GAME NAME: Assassin’s Creed IV: Blag Flag
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360, PS3, PC, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U
GENRE(S): Action, Adventure, Stealth, Open World
RELEASE DATE(S): October 29th, 2013
Look past the history that Hollywood would have you believe, and Assassin’s Creed IV will take you on an adventure in the golden age of piracy as written by history. After the flaws that mitigated Assassin’s Creed 3 in terms of player freedom and that enforced scripted linear missions, you might be hoping for something a bit more open-world. Well what’s more free and open than the world of a pirate? As such, you’ll be glad to hear that freedom underpins this Black Flag. Arrrgh!
The first thing you should know is that our new hero is nowhere near as dull and uninteresting as that bore of a man named Connor. Edward Kenway, the father of Haytham in Assassin’s Creed III, takes little to no time to introduce himself as a person that has no shame. Right off the bat, you’re tasked to run after an assassin and track him down in a forest-like area, beat the assassin to a pulp, as only a pirate can, and then steal his clothes and throw away his hidden blades. Yup, Edward can, at times, be a little less than the brightest of sparks around and early on gets himself into a bit of trouble as he plays the part of a false assassin that ultimately gets him into hot water with the Templars. It’s here that your mission gets underway and you’re introduced to the REAL star of the game, Jackdaw, his ship.
Set in the West Indies in 1715, the world is totally seamless as you sail the open oceans of the Caribean. You can sail from historic Cuba to Jamaica in real-time, with no loading breaks. Keep in mind that this map is about ten times the size of what you saw in Grand Theft Auto V – it’s massive. There are 50 unique locations made up of various settings including cities, jungles, ruins, coves and caves, all stuffed with treasure and adventure. The ship handles much like what you’ve experiences in Assassin’s Creed III, only that this time round it’s absolutely vital that you upgrade, repair and customise your ship with features to enhance your naval combat abilities. Upgrading the armour on your ship, for example, is just as important as tweaking the strength of your cannons.
Your aim is quite simple – destroy and wreck enough enemy ships so that you can board it to loot their minerals and items such as rum, clothes, sugar and steel to upgrade your ship. Fire one shot too many and you’ll completely sink the ship with the loot onboard. Boarding a ship is not a simple cutscene as seen in Assassin’s Creed 3 however. Nope, this time you need to hold the ‘B’ button in to activate a boarding scenario whereby you jump the enemy vessel and defeat the required number of crewmembers to overpower it. Your crewmembers, which might have been saved at sea or released from captivity by your hands, will be by your side to fight the good fight. Once victorious, you’re provided with options to either claim all of the loot or promote some of your crewmembers with their own ship. It’s all about building power.
Assassin’s Creed veterans will be glad to know that not everything takes place on the open ocean however. Edward will visit three distinct towns with their own sets of challenges, closer to what you’d expect from an Assassin’s Creed title. The towns, Havana, Kingston and Nassau, are all under the influence of either the British, Spanish or pirates, which makes each setting unique to Edward’s situation. Some of these areas branch out to jungles that host animals that can be killed to create holsters for weapons or bigger pouches to carry more money. You can also visit shops to buy or upgrade weapons that can be used on land or out at sea. One standout moment will see you spearing a whale or coming face to face with a shark in the underwater scenes when searching wrecks for loot.
So what’s the story with the present day Assassin’s Creed? We all know what happened to Desmond in Assassin’s Creed 3. Well, the star in this role is YOU. You’re a research analyst hired by the evil Abstergo to live out the past of various historical figures. It’s played from a first-person perspective where you’re tasked by an unknown assailant to hack parts of the facility to learn more about your surroundings and just what exactly they’re up to. It’s a fresh take on what we all experienced in previous Assassin’s Creed titles and adds another welcome element of stealth to the game.
Now for the bombshell – Assassin’s Creed 4 is a rather ugly duckling on the Xbox 360. You’ll witness frame rate issues, degraded textures, some of the worst anti-aliasing and realise that this is indeed a current generation game that got last generation treatment. It definitely does not look anywhere near as good as Assassin’s Creed 3. The combat mechanics are identical and still depend on counter attacks which can be a clumsy and lengthy affair. It’s a good thing then that the narrative holds this together. It’s not quite Assassin’s Creed 2, but getting to be a pirate alongside the legendary Blackbeard is likely as ‘Arrrgh’ as you’ll get in 2013, or for the foreseeable future that is.