Taking control of a Templar gives a fresh impetus to proceedings

Continuing along the seafaring course that made last year's Black Flag so appealing, Assassins Creed Rogue sets sail for the colder climates of the North Atlantic. This time our hero is Shay Cormac, an Assassin-turned-Templar living in a world full of conflict as the Seven Years' War rages for control of the colonies.

The inclusion of Alabama and Quebec allow some interesting geographical diversions but perhaps the major disappointment of this year's model is the return of ACIII's New York City - repeating locations feels a little underwhelming when one of the series' main attractions has been the fresh exploration of far-flung times and places. However, this re-use of assets is partly mitigated by welcome returns for some of the series' best-loved bit-part players, chiefly Adewale and Achilles from the previous two installments.

Taking control of a Templar also gives a fresh impetus to proceedings. Turning the established side missions on their head, assassination contracts now become assassin interruptions, where the aim is to prevent a target being taken down by the other side. Refining the side-activities further by nixing the rather enjoyable diving bell side missions, Rogue does introduce several new mechanics to proceedings, most notably the air rifle which allows you to dispatch enemies with a variety of ammunition types. When afloat, there are now oil slicks to unleash that ignite satisfyingly, engulfing enemy ships in flames.


New vessel Morrigan is slimmer than the Jackdaw and more manoeuvrable, allowing players passage down the Hudson River Valley as well as more effective evasion when fighting at sea. It is also more vulnerable when under heavy fire - now enemies can try to board your ship as well as vice versa, raising the stakes considerably when engaged in close-fought nautical encounters.

Your guns are also put to good use outside of naval battles, now capable of breaking down icebergs in particularly chilly locations when used in conjunction with the upgradeable ice ram. Unlike the sunnier climbs of Black Flag, the freezing seas now inflict damage upon players, so the cold depths are only to be swum in times of desperation.

There's still a suspicion that perhaps the seafaring sections could have formed the basis for a separate game away from the core franchise - a feeling compounded by news of the total abandonment of the open seas for Unity, the first purpose-built next generation Assassin's Creed title. As with Black Flag, it often feels slightly dispiriting to clamber back onto dry land and partake in the usual trailing, climbing and stabbing with ageing animations and a strong sense of déjà vu, when there's an ocean out there waiting to be explored.

However, it's undoubtedly a thrill to scale a snow-capped shipwreck with the Northern Lights glowing pleasantly behind Shay as you synchronise another viewpoint, and these special moments mean that for fans of the series, Rogue will still be an essential purchase. Those who aren't keen history students or be-hooded Assassin's Creed devotees may wish to skip straight to the French Revolution instead.

£49.99; Ubisoft; PS3, Xbox 360