So it is a breath of fresh this year to see that main character Evie Frye provides a thoughtful foil to brother Jacob's punch-first approach. In a brilliantly savvy PR move, the publicists appear to have sent Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency fame a copy. (You can tell she got it early as as she published her review at the time the review embargo broke). She gave the game a broad stamp of approval for meeting some of the depressingly low expectations she has for modern games: Evie was not unnecessarily sexualised, her costume was combat-appropriate and her character was well rounded and integral to the plot. The game has also done away with the ability for players to disguise themselves by hiding in a crowd of sex workers.
This isn't a coincidence – Ubisoft's PR people are pushing the feminist angle quite heavily, as evidenced by emails sent to journalists offering interviews with Victoria Atkin, who voices Evie. They play up the fact she is "one of the first female leading roles for any video game".
Getting this right is not just good for gaming culture in general; it also makes sense from a cynical, commercial point of view. Getting the Sarkeesian stamp of approval is smart marketing, as it will help position the game away from the feminist criticism which Unity received. It could also pay off commercially if Evie Frye can join Mass Effect's Commander Shepard as a positive female character who we can rally around.
I did approach Ubisoft's representatives to ask if these improvements to the game are a direct result of feedback from last year's disaster, but sadly no one was able to get back to me. But to me it really does seem as though this was the case. Ultimately, whether by coincidence or design, Ubisoft has made a remarkable recovery. If Assassin's Creed: Syndicate is a multi-million dollar apology… then as far as I'm concerned, apology accepted.
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