Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Also available on: PlayStation 3, PC, Xbox 360, Wii
Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag is the latest entry in the illustrious Assassin’s Creed series and brings a pirate themed adventure to the table while still delving into the order of Assassins. The series’ last entry, Assassin’s Creed 3, wasn’t too well received due to a bland protagonist and tons of glitches. However I can safely say that Black Flag is an improvement over its predecessor.
The story follows Edward Kenway, a man who dreams of becoming wealthy and returning to England as a more respectable man. While on his quest however, Edward gets tangled up in a Templar conspiracy within the British, French and Spanish Empires. He then decides to get involved in the war between the Assassins and the Templars. In the present day, players will take control of a new Abstergo employee who gets caught in the middle of some corporate espionage while discovering some of Abstergo’s dirty secrets.
The stories work well in both scenarios as being a pirate-assassin is pretty awesome and the story picks up pretty quickly. The modern day story was actually quite fascinating to play through and players could find some hints that point to the future of the series. Thankfully, Ubisoft also learnt from its mistakes with its predecessor, where the story started really slowly. Black Flag wastes no time in throwing you into the action, a welcome change. The story also isn’t so deathly serious like it was in the previous game; Black Flag wants players to have fun.
A lot of the fun during Edward’s era comes from the player actually creating some of their own adventures while sailing around the Caribbean with the crew of the Jackdaw, Edward’s ship.
Gameplay is very similar to that of the its predecessor, Assassin’s Creed 3. Edward can do parkour very much like Connor could as Black Flag uses the same mechanics that AC3 did, minus the large number of glitches. Combat is as fluid as ever and quite enjoyable when players start chaining attacks together. Stealth also seems to play a bigger role this time around, especially when players have to rob plantation owners of valuable trade items such as rum and sugar. This is also helped along by the ability to sabotage the alarm bells before continuing the hunt for the key to the plantation storage room. Eavesdropping on conversations is also back and offers some stealth sections which can be a little tricky at times. As much as I enjoy this mechanic, a lot of the time the conversations ran on for a little too long and just felt tedious. The rest of the game is a lot of fun though and the mission type is more varied than before. Rooftop chases, naval battles, recon and assassinations are some of the mission types that players will encounter.
Black Flag also takes a few pages out of the book of Far Cry 3 where hunting and crafting are concerned. As opposed to AC3, where players hunted for special missions or for challenges, Black Flag gives players a reason to go out hunting. Similar to Far Cry 3, hunting and skinning animals rewards the player with a pelt or skin and a bone from the animal. Items can then be crafted from these resources such as larger pistol ammo pouches, weapon holsters and health upgrades. Certain rare animals will yield pelts for crafting special outfits. Another form of hunting is whaling; players are able to hunt dangerous aquatic creatures such as sharks and killer whales. Getting into a tiny boat with a few spears as protection while hunting a deadly creature is quite fun and can end in disaster if players aren’t quick and accurate enough.
Since Black Flag is a pirate themed adventure, it just wouldn’t be right if the game didn’t have some naval gameplay; well, a lot. The gameplay has changed a bit since AC3 but nothing too major. Firstly, it isn’t restricted to just missions; Edward’s ship, the Jackdaw is the key to exploration in the game. Players are able to hop onto the ship, take the helm and go wherever their hearts desire. The map is huge and is simply waiting to be explored; islands and ports are littered with secrets, missions and collectables. The story also won’t hold players back; once the Jackdaw is available, everything is fair game.
The game also gives players options when it comes to naval battles. Disabling a ship and boarding it is going to offer a lot more risk but the reward is even greater than just sinking the ship, which yields only half the onboard items. Boarding rewards players with all the onboard resources but also gives players the option to salvage what’s left and use it to repair, the Jackdaw, lower the wanted level by welcoming the crew onboard your ship or later sending the ship to part of Edward’s Fleet, a mini-game very similar to the missions on which Ezio would send his Assassins. The only real differences are that the ships trade resources as opposed to killing off Templars and sending ships to scuttle enemies along a trade route can make the route less dangerous to sail.
Players also don’t have to just rush into a fight without knowing the risk. While sailing, Edward can whip out his spyglass and see the level of a ship, the type, the empire it belongs to and all the items onboard. It saves players from getting flattened by an enemy ship but not knowing why it happened. Also, since naval gameplay is such a big part of the game, upgrades become very important to surviving battles with multiple ships at a time.
I loved the gameplay of the game on both land and sea. It gives the player the freedom to explore a beautiful world and engage in a wide array of activities. The new crafting system motivates players to hunt the various forms of wildlife found throughout the Caribbean. The only gameplay issue that I had were the rare occurrences where Edward would end up hiding at a corner when I wanted him to run up a wall or how the crew members would actually get in the way when trying to overpower the crew on a boarded ship. Thankfully they don’t ruin the experience when comparing it to the rest of the game.
Multiplayer makes a return bringing back the same cat and mouse sort of gameplay which can be played in a free-for-all manner or as a team in Wolfpack. It can be a lot of fun when people play by the rules and don’t run around like headless chickens but this is somewhat of a rare occurrence. However, the times that the game is played the right way is when players will expect some tense moments that could make their palms sweat. However, aside from the new characters that players can use, there aren’t any real improvements to the gameplay or to the amount of modes on offer.
Black Flag looks absolutely gorgeous. Character models, the environment and animals; they all look great. Animations have been done rather well for both animals and humans. The beauty of the environment will make players want to go exploring every corner of the map. Another bonus is that there are hardly any loading screens aside from when the game is loaded up, if a player dies in combat or fails a mission. Weather also changes at the drop of a hat, forcing the player to act fast if they’re at the helm of the Jackdaw; this looks amazing, especially when a hurricane manifests during a storm. The vast expanse can be traversed without having to endure loading. I did experience a few graphical glitches here and there but thankfully there was nothing game-breaking. The game looks amazing on the PS4 system, taking advantage of the hardware to create an even prettier version of the game. Water looks a lot more realistic and the way it behaves in the world is also quite impressive. When sailing into a wave, water will run over the deck of the Jackdaw in sheets and heavy rain hits the ground, drenching the soil. Even bushes sway as the wind dances around their leaves. It’s quite the visual experience.
Audio is pretty much up there with the visuals. Voice acting has been well done, sound effects are realistic and the soundtrack has been composed well, fitting well with this entry in the series. It also sounds really good when you hit the winds and that sound of air rushing past your ears can be heard; it’s pretty realistic. I did encounter some glitches where the audio would drop and then just pop in again. It does pull the player out of being immersed in the game when it does happen unfortunately.
Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag is an awesome game. It features a story that focuses on the life of a pirate/assassin that works rather well. The combination adds some fun to a good story isn’t too serious. Gameplay is very similar to that of its predecessor but works really well when both on land on the ocean.
Multiplayer is nigh identical to the component featured in the previous game, save for a few characters. It can still be enjoyable for a little while but lacks innovation and will lose the interest of players after a few matches. The game is beautiful pretty much all of the time and has definitely been upgraded for the PS4. The audio is just as good but both still run into a few issues; thankfully it doesn’t kill the experience for the player. It’s an interesting addition to the serious and is very enjoyable to play through. If you want a good pirate themed game put in a blender with some secret societies, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag is for you.