a prehistoric pterodactyl, causing mayhem on the Parisian streets.  This is a fun and energetic movie with decent production values that show off the Paris locations beautifully, and with a wealth of oddball characters this was rarely dull.  Yet some of the French humor is fairly hit and miss, relying a bit too much on corny dialogue and slapstick, whilst a villain introduced early on just kind of gets forgotten about.

On a plus, Besson’s direction is slick and eye-catching, even if the cool action he is known for takes a back seat to knockabout farce.  Moments like a group of dead-pan mummies and an atmospheric tomb raiding stand out, but overall this just felt a bit too Saturday matinee light with a narrative that seems to jump all over the place.  CGI is pretty good however for a foreign production and with a great score by frequent Besson collaborator Eric Serra, I was still entertained.

So not a bad effort for a French adventure movie, but for a Besson comeback … this really needed to wow, but failed.

Verdict:  3 /5

A Monster In Paris


Viewed – 01 September 2012  Blu-ray

I’ve not been that aware of animated movies originating from France.  Although I had heard some good stuff about them, this is my first dip in the French animation waters – and I must say I have come away pleasantly surprised.  Set in Paris in 1910, a trio of characters; a love-lorn theatre projectionist, a weeling-dealing inventor and a feisty cabaret singer are flung together when an accident at a laboratory transforms a flea into a giant monster.  However, when the cabaret singer discovers there’s more to the creature than people believe, a friendship blossoms.

Directed by Bibo Bergeron (Shark Tale), this is a bizarre story to say the least, but is done with panache and quite beautiful animation, showing off a european art style that sets it apart from the likes of Pixar.  The main protagonists are well written and interesting, and the monster bares more than a passing resemblance to The Phantom Of The Opera, which I’m guessing was a big influence.  For an animated movie there are a few musical numbers that really got my foot tapping, and with French model / singer Vanessa Paradis (Depp’s ex) supplying her voice to the cabaret singer – this was a fun, if undemanding experience.

Granted, the villain is utterly contrived, the story takes a bit of time to get going and it all seems to end about three times … but the action, comedy, music and visuals all came together well, which makes this one to check out regardless.

Verdict:  3 /5

Midnight In Paris


Viewed – 24 March 2012  DVD

It’s been a long time since I have sat down to watch a movie by directing legend Woody Allen.  I’m not sure why but my love of his brand of whimsical, angst-ridden relationship comedies, has waned over the years, and have found myself less and less interested in his output, which continues to be one of the most prolific outputs of any director currently working.  Yet post-Oscar season, this latest effort sparked my interest.

Owen Wilson plays a screenwriter who takes a holiday in Paris to work on his novel with fiance Rachel McAdams and her upper-class friends.  Yet he finds their company disenchanting, and although adoring Paris and its inspirational mystique, finds himself taking solitary midnight walks to gather his thoughts.  That’s when he is transported back into the 1920’s and starts mingling with the famous names of the era, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Pacasso and Salvador Dali etc.   This is a great concept and a perfect fit for Woody Allen’s often over-used nervy navel gazing lead characters and relationship woes.  The Paris locales are shot beautifully, clearly offering a love letter to the city like he did with New York in his classic Manhattan, and the writing is as sharp as he’s ever been.  Owen as expected is playing the ‘Woody Allen’ role but it works wonderfully for one of the most likable Hollywood stars around, and the various actors playing the famous faces, deliver perfectly fascinating caricatures.  McAdams is gorgeous, but doesn’t offer up anything various pretty actresses couldn’t have done just as well.  Inception’s Marion Cotillard instead delivers a far more enjoyable performance, exuding French sexiness and mystery.  Also for an Allen movie the comedy is played a touch too gentle and charming for my taste.

As a long time fan however, I feel so glad to be back in the director’s company, and although I’m sure he could have delivered just as good a movie if he had starred himself, his casting and choice of location won me over, leaving me with a really nice feeling as the credits rolled.

Verdict:  4 /5