Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Review

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Let’s forget everything about Assassin’s Creed 3 other than future Desmond died in it. We even get to see his future autopsy in Assassin’s Creed IV which was exactly the kind of closure I needed frankly. But his ghost still haunts us because the evil corporation nicked his brain and extracted enough genetic memories to make another billion more Assassin’s Creed games. Casting my mind back to 2008’s The Dark Knight I’m reminded of that line that Heath Ledger’s Joker said “I think you and I are destined to do this forever.” Which sort of covers my reluctance of this series at this point.

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Gameplay and Lasting Appeal

I could complain that this series is just going on and on and on and every time it droops its head it gets a tase to the base of the spine. For the record Assassins Creed IV has got a pretty violent tasing that actually shakes up the core gameplay, in a way that Assassin’s Creed 3 imaginary sofa market could only dream of. Because I spent the majority of my time sailing rather than running through a city bumping into people. I know the sailing was in the last game but it was only a side-quest and wasn’t very good. But now the sailing is central rather than hanging off to one side stapled to an earring. It has that grand explorative quality, sea battles are fun and when you board an enemy ship it swiftly becomes Assassin’s Creed again stabbing and countering enemies. I even resented coming back on dry land to do story missions because they’d almost always involved tailing someone and when I’ve just got back from blowing up ships it’s hard to come back down to grandmothers footsteps. I really started loathing the tailing missions especially when you have to stay close to a target without being noticed by guards. So with one hand the game is your mother pushing you out with one hand to show everyone that funny little dance you learned and with the other the game is your father beating you about because you were noticed before his morning drink. And the mere act of moving in Assassin’s Creed sometimes feels like kicking a sack of potatoes around a cattle grid. Sometimes you think you’re going to hop onto a ledge and into a convenient bush but your character would rather leap forward drop 3 stories and parkour roll into someone your supposed to tail stopping just short of doing jazz hands and shouting “tada”. Generally missions lean more towards open ended sneaky stab and less rigid join the dots destruction then in 3. Which is nice but if I didn’t feel the need to do assassination contracts I might have been content to never go to towns at all. Cause the sailing is where you reap the biggest rewards. Money has an actual job at last because ship upgrades are expensive and that’s an investment that adds to gameplay. Rather than letting you corner the imaginary sofa market.

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Visuals

The vibrant water looks great and the skin textures look great however some of the animations clip into each other.

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Sound

The music is great and adds to then squash buckling tone.

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Story

The future plot that follows on from Assassin’s Creed 3 has gone a little meta on us. Instead of future Desmond we are now future silent protagonist an employee for a French-Canadian video game developer being pressured by their evil corporate owners. Write what you know eh lads. The evil Templars that now run the world having hit upon the surprisingly sophisticated idea of to use mass-media entertainment to re-write history in their favour. Which may be Ubisoft trying to address the elephant in the room before anyone else does. Gosh isn’t it terrible how popular culture romanticises history, now let’s fight some pirates romanticise there head off. The new historical protagonist is Edward Kenway Welsh pirate and bastard who refreshingly isn’t even an Assassin for most of the game he just nicked one of their uniforms and just jumping at people from buildings. As a sort of enthusiastic amateur I suppose. What I’m noticing from Assassin’s Creed 3 onwards is that the games introduce the Assassin order and then let that subplot go away so it can party it up with historical figures. With the Assassin plot popping its head out to complain about the noise. Although if we more about the history now Assassin’s Creed IV has definitely picked a better setting than its predecessor so instead of making us think it’s exciting to throw tea into a harbour or watch some old men writing on a piece of paper we instead get to watch Blackbeard sign pieces of paper. Except the pen is actually a massive cannon and the paper is the chance of anyone getting a good night’s sleep. So the plot busily introduces every famous name from that era that it can get away with then have them do the thing that they’re famous for while Kenway stands off to one side eating popcorn.

Presentation

The Windows 8 style interface is decent but I got the PS4 version and I was trying to find out how to download the free DLC. Also when I’m going around trying to collect everything I wish there were more fast travel locations.

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 Conclusion

Sailing is a breath of fresh salty air I can’t help but feel it is only a fleeting dalliance for the series. Because besides the golden age of pirates there are few historical setting where it could integrate well for the series and Assassin’s Creed is not a series of standalone games anymore. Assassin’s Creed is a line chart the line went a bit down for Assassin’s Creed 3 and now it’s gone back up again. Who knows where it will go next but this graph is being drawn on a depressingly long piece of paper and I look at Ubisoft and I do not like the look of that stapler it’s holding.

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