Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 8
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
PS3, Wii U, and Xbox 360 Release Date: October 29th, 2013
PS4 Release Date: November 15th, 2013
PC Release Date: November 19th, 2013
Xbox One Release Date: November 21st, 2013
Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Assassin’s Creed IV M for mature because of blood, sexual themes, strong language, the use of alcohol, and violence. You play as a pirate who also happens to be the latest assassin, taking out key targets, and causing all sorts of mischief. While the game isn’t over the top in terms of gore, you cut people’s throats, stab them with various sharp objects, and blow them out of the water. Even though the blood is kept to a minimum, I wouldn’t suggest parents let their children play a game like this simply because of the realistic violence.
Plays Like: Since Assassin’s Creed has become a yearly iterated series, the changes from one game to the next are typically minimal. Players can expect an vast open world, where they can pick and choose the missions they want to tackle, a la Grand Theft Auto. This particular entry takes place on the open seas, so there are lots of epic sea-battles, tons of islands to explore, and a much greater sense of freedom than ever before. If you’ve enjoyed any of the previous entries, you’ll find lots of fun to be had here. If you were never into the series before, or never tried it, this is a very good place to start as it feels as though it is the most streamlined game in the series yet.
Review Basis: Ubisoft sent us the PlayStation 3 version to review. I completed the single player game and tried my hand at the multiplayer portions. Players can expect a 25 hour or longer experience.
Sailing the open seas is an amazing feeling. While it’s great being able to run around an island picking up- missions, side-quests and other things to do, nothing comes close to the feeling of taking command of your own ship and setting sail. The entire game world feels alive because just over the horizon there might be another small island waiting for you to plunder it. This sense of freedom is only magnified when you realize just how large the game world actually is.
+ The story feels much lighter heated than its predecessors. Players take on the role of Edward Kenway, a pirate who’s main goal is to make as much money as possible so he can return to England a more respectable man. He’s not in this because of some secret order, and thanks to a weird twist of fate, his destiny is thrust upon him. I enjoyed how the tale was easier to digest and didn’t take itself nearly as seriously as other entries in the series have.
+ The first-person real world side of the story is also very entertaining, albeit completely optional. As a new employee of Abstergo you’re charged with creating a new entertainment product based around Edward’s life, but if you investigate the company enough it’s pretty awesome what you can find out about the future of the series. The nice play on Ubisoft Montreal wasn’t lost on me either, and I found it rather humorous as I’ve been there several times.
+ While gameplay is broken up into your typical exploration, missions, etc. What’s unique here is that you can harvest resources in order to increase not only Edward’s abilities (such as giving him another gun holster), but also your ship. You can also find supplies just lying around hidden islands, and so much more. These little offshoots offer a nice break from the norm, and further your incentive to explore.
+ Sea exploration and battle is incredibly fun, and it’s one of the key reasons why you’ll want to continuously update the Jackdaw. There’s more to it though. Do you attack a frigate and dismantle it for parts, or do you send it off on missions to increase your wealth? The choices you make here actually feel as though they have some meaning.
+ The multiplayer remains fun and engaging because of the cat and mouse style. Try to convince other players you’re nothing more than an NPC, then pop out and shock them. This style almost never gets old, although personally I found the main draw was clearly the single player campaign.
+ While I’ve only played the current-gen build thus far, I can easily tell you this is one of the nicest looking games released this year. Featuring stellar animation, fantastic draw distances and beautiful environments, Black Flag is a joy to the senses.
+ The audio package is equally impressive. From solid voice acting, to an impressive soundtrack and great sound effects, Black Flag delivers the goods. When you’re sailing the ocean, it’s great to hear the wind realistically rushing through your surround speakers.
+/- Some of the missions are great, but there are far too many follow missions, which bring down the action tremendously. Often you have to follow your target for over ten minutes before you can go in for the kill, or maybe not even. Sometime your mission is simply to eaves-drop on the conversation and move on. These missions feel like they drag on and on for ages.
– With games this massive it’s understandable that there would be a few hiccups. One such annoyance is with the way Edward scales obstacles that I never wanted to interact with. If you enjoying running as often as I do, it’s common to have Edward run forward, and jump up to a ledge that I never intended to. There are also issues with key targets disappearing for some unknown reason. Moments like these often either caused my death, or led me to restarting the mission.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag manages to give players an open world to explore in such a way that’s never really been done before, at least in terms of how it truly feels like you’re free to sail the open sea. While I may have only played the PS3 version right now, I’ve got the PS4 version on stand-by and am really curious to see how the visual improvements will draw me into the game even more so than this version. For now if you’re looking for an excellent action adventure game where you feel like anything is possible, Black Flag delivers the goods.
Final Score: 8.8/10