Prior to Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate hitting store shelves and delivering the story of twins Jacob and Evie Frye, Ubisoft detailed the game’s Season Pass offerings and hinted at a murderous expansion featuring Jack the Ripper. Now, during the holiday season of all times, Jack’s fictionalized story has been infused into the series’ historically-focused storyline for all to enjoy. How it fares, though, will depend on personal preference and how much each individual enjoys the time tested and rather repetitive mechanics that Assassin’s Creed has become known for.
Existing as a standalone arc, Jack the Ripper’s DLC is launched from Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate‘s main menu, instead of through its core campaign. As such, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t beaten the main game. So long as you’ve completed the first memory sequence, you’ll be able to access the main menu (by quitting out) and launch this expansion. I know this from experience, because although I originally reviewed this sequel on PlayStation 4, I’ve decided to also play through it on Xbox One and went with that version for this review. I hadn’t started the campaign before downloading this mammoth, approximately 16 or 17GB update.
Jack the Ripper’s arc is set twenty years after the main game ends, and begins with a bang via a confrontation between the infamous killer and protagonist Jacob Frye. Things then switch to an age-weathered version of Evie, who acts as the main playable character throughout what is a rather sizeable, several hour-long add-on. However, as one would hope, Jack himself is playable at specific intervals, as players get to experience the world from the eyes of both the good guys and the bad guy, the latter of whom loves to torment his pursuers.
The story, itself, is decent, but it lacks depth and doesn’t expand upon its revealed motives enough. Detailing much of it would also force me to venture into spoiler territory, as this is a tricky experience to summarize without ruining things. The general gist, though, is that the Frye twins once knew Jack before he became the deranged Ripper and started murdering local prostitutes in the city of London. He happens to also have a vengeful vendetta against them, and wants to ruin their lives.
Things are told throughout one memory sequence, which contains around nine or ten individual missions, each of which focuses on Jack’s motives and Evie’s pursuit of both him and answers. You see, she learns that Jacob is missing and discovers that his disappearance has something to do with Jack’s murderous rampage and the bodies that are piling up on the streets, and, in one case, a blood-soaked bed.
For the most part, things are as you’d expect in terms of gameplay. Evie is fully levelled-up, but has a few new abilities available for unlocking, and also carries her familiar arsenal of bullets, grenades and blades. They’re expanded this time around by one simple factor, that being fear, which Jack thrives on. This is accomplished by giving both Evie and Jack fear grenades that can send enemies running, and allowing them to pull off more vicious assassinations called brutal assassinations. All the while, an orange cloud surrounds the characters.
On paper, the fear mechanic sounds genius, but its implementation left me wanting. I say that because, while some of the new assassination animations are both brutal and satisfying, there’s not enough to the brutal assassination mechanic to keep it from becoming repetitive. On the other hand, the fear grenades — which work on grunts, and cause immune brutes to try to calm their allies down — were hit and miss. I hardly felt as if I was really scaring my enemies or doing something satisfying to them, because they’d just run around for a second and then start attacking me again. If I threw two, they’d sometimes go running in the opposite direction, but that was about it. The mechanic is sold to you as something unique and interesting, where you can trick foes into killing each other, but the only time that happened was when one ran past a gun-toting pal and got himself shot out of a case of mistaken identity.
Thankfully, the core gameplay remains solid and this add-on is robust enough to keep a mechanical disappointment like that from sinking it. Truth be told, there’s quite a bit to like about Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate‘s Jack the Ripper expansion, including its depth and length. On top of that, Jack plays a bit differently than his pursuers, employing a much faster attack rate and showing no mercy whatsoever. As such, it’s clear that this wasn’t developed as a mere afterthought or cash grab.
I used the word depth purposefully, because there’s more to this mini-campaign than its story missions. In fact, there’s a wealth of collectibles to discover, alongside quite a few different side activities to engage in. The list includes discovering the origins of fraudulent Jack letters, freeing prostitutes from captivity and shutting down fight clubs by pummelling their members. It will take you a good amount of time to 100% everything as a result.
At the end of the day, though, this truly is a lot more of the same. The gameplay remains very similar to what you’ll find in the core Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate campaign, which means that there’s lots of stealth, climbing, assassinations and Arkham-inspired combat, as well as some crime scene exploration where Evie must — through little effort — piece together clues using eagle vision. On top of that, Evie’s new model is somewhat hard to believe, because although only twenty years have passed since the end of the base game and the start of this add-on, it looks like she’s aged forty. Her skin is leathery, and she looks like she’s in her late fifties or early sixties instead of her forties.
If you’re someone who loves the Assassin’s Creed games, then Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate‘s Jack the Ripper expansion is a no-brainer. It’s deep, well-made and generally interesting, and introduces a couple of new mechanics along the way. However, it is not revolutionary, nor is it absolutely amazing, so if you’re a gamer who’s tired of the series then you’ll likely feel the same way about its latest downloadable content. Like I said in the opening, it all comes down to personal preference.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.