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Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag!

The latest in the critically acclaimed Assassin's Creed franchise has arrived to much hype, but will the latest in the series be able to have a breakout debut on next gen consoles?

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Back To The Future: Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag does not directly continue the story of Desmond Miles but does, once again, place in you the shoes of an assassin of olden times. Hired by Abstergo Entertainment, the unnamed character is tasked with sifting through old files and memories of Edward Kenway, the main protagonist of the title.

Although Kenway, who is an intriguing "loose cannon" of sorts compared to the other feature characters in the franchise, is not a real pirate he does encounter a multitude of famous pirates from history such as Blackbeard, Anne Bonny, Calico Jack and others.

The story revolves around the pirating actions of Kenway and his unwitting involvement in a battle between high ranking Templars and an Assassins Order. Unlike previous installments in the series, the story revolves less around current-day affairs but you will still find yourself sneaking, hacking and eavesdropping as a common man in the modern world.

These portions of the game, which bring no combat with them, are not exactly thrilling but seem to have become a staple of the franchise as a break from nonstop battle and exploration.

Piracy Is Not A Victimless Crime: The gameplay of Black Flag puts a much larger focus on exploring the world and having some free will, more so than other installments in the franchise. The open exploration of the world is available to you much sooner than usual and you will be able to sail seas, do missions, assassinate targets and steal from citizens quite quickly out of the gate.

The core gameplay of being a 16th century master of Parkour is still present in Black Flag but for once you have more of a reason to do things other than scale buildings and watch everything from above.

While there are a multitude of collectables and attainable rewards in each area you explore, most of which require a lot of jumping, climbing and falling, there is also the new aspect of traveling on the open seas.

The world is truly an open one, and over the course of your adventures you will be able to sail the seas, traveling to islands and villages you see in the distance. Utilizing a spyglass, you can see what treasures distant islands hold and you may also find yourself scouting potential prey in the form of other ships.

You are fully capable of commandeering other ships on the sea, sinking them to the bottom of the ocean or even closing the distance and boarding the ship yourself, plundering the "booty" as it were. Underlying all of this combat, both on land and in the open waters, is a subtle upgrading and progression system fueled by the money you have earned.

Swords and pistols can be replaced with superior versions on land and you can also recruit crewmates and upgrade your ship with weapons and better equipment that will more easily allow you to assault rival ships. Unlike many characters in previous Assassins Creed titles, Edward Kenway is not a noble fighter and for the most part is simply seeking out money and success.

Everyone Needs Water: The visuals in Black Flag are yet another impressive aspect of the title, and by far a massive improvement upon previous iterations. The environments, a prime focus of the title, are meticulously detailed and splendidly refined in terms of graphics.

Character models share the same attention to detail, with outfits, weapons and voice acting all coming together to bring fleshed out, well refined characters into the series. In addition, the open sea travel sees no slacking in the graphics department despite the fairly large scale of the world.

The islands and ships in the distance are clearly precisely crafted, particularly when you examine them through your handy spyglass. All of the sea travel is complimented by brilliantly shiny water, which has, for some reason, been a closely watched aspect of every game featuring H20 throughout the generations.

Rent vs. Buy: Assassins Creed IV Black Flag does a lot of things well and manages to significantly innovate on a series that was becoming increasingly unimpressive. The core mechanics of heavy Parkour while on land return, but this time around you find yourself hunting down collectable rewards like chests rather than simply killing random guards with no purpose.

That alone is a significant addition to the title but the inclusion of being able to travel the open world via your pirate ship the Jackdaw is a fascinating introduction to the franchise. Although Ubisoft had little inspiration to call from (traveling around the world in a ship is not exactly commonplace in gaming), they seemed to have hit it out of the park.

Black Flag did just what the latest in a long running franchise was supposed to do: innovate! This title gives you a reason to buy it, and offers a lot of compelling arguments as to why it is far superior and unique to the other titles in the series.

Report Card

Black Flag did just what the latest in a long running franchise was supposed to do: innovate! This title gives you a reason to buy it, and offers a lot of compelling arguments as to why it is far superior and unique to the other titles in the series. (Krakrabbit.com)


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