What do you get when you take all the best parts in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, ditch all the pretentiousness that has plagued the franchise since its inception and inject some fun? Welcome to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black flag.
Assassin’s Creed has been one of the stalwart franchises of the last generation of consoles and has generated millions of loyal fans over the last 6 years . Including Black Flag, Ubisoft has created 6 main line titles for the PlayStation 3. After the incredible Assassin’s Creed II, Ubisoft started to lose focus and create games that had a convoluted storyline, a vast array of different mechanics and main characters that were just unlikable. For Assassin’s Creed IV they started from scratch and have created one of greatest open world adventure games on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. Black Flag is an epic adventure from start to finish. Gone are the dull and dreary streets of Boston or New York in Assassin’s Creed III, what is replaced is a vast ocean for the player to sail and beautifully created tropical Islands that demand exploration. Ubisoft have done an incredible job of keeping the player constantly engaged and willing to go off the beaten track to hunt, sail or plunder treasure.
Black Flag takes place in 1715 Caribbean where you play as the charismatic yet dangerous pirate Edward Kennedy. He is instantly likeable and the overall tone of the game is lighter than previous entries. Instead of the 10 hour introduction in Assassin’s Creed III, here you are thrown straight into the action aboard a pirate ship and the pace never lets up until the dramatic finale. In previous Assassin’s Creed games, there were two parts to the story that were compulsory to play. The part in the animus and the present day story where you play as an Abstergo agent learning from the past on how to be an expert assassin. In Black Flag there is little to no emphasis on the present day story or gameplay and this is an excellent change for the franchise. The present day storyline was ridiculous, pretentious and tried way too hard to sound intelligent. Here you have to play the present day story arc 3 or 4 times throughout the entire game but in Black Flag it is actually presented very well and it is very interesting to see the what Ubisoft have envisioned for the future of Abstergo Industries in the next Assassin’s Creed titles. The main story where you play as the pirate Edward is fantastic with excellently placed twists and turns but is hampered only slightly by the numerous unskippable “follow and listen” missions which force the player to stealthily follow unknown characters and listen to their mundane conversations.
I found it refreshing that a main character in an Assassin’s Creed game cared little about loyalty and bloodlines and more about rum, gold and the open seas. Not only is the main character great, the supporting cast also hold its own weight with solid acting and motion capture work all round.
Where Black Flag truly shines is in its presentation. It is a stunning game with incredible attention to detail in almost every aspect and it has without a doubt the most realistic water effects seen thus far in the industry. The sea is a character in its own right and you will spend most of your time traversing the dangerous and pirate infested waters of the Caribbean as you travel from one island to the next. Although you will face human enemies on the water, the player is also faced with tornados, gigantic waves, fog and torrential rain. Every island you visit has its own theme, from rocky Cliffside villages to dense forests full of dangerous wildlife, I never felt myself getting bored when visiting a random island on the map. Although this is a review based primarily on the PlayStation 3 version, I did manage to get some time with the PlayStation 4 version and I can tell you this version is indeed the best version to get. Although the game is the same on both consoles, the PlayStation 4 version looks markedly better with increased framerate, resolution and draw distance.
If you have played a previous Assassin’s Creed game, the gameplay mechanics will instantly feel recognisable with little to no change from Assassin’s Creed III. This is a good thing because the gameplay is excellent and combines both close combat and long distance shooting to give the player a variety of ways to take out opponents. The fighting mechanics are relatively simple to master but immensely satisfying. Edward can parry, block, disarm and shoot all in quick succession with the just simple click of a few perfectly timed button commands. Assassin’s Creed is famous for its gruesome kill combos and thankfully they are in full swing here. Without a doubt though, the best mechanic in Black Flag is the sailing. Introduced first in Assassin’s Creed III, reviewers and gamers alike claimed the sailing mechanic to be the saving grace of the game and I have to agree.
The sailing is perfectly done in Black Flag and it puts the player in charge of a gigantic ship with a full crew. To change the speed of the ship, the player must decide on the amount of sails to deploy and when engaged in combat the player has at least four types of ammunition to use. The players main cannons are on the left and right hand side of the boat, the rear of the ship contains explosive barrels and the front of the ship contains a chain shot which is used to destroy the enemy ships sails. The variation in the ships ammunition type means that a player can approach an enemy using different tactics. Protecting your ship is of the utmost importance because it serves as the player hub when out at sea. Entering the captain’s cabin allows the player to upgrade the ship, change outfits and weapons and more importantly access Edwards fleet of ships which is used to send ships to different parts of the Caribbean to transport and trade cargo for Edward. When the player is done with the main storyline, they are free to explore the sea and the islands. This is when the game truly shines because each island is packed full of treasure, animals to hunt and secrets to find. After 40 hours of game time I am still having a blast traversing the seas and finding news area that are full of treasure.
And when you are done with the story and the treasure hunting, Black Flag has a great multiplayer component for you to sink your teeth into. The multiplayer is very reminiscent of the single player component and this is intentional. All the mechanics you know and love from the single player are present in the multiplayer. There are various modes to choose from but the fan favourite is the mode when two teams of assassins go head to head to try kill each other. Bonuses are awarded for being as stealthy as possible and using every tool at your disposal to seek out and kill your target. I enjoyed the multiplayer in Black Flag but I felt that little had changed over previous versions for me to stay invested. I quickly went back to the single player and continued sailing.
Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag is the best game in the series without a doubt. Ubisoft should be commended for reinventing the Assassin’s Creed formula and going back to what made the games fun in the first place. Black Flag is a near perfect open world game. It has exploration, stunning vistas, addictive and satisfying gameplay and most importantly it has a cast of characters that are fun and entertaining to watch. Although there are small problems with animations, rare framerate drops and some boring single player missions, Black Flag is incredibly enjoyable from start to finish. If you want the perfect send off for your PlayStation 3 or a new title to show off on your brand new PlayStation 4, do not hesitate to pick up this game.