Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (Video Game Review)

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is the newest release from developer and publisher Ubisoft's hit franchise. The game combines open world adventure, stealth assassination gameplay and free run parkour maneuvers to create a gaming experience unlike any other, and the series continues to get better with each new release. Ubisoft has sent the action from the 13th century Crusades to 16th century Constantinople and the American Revolution during the late 1700s in Assassin's Creed III. For Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, players will travel to the Caribbean during the early 1700s to live life on the high seas as a full blown pirate assassin, because why choose between pirates and ninjas when you can be both at the same time?

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag introduces two new main protagonists for players to control throughout the game. The majority of players' time spent with the game will be while controlling the grandfather of the hero from Assassin's Creed III, Edward Kenway. The character is a reluctant hero of sorts that is out to make riches and find adventures in the waters of the Caribbean after leaving his family behind to do so. Kenway is up for any mission that has a big reward, and he doesn't mind dispatching of his enemies to land some great treasures. Our hero soon finds himself battling against Templar forces in an age old rivalry that constantly threaten the balance of the world's powers and making everything much more prevalent than it first seems.

Players also control a second protagonist for a smaller portion of the game, but rather than playing a watered down version of the real game as Desmond Miles, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag features a nameless and faceless new character to play as. During these few scattered scenes, players control the action from a first-person camera view with a much more limited range of movement and abilities while learning more about Desmond's memories as Edward Kenway for the Abstergo Entertainment company. These moments always manage to feel out of place in the new release, and they can even seem pointless during the earlier portions of the game, but by the end things will become much clearer and much more interesting as tends to happen with many games in the series.

The core gameplay that makes up the Assassin's Creed series is back in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. Running and climbing up buildings, walls and other obstacles is as fun as ever in the new release, and combat is a rewarding experience that values carefully orchestrated sneak attacks and well timed counterattacks above all else. Everything in the game has been refined from the game's controls to graphics and side quests. Missions still play out in a typical fashion with the player traveling from one location to another to perform a hit on someone or to sneak into an enemy base to take back an important item, but there are now more missions and things to see and do in the game than ever before.

The first thing most players will be excited for is sailing their own pirate vessel known in the game as the Jackdaw. Not only is the ship key to getting around in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, but players will need it to scavenge supplies and make money from other enemy ships by destroying them with cannons or boarding them and leaving no one left alive for even greater rewards. The items earned can then be used for a variety of different effects including upgrading the player's ship to make it more sea worthy, arming it with better weapons or making other upgrades and repairs. Ships can also be used to navigate to enemy bases on land that can be conquered and used as outposts to open up more of the game's massive map, but the ship is key during these encounters that often has the player facing off with a number of enemy ships that guard the waters around the large bases. Players can also attain a crew to help sail their ships and even man additional ships, but they aren't exactly the same as recruit assassins from other games in the series and don't help much in combat.

In addition to the discoveries waiting to be made by the player on land and on the sea, players can also head underwater to explore dangerous locations full of hazardous environmental items, sharks, and other dangerous sea monsters. The underwater areas are accessed with a diving bell and can lead to finding treasures on board sunken ships or underwater caverns for the player to explore. While it's certainly a neat idea to include this new feature in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, it's definitely the worst part of the game from a design perspective and is a pain to play as well. Underwater missions are rarely, if ever fun, and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag doesn't manage to buck the trend with poor controls and camera angles that ruin the experience. Luckily, these are mere side quests that are almost completely avoidable for players that don't enjoy punishing themselves in order to play a game.

Multiplayer in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is still all about one team facing off with another team that is attempting to blend into the crowd and not get found out and murdered by the enemy team. There are two ways to play including a more traditional Assassin's Creed multiplayer experience and Wolfpack mode, where players team up cooperatively to complete various objectives. The multiplayer balance has been improved for Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, and longtime fans of the series will note that multiplayer has come a long way since its introduction in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. In addition to the matchmaking modes, players can head into the Game Lab to create their own multiplayer matches with more than 200 unique variant and items to place into the game to truly customize the experience. A Training mode is also included in the release to help newcomers learn how to play Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag online.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag presents a stunning world that captures the essence of what makes every pirate film or work of literature and creates a world that players will want to fully explore for hours on end. The game's graphic are superb, and the incredible size of the game's map seems impossible to fit into a single release on current generation consoles. Though we haven't had a chance to test a review copy of the game on next generation consoles, the previews we were shown proves the game runs even smoother and looks even better on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 with detailed lighting and amazing water physics that brings the world to life. No matter which version of the game you're playing, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag has great sound design that starts with great voiceover work and includes some realistic sound effects with waves crashing against ships or the loud explosions caused by fired cannons. With the exception of the game's underwater sections, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag also controls well with improvements to moving around the world that help keep the player from sticking to unwanted objects or attacking the wrong enemies.

When players go to pick up a new copy of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, it's important to remember the PlayStation version of the game will come with exclusive content featuring missions with one of the main characters from campaign. The upcoming content stars Adewale who heads to Haiti to fight against those that would turn the country's residents into slaves. Adewale gets her own vessel to fight against enemy forces in and around Port au Prince to keep the land free. The new content will be exclusive to PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, making it easy to tell which are the definitive versions of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is a great game and a worthy successor for the Assassin's Creed franchise. The new release may not be exactly what fans were expecting from the next entry to the series, but it's a good direction for the franchise that breaks boundaries and offers the greatest pirate themed video game since the release of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. The new storyline is easily approachable by new players to the series, and plenty of new content will have players emerged into the experience for well over 30 hours before adding any additional content to the game. New multiplayer modes just add to the experience to make Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag a must purchase game this holiday season. It's a pirate's life for you in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag out now!

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is now available from all major retailers for the MSRP of $59.99 and can be purchased for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U & PC. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is rated M by the ESRB for Blood, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol & Violence. For more information on the game, check out the official Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag website.

Game Features:
  • Online Multiplayer 1-8
  • Pirate Themed Storyline and World
  • Create Custom Multiplayer Modes
  • PlayStation Exclusive DLC
  • Trophy/Achievement Support

Game Information:
Developer & Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: PlayStation 3 (reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Wii U, PC
Release Date: October 29, 2013

Score: 9.5 out of 10

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