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Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag (PS3) Review

 
Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag revealed - and this isn't rumours or leaks!
Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag revealed - and this isn't rumours or leaks!
Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag revealed - and this isn't rumours or leaks!

 
At A Glance...
 

Formats: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
 
Genre: ,
 
Year:
 
Publisher:
 
Developer:
 
Final Score
9.0
9/ 10


User Rating
no ratings yet

 

We liked?


  • AnvilNext engine hints at great things for the future
  • Sea based elements are huge amounts of fun and make good on the promises of AC3
  • Massive and expansive world that still remains vibrant and enjoyable
  • Huge array of things to do outside of the solid story
  • Rights most of the wrongs of AC3

Not so much?


  • Eaves dropping missions are still not fun
  • few less palatable remnants from prior games remaining
  • Modern day parts are still the weakest


Final Fiendish Findings?

Assassin’s Creed is a huge Ubisoft property, and its continued success going forward rests all but entirely on the success of Black Flag.

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Posted November 11, 2013 by

 
Full Fiendish Findings...
 
 

Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag – the latest (and debatably greatest) adventure in the substantial Assassin’s Creed franchise – will feature on platforms both current and next generation, as a landmark game which – in the wake of a delay to Watch_Dogs – will serve as Ubisoft’s first major release on the new platforms, and as a major change signalled for the series in general.

Assassin’s Creed is a huge Ubisoft property, and its continued success going forward rests all but entirely on the success of Black Flag.

Making use of the shiny new generation-blurring AnvilNext engine to create a much more distinctly open world than seen before in an Assassin’s Creed game, Black Flag subsequently opens the series up to make full use of the buccaneering open-seas piracy teased in Assassin’s Creed III. AnvilNext is key progress for Ubisoft and needs to make good on the promise that it’s next-gen primed.

For both series and franchise, Black Flag serves as the necessary next step forward. While a prequel with regards to narrative, Assassin’s Creed IV is a definitive sequel to its predecessor, taking the series forth into uncharted territory and creating an experience that brings in the best of what the series has established before.

Within its own unique world traversed across water not land, Assassin’s Creed IV builds something beautiful upon the foundations laid in Assassin’s Creed III; the player is no longer confined to dry land when exploring the campaign, as Black Flag gives you a ship and colossal seas to roam about freely. Players can take the reins of the Jackdaw as Edward Kenway – the grandfather of the protagonist from the previous Assassin’s Creed game – and enjoy the freedom of being a pirate, not an assassin. Edward has the traits and outfit of an assassin, yet crucially is not tied down to the creed. Edward is neither Assassin nor Templar, his motivations influenced by personal gain and his involvement in the ongoing Templar/Assassin feud for the most part a passing one.

 

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You’d think the significant events of the previous games would have led to Black Flag spending plenty of its time trying to pick up the pieces of blown minds, but that is certainly not the case. The prequel setting is an advantageous one: the modern-day story in particular risked becoming irreversibly convoluted, but Ubisoft gratefully have steered the overall narrative away from complete disarray and towards something new and intriguing (albeit not necessarily better).

The Animus – a series-spanning device used in modern times to discover the lives of people of old – remains the link progressing the narrative and holding things together. Black Flag – like all previous Assassin’s Creed games – is a game within a game, one character accessing and playing out the memories of another, only this time it’s being used by a nameless, faceless person working on a game-transcending project that persistently threatens to endanger the enjoyment of what the game does brilliantly.

In the present day, Abstergo – the Templar corporation behind the Animus – have developed an ‘entertainment division’ as a front for their worldwide quest for world domination/Assassin elimination. Your character is someone working for this division, accessing the memories of Edward through new Animus technology and being manipulated into discovering what Abstergo are really up to. Without going into too much spoiler-filled detail, Black Flag’s present day setting becomes a groan-inducing meta waltz through tedium that you feel compelled to race through so you can get back into the Animus and play the real game.

Thankfully, the present day moments are short-lived and infrequent. The real bulk of Black Flag is found within the memories, and this is where the game truly shines. Traversing the seas, engaging in naval warfare, destroying and conquering forts, hunting and diving, and generally exploring vast lands for treasure all form part of an experience that is no less than the best created in a game this year. When behind the wheel of the Jackdaw, Black Flag becomes one of the most enjoyable games to be found.

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Impressively, the inevitable non-ship narrative-progressing moments involving actual Assassin’s Creed gameplay – the strategic poignant murdering, basically – are entertaining enough to not have you persistently pine to be back on the Jackdaw. The combat system is starting to feel fully-fledged now, and the environment traversal has never felt smoother. Being on foot is still remarkably good fun, but the sea ultimately calls to you and it’s on it that Black Flag soars triumphantly.

If you choose, you can sail from top left to bottom right of the enormous world map and encounter a whole day’s worth of adventure. The story itself is fairly short, completable if raced through in under ten hours. Black Flag is a game that shares space with the likes of Skyrim and Just Cause 2 though; you have little need or even want to pursue completion of the story when there’s so much enjoyment to be find in simply exploring what the game world contains. Black Flag houses a rich, vibrant, historically influenced Caribbean world and permits you to fully embrace the life of a pirate.

The gift of freedom is one presented to the player on a silver platter. If you so choose, you’re free to shun this gift in favour of scratching the intrigue itch and seeing where the story goes. You’re even free to leave the seas alone entirely and dip into the satisfying, expansive multiplayer component of Black Flag. However, until you’d had your fill I’d advise entirely against that. When on water, Black Flag is the best Assassin’s Creed game yet. A confusing statement perhaps, given that the core gameplay has always revolved around exploring settlements on land…

Nonetheless, you’d do wisely to take freedom and experience what Black Flag truly has to offer. Steal the silver platter too while you’re at it, and sail off into the sunset as your crew heartily sing shanties and you sit back with a huge grin on your face, waiting for the next rum-carrying schooner ship to sail past your cannons.

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Final Thoughts?

 

Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag at its best is both a hugely entertaining game and a mightily successful project, a fruitful endeavor on Ubisoft’s part to expand the Assassin’s Creed franchise further still and take the series in an ambitious new direction. While held back slightly by its present day shenanigans and a few less palatable remnants from prior games remaining – eavesdropping missions still aren’t fun – Black Flag shows us what Ubisoft can do in the years to come, while delivering something special here and now to gleefully dive into.


Harry

 
Harry is a British film enthusiast who dabbles in videogames and music, giving him plenty of good reasons to procrastinate. He runs a new music column and reviews games for multiple websites, but between sitting on the sofa, sleeping and eating bagels he has yet to find the time to do things like find a job or make an epic starring Daniel Day-Lewis.