Cab­bies hate this weird trick

Come out of St Pan­cras, turn right, take the first left, head straight down, and you’ll be at Pic­cadilly Cir­cus in sec­onds. Wait, what? As­sas­sin’s Creed’s trip to Ye Olde Lon­don has long been ru­moured, and the idea has al­ways been ap­peal­ing. We didn’t exp

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When Ubisoft stitched to­gether As­sas­sin’s Creed II’s Floren­tine land­marks in its own way, we were none the wiser. To the tourist, a city is a col­lec­tion of land­marks, their sur­round­ings ir­rel­e­vant on a whis­tle-stop tour of the most fa­mous sights. In games, geography is a mat­ter not of ac­cu­racy, but at­mos­phere, some­thing As­sas­sin’s Creed Syn­di­cate (p112), de­spite its prob­lems, has in spades. So too does Yakuza 5 (p114), which fi­nally comes west this month and is, on first in­spec­tion, worlds apart from As­sas­sin’s Creed Syn­di­cate. It’s the lat­est game in a se­ries that’s a rel­a­tive un­known in the west, ar­riv­ing three years late on a now-un­pop­u­lar con­sole. It is, to put it po­litely, rough around the edges, cer­tainly when put next to a big-bud­get Ubisoft project. Yet it, too, is steeped in the at­mos­phere of its set­ting.

The cynic might rea­son­ably con­tend that this is a sim­ple mat­ter of logic: a game is al­ways go­ing to feel more true to its real-world set­ting if it’s made by peo­ple who ac­tu­ally live and work there. But Yakuza’s great­est as­set is sta­bil­ity. Be­cause it’s rooted in a sin­gle set­ting – the fic­tional Tokyo red light dis­trict of Ka­muro­cho – we’ve come to know it like we know the route to Pic­cadilly Cir­cus, and ev­ery new release feels like go­ing home. Any Tokyo cab­bies read­ing this will dis­agree, of course, but it’s all a mat­ter of per­spec­tive. Per­haps they’d like to take a trip to Vic­to­rian Lon­don.

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