When Ubisoft commissioned horror director Rob Zombie and Walking Dead artist Tony Moore to make a promotional short for Assassin’s Creed Unity, it must have known what to expect.
Blood. And lots of it. Released over the weekend and premiered at the San Diego Comic-Con, the four-minute video provides a historical backdrop to the forthcoming stealth sequel, which follows a secretive assassins’ guild during the French Revolution.
And by “historical backdrop” we actually mean “blood-splattered costume horror”.
The film shows the events leading up to the revolution: the ruinous wars, the aristocrats feasting while the poor starved, the formation of the National Assembly, and then the storming of the Bastile and lots and lots of beheadings. So many beheadings. The video ends with the execution of Maximilien Robespierre (beheaded, naturalment) as an assassin – probably the game’s lead protagonist, Arno Dorian – looks on from the rooftops; a moment that recalls the E3 trailer for the game.
No doubt commissioned specifically to appeal to the Comic-Con audience, the film has provoked some controversy this week. While the Assassin’s Creed games have been based amid a series of bloody historical conflicts, from the crusades to the American war of independence, it’s certainly not a horror series. Yet here we have multiple decapitations, eyes stabbed and faces shot off – all familiar fare to fans of Rob Zombie gore-slathered movies, House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects.
Ubisoft has said it wanted to bring to life, “the gory details, bloody battles and terrifying events of the revolution.” It has certainly done that. And the film is a more interesting promotional concept than the standard video game trailer (lots of suspiciously high resolution “in-game” footage, some explosions, a man with a deep voice telling you to pre-order).
There’s a decent little ‘making of’ documentary online too:
This is, of course, not the first promo to intentionally contrast with the game it is advertising. Microsoft’s famed Gears of War commercial set the third-person space blaster to Gary Jules’ lugubrious cover of Mad World, while the masterful trailer for Dead Island, made this witless horror romp look like the most heartbreaking narrative video game ever made.
Certainly, as more gamers block online ads, and watch on-demand TV only, the opportunities to reach them through traditional channels are narrowing. If it’s not viral these days, it’s not hitting Gen Z. And if there’s one thing the internet likes, it’s gory movies by cult directors and artists featuring heads flying all over the shop. That and kittens.
- Assassin’s Creed: Unity confirmed for PC, PS4 and Xbox One
- Shock and gore: why video games are failing at horror
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