GC Review: Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag (PS3)

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Let’s be honest, Assassin’s Creed games are always fun but its been getting a little repetitive for a while now. Being a game that releases yearly, repetitiveness can be a huge obstacle to overcome even as these worlds are getting bigger and more detailed. Luckily the great team over at Ubisoft has managed to bring new life to the franchise with Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag.

Black Flag marks a new beginning by placing you in the first person perspective of what is supposed to be yourself working for Abstergo Industries instead of in the shoe’s of Desmond like previous Assassins Creed games. As an employee of Abstergo it’s your job to jump into an animus and live out the life of Edward Kenway, a British privateer turned pirate for research on a game. Abstergo wants to develop for its upcoming public release of the animus as a game system.

Edward’s story starts in England where he is a peasant forced to work remedial jobs for an extremely low pay. This leads him to dreams of being a privateer but would also mean leaving his wife Caroline behind while he sought the rich’s that could give them a better life. Faced with the options of either staying a peasant living in squalor with his wife or leaving to take his chances on the high sea’s hoping to bring a fortune home so they can have a proper life Edward chooses to risk life and limb for his only chance to make something of himself out on the open sea.

Black Flag takes place in the Caribbean and is full of places to explore and amazing views to gawk at. You have your 3 main cities which are Nassau, Havana and Kingston plus dozens of uninhabited islands and some small island towns. All of these towns look amazing. Nassau for instance is a pirate town with buildings that look like they were made out of driftwood that has washed ashore while Kingston is a huge island full of fancy homes and plantations.

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Unlike Assassins creed 3, Black Flag’s world opens up to exploration much faster. After about an hour all of the Caribbean is open to climb, swim and sail through.

Sailing is the biggest change to Assassins Creed and a welcome one. Edward Is the captain of the Jackdaw which will be your ship. The Jackdaw is fully upgradeable with all sorts of things like stronger hull’s, better broadside cannons and mortar’s to name just a few. Upgrading the Jackdaw takes work though so you have a lot of pirating to do to gain supply’s and money to build those upgrades.

Sailing and pirating have turned out to be a great addition to the game. At first it can a bit daunting but once you upgrade your ship a little its a blast. Iv now spent hours just sailing the open waters and pillaging ships while listening to my crew sing sea shanty’s that I can’t seem to get out of my head.

While your out sailing from place to place you can use your spyglass to see what ships are carrying then attack and board them once they have become disabled.

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Boarding a ship and taking it over always has some type of prerequisite like kill 10 enemy’s or destroy their gun powder reserves and flag. Once you complete these tasks you get whatever the ship was carrying and choose what to do with the ship.

The most important thing is what the ship is carrying. You need metal, wood and cloth for upgrading the Jackdaw but ships also carry rum and sugar that can be sold for money. After you have taken over the ship you can choose to repair the Jackdaw, Lower your wanted level which you gain by pirating or send it to your fleet.

Sending a ship to your fleet will let you use it in a mini game sort of mode where you send ships to open trading routes and trade with places to gain a little extra money and the occasional treasure map. I can see this being a severely overlook part of the game that people wont take advantage of. I suggest starting these missions as soon as possible because they will be a source of some much needed revenue that you will want for upgrading your ship.

You’ll also be able to hunt all kinds of marine wildlife like gigantic whales and sharks. Once you get to an area you can hunt you jump into a tiny rowboat and start hurling harpoons at your target until it gives up and die’s. You will be able to upgrade your different equipment like your gun holsters with the different things you catch or sell it for some quick cash.

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Sailing, Looting and hunting isn’t all you’ll be doing in Black Flag though. There are plenty of places on land to explore and things to collect like Animus fragments, Aztec stones, treasure maps and sea shanty’s. I’m 25+ hours in and only at about a 60% completion so you definitely get a lot of playtime for your money if you are the type to hunt down everything in the game.

While on land anyone who has played an Assassins Creed game will feel right at home. The fighting system is still the same and one of the best out there in my opinion. You can preform a bunch of devastating, vicious attacks that look great and change depending on the weapon your using.

Black Flag also adds in a new type of weapon that Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation players should be familiar with, the blowgun. This is an extremely useful tool that can either put enemy’s to sleep or cause them to go crazy and attack anyone they see depending on the type of darts you load it with.

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Sneaking is an important part of Assassin’s Creed games and I’m happy to say its gotten much better since Assassins Creed 3 which I felt took a step back in this department. There are ton’s of places to hide this time around. Any area with thick foliage like bush’s, hay and the crops in fields can be hidden in. Enemies don’t notice you quite as easily when your not hidden either making stealth kills very gratifying and more frequent.

Some free running issues still remain but they aren’t nearly as bad as they were in Assassins Creed 3. For the most part staying on the path you want is easy but occasionally where your running will have multiple options on what way to go and this is where the issues begin to pop up. If you can learn to look for areas like this before reaching them staying on path once you get there shouldn’t be to hard but you will miss sometimes.

Black Flag looks great for such a large game. Characters faces and clothes are highly detailed and the world is beautiful but you can tell they had to make some cutbacks to fit it all on the current generation hardware.

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The biggest thing I noticed is when you are in an open area with trees like Kingston. As you walk closer, tree branches begins to appear like they’re growing from the tree in a matter of seconds to make the tree look more full. This is something you probably won’t see on next generation systems.

Another thing that caught my eye are the shadows during cut scenes. If you look at Edward during cut scenes you see the shadow’s under his chin flickering more then moving. It was something I noticed on most cut scene and it was kinda distracting to me. It is the one thing on the very nicely detailed characters that looks pixelated.

Overall Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag is a great addition to the franchise that will only get better with the next generation hardware that’s about to release. While it does have some visual issues on current generation systems the story and gameplay are still as amazing as ever. Any fan of Assassins Creed will love this game but its also a good point for newcomers who don’t know to much about the series to jump in as well.

Score

8.5/10