Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Assasin's Creed IV - Double Review

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag by Denis Murphy

Another year, another Assassin's Creed. Since the release of the first title in the series in 2007, we have seen numerous incarnations, on both console and handheld systems. Some of have been great, while others have been basically filler. So, where does Black Flag stand?

This latest addition to the franchise brings the action to the Caribbean Sea, and has the player assume the role of pirate Edward Kenway, grandfather of the protagonist of Assassin's Creed 3. However, while most of the game is set in the early 18th century, much like the rest of the series, a good deal of it is set in 2013, and deals with the aftermath of Assassin's Creed 3.

First things first; from the beginning, the worst aspect of this franchise was the creative decision to set it in the present, with the player using the Animus to relive past memories of Desmond Myle's ancestors. This effectively neuters the feeling of reality for the franchise's various unique historical settings, and this terrible trend continues in Black Flag. Put simply, the modern day sections fucking suck. While I'm sure the developers always aim to present an interesting contrast in artistic design between the vastly different settings, the modern day sections slow down the gameplay, continue to tell the utterly vapid and boring story of the Templars, and simply make the player think, “When can I be a pirate again?” They couldn't just set this one in the early 18th century, no, that had to crowbar in the modern day stuff too. Shit. A shame really, but despite this, and that Black Flag continues the muddled Assassin's Creed storyline; it's probably the best game in the franchise to date.

Location, location, location. The historical setting in Black Flag is fantastic, and is unlike anything in the series so far. From various booze flowing taverns in the three main cities, to the luscious and thick jungles at the heart of the island, Black Flag presents one of the best, most interesting and utterly intriguing open worlds to date. Using your ship, the Jackdaw, you are also free to explore the treacherous seas surrounding the island, which include many smaller islands. This addition of the Jackdaw makes getting around a real joy, and while you'll mostly find yourself running around, climbing and free running, the Jackdaw simply adds an extra dimension of freedom to the series. Excellent.

Combat and general gameplay remains quite similar to previous instalments, but Black Flag perfects what Assassin's Creed 3 aimed to achieve. However, the naval combat is the real standout addition here. It can get pretty hectic during these battles, and there's a fantastic sense of ferocity in the combat that hasn't been seen in the series thus far. Wood splinters, smoke pours out of the cannons and foes unfortunate to get in the way of a direct cannonball hit go flying. Much like exploring the world of Black Flag, the combat is far better than anything in the series experienced so far thanks to the Jackdaw. 

Yes, it is more of the same in some ways. However, while everyone expected another cheap cash-in like Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood for a game released so soon after Assassin's Creed 3, Black Flag is anything but that. While it does have the usual Assassin's Creed woes in the form of story, this may be the best game in the series so far. It's thrilling, adventurous and presents one of the best open worlds to date.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag gets a sea worthy 9/10

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag by Igor Kharin

“Ubisoft certainly aren’t resting on their laurels with Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. An expansive world explored by one of the series’ most entertaining lead protagonists sets up one of the most entertaining video game adventures to date. “

The Gameplay:
Black Flag is an excellent example of a game in a series, learning from mistakes made by predecessors and expanding upon them. Assassin’s Creed has for a considerable period of time now tried to establish itself as a serious, blood thirsty adventure and while roots have not been forgotten, Black Flag is a much more relaxed adventure (perhaps resembling the nature of pirates in general) and as a result, is considerably more fun.

This is particularly clear when Black Flag lets you sail the seas looking for your own adventures instead of following the story. The game truly comes to life when you’re allowed to explore and gorge on the beautiful environments and wonderful secrets this world has to offer. Black Flag has also taken a clear step back from the gruesome killing that came hand-in-hand with previous adventures. With much less blood and emphasis on gore, Black Flag feels less tense and serious, creating a much more enjoyable atmosphere. 

All that being said, Black Flag also possesses an enjoyable story to follow with a much more entertaining lead character. Again less emphasis is placed on the convoluted ideas of Assassin’s Creed’s futuristic segments, your interest lies more in making money and being a pain in the ass Pirate – just how we want it. 

The Presentation:
It doesn’t matter what platform you play Black Flag on, the game looks stunning regardless.

Titles like these tend to set the standard for high end  graphics and while we’re now so close to the end of this generation, it’s still a testament to see what current generation machines can do. It helps that Black Flag’s setting makes it really easy to have beautiful visuals – gorgeous water, rippling sands and stunning forestry all jump out from the TV making this a visual delight.

The Verdict: 
It’s certainly admirable that despite using a similar formula Ubisoft chose not to rest on their laurels and expand Assassin’s Creed. A massive world and simplified ideals and notions make Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag thoroughly entertaining and a whole load of fun.

Gameplay – 8/10
Presentation – 10/10
Replay Value – 8/10
Verdict – 9/10

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag at CeX

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