Assassin’s Creed IV review

Many will find Black Flag an improvement when compared to Assassin’s Creed III. The lengthy campaign sends Edward Kenway, a protagonist with some personality but not too much that it detracts from the plot, across the Caribbean in search of the Observatory. As Kenway was born a pirate and not an assassin, players will spend a fair amount of time sailing the seas, and this lends itself to a map that opens out early into the storyline. By sequence three, players will be able to freely sail across the ocean and explore nearby islands, although some activities do remain off-limits until key points are reached in the story. This means that you are likely to complete tutorial-style story missions that try to teach you about skills and activities that you have already performed while free-roaming.

The gameplay should come as no surprise to fans of the franchise. As an assassin, Kenway moves around with ease. The environment has convenient free-running points so that Kenway’s runs are seamless. If anything, the movement is a little too seamless and players will often find themselves scaling buildings that they had the misfortune of brushing against while passing at speed. As well as the story missions, there are many things to do on land, such as catching couriers and hunting. There are also many collectibles; while some do serve a purpose, others seem to be there just for the sake of it. The good news is that they are all marked on the map once a player synchronises the nearest viewpoint. The viewpoints also represent the game’s fast-travel option. If you don’t wish to sail back to that island, select the nearest viewpoint on the map and arrive there in seconds.

With the amount of time that players spend at sea, it’s a good job that the ships handle well. While the controls may initially seem clunky, you will get used to the fact that eighteenth-century ships were not able to turn on a pinpoint, something that the game accurately represents. There are plenty of things to do at sea too. While completionists will do every activity anyway, the side activities both on land and at sea have a purpose. For example, hunting and harpooning will award players with supplies with which they can upgrade Kenway’s outfits. Players will never get bored.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Assassin’s Creed game without a return to the present day. Abstergo needs a new representative and you happen to be their latest nameless recruit. Without a solid protagonist, these sections feel empty and tacked-on. Luckily, players don’t need to spend much time here if they do not wish to do so.

The Caribbean is brought to life in stunning graphics that give credit to the new generation of consoles. Characters are detailed to the point where you can see the stitches in their costumes or the imperfections in their faces (dental hygiene is not strong point amongst pirates). The sea looks truly terrifying when faced with high waves and the water breaking across the ship’s bow is impressive. The difference between the last generation of consoles and the new generation is definitely noticeable.

As a quick note, multiplayer modes return but bring nothing new to the table, as all have come from previous games. With both co-op and competitive modes available, there is something for everyone.

Edward Kenway is the grandfather of Connor, the protagonist from Assassin’s Creed III. He is an eighteenth century privateer and pirate, raising money to be able to return to his wife back in England. After a raid on a ship goes horribly wrong, Edward and assassin Duncan Walpole are marooned on an island. Walpole is killed; Edward takes his costume and continues Walpole’s mission to deliver an artefact to the commissioner in Havana. Once he delivers the artefact, he finds himself caught in the middle of a conflict between the assassins and the templars as they both try to track down the mythical Observatory. With visions of power and riches, Edward recruits a crew to find the Observatory before everybody else.

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I'm an avid gamer across many platforms, and I love to write about them. I'll try most games once, but I draw the line at fighters and racing sims.

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