Assassin's Creed Rogue Remastered Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Microsoft Xbox One
Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series has been a powerhouse in the gaming industry for a decade now, and despite its success, it’s also been somewhat of a Marmite series. This is partly due to the series’ yearly instalments doing very little to build on the core gameplay mechanics which were so fondly received in the early days of the Ezio trilogy. Assassin’s Creed Origins radically changed this tried-and-trusted formula late last year to critical acclaim, and while we loved Origins, it’s this new direction which makes the remaster of the forgotten Assassin’s Creed Rogue feel dated and somewhat bland in comparison, despite its impressive lick of paint.
Launched in 2014 to keep last-gen owners happy while Ubisoft focused on the ultimately flawed Unity, Assassin’s Creed Rogue is set in North America during the 18th century, and follows Shay Patrick Cormac, an Assassin-turned-Templar who becomes disillusioned with the Assassin Brotherhood following a catastrophic event. Shay subsequently turns to the Templars and sets out to hunt down those who he previously called brothers. Rogue’s twist on the Assassin’s Creed formula is the biggest highlight of the game, and Shay’s story is dark, intriguing and deeply personal, and in our opinion is still one of the best, if not the best in the series. If you’ve never played the original, the remaster is definitely worth picking up for the story alone, and we thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the story a second time.
Unfortunately, while Shay’s story is a gripping and thrilling ride, the remaster does very little to fix the original’s problems, which are now only exacerbated by the success of Origins. Whereas Origins completely reworked the floaty controls and gameplay mechanics that dogged the series beforehand, Rogue’s mechanics feel dated. During free running, Shay would often leap off of roofs and walls incorrectly, fail to grab ledges and generally fail to perform what we asked for. What’s more, despite introducing some new toys in the shape of a silenced sniper rifle and a high-powered grenade launcher, allowing you to pick off your targets with sleep, berserk and firecrackers from a distance, Rogue, much like the entries in the series beforehand, suffers from rather unconvincing stealth mechanics, which can make achieving 100% synchronisation a chore when it should be an enjoyable experience. There isn’t much point of swinging from tree to tree tracking a target when you can just hide in plain sight for the most part.
Nevertheless, despite the controls for Shay feeling dated, the naval combat is still as enjoyable as it was in Black Flag - Rogue certainly plays better on the seas than on land! Rogue introduces new naval gameplay mechanics such as new ship-based weapons like Puckle guns, and the ability for enemies to board your ship - the Morrigan - requiring you to defend your ship. What’s more, the arctic environment gives you the ability to shoot icebergs to cause damaging waves, giving you additional ways to take down your foes and board their ships. Boarding and plundering ships is still as enjoyable as it was in Black Flag, while sailing across the North Atlantic and River Valley is a tranquil, if somewhat lacklustre experience.
In addition to the North Atlantic and River Valley, you’re able to explore New York City, taking over forts, freeing prisoners of war, completing Assassin’s assignments, brawling in taverns, or gathering all of the collectables. Completing side missions, hunting wildlife and boarding ships allows you to gather materials needed to upgrade Shay and the Morrigan, but once you’re fully upgraded, the game offers little in the way of incentive to return, and the side missions, collectables and activities (there are hundreds) aren’t particularly exciting. The Naval Campaign minigame from Black Flag also returns in Rogue. Furthermore, while New York is enjoyable to explore, most of the caves, settlements and smaller towns are less than memorable and often look the same as the last, and this makes the world feel rather empty in comparison to the bustling lands and cities of Egypt in Origins.
It feels a little silly to compare Assassin's Creed Rogue Remastered to Origins in any way as it’s simply an update of the of the original, and it looks amazing in 4K; you could be forgiven for thinking this is a recent PS4 release and not a remaster of a PS3 title. The expansive North Atlantic looks gorgeous, while towns and cities benefit from denser crowds and up-scaled shadow rendering. What’s more, the enhanced environment rending means caves and lush forests really pop, although this lulls you into believing that most trees, rock faces and buildings are climbable like in Origins, which annoyingly, isn’t the case. Character models still leave a little to be desired, but overall Assassin’s Creed Rogue Remastered looks stunning in 4K on the PS4 Pro.
Despite an excellent paint job, Assassin’s Creed Rogue Remastered feels nothing more than a solid cut and paste job. The game boasts one of the best stories in the Creed series, and that alone is worth picking the game up for, but if you’ve played Origins, you’ll find that coming back to Rogue, even with its graphical improvements and excellent naval combat, feels a little dated. While Assassin’s Creed Rogue Remastered is a solid remaster and vital for those Creed fans who haven't played it before, it’s not likely to entice previous players, and we can’t help but feel that it maybe it should have been released before Origins to avoid the natural yet unfavourable comparisons.