Ubisoft faces backlash over “tone-deaf” Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad trailer

Theo Salaun
ubisoft umbra

Ubisoft is, once again, at the center of social justice controversy as the gaming company’s latest mobile game, Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad, has drawn the ire of social media following imagery and messaging shown in its intro video and trailer.

There is a fine line between video games providing a break from the real world and actually tackling some of its issues virtually. Ubisoft is no stranger to that line, but has once again seemingly toed the wrong side of it as social media is reacting very strongly to raised fist imagery being coupled with the bad guys in Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad. This controversy has become mightily amplified.

The new game’s intro explains that you, the player, are expected to help thwart a violent, evil movement spurred by a sinister “UMBRA” group that is capitalizing on a gullible base of civil unrest to create a “new world order.” 

Using terrorism and social media to turn the protesting masses into willing co-conspirators, UMBRA desires to “discredit world leaders” in a “campaign of chaos.” Already a touchy subject that would need to be approached with much nuance and care given the current sociopolitical climate, Ubisoft painted this picture a little too boldly by using the raised fist as UMBRA’s logo — a direct parallel to the imagery used by the Black Lives Matter movement.

In response to the upsurge of backlash, Ubisoft has attempted to make amends by removing raised fist from its intro sequence. As they explained, it “was insensitive and harmful in both its inclusion and how it was portrayed.” 

But that hasn’t been enough for critics, who maintain that removing the imagery doesn’t fix the underlying tones of the game. By equating UMBRA with a protest movement and asking the player to eliminate them, people believe Ubisoft has legitimized anti-BLM rhetoric and created a virtual playground for those sentiments to be embraced upon. Further, the game’s writers have joined in disapproval of the imagery associated with their writing.

As of yet, Ubisoft has not clarified exactly how it expects the game’s narrative to be received once it is fleshed out at a deeper level than the intro sequence. It would feel entirely possible for this reflection of the real world to provide an interesting, nuanced storyline, but it appears that all confidence has been lost in the title following the brunt imagery of its intro sequence.

For now, all we know is that the raised fist imagery is being removed. Although likely a positive step, the rest of the game now faces an uphill battle as overwhelming consensus finds the new title’s themes to have been poorly articulated.