Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag PS3 Review

Publisher: Ubisoft  Developer: Ubisoft Montreal  Genre: Stealth, Action  Players: 1-8  

Age Rating: 18+  Other console/handheld formats: Xbox 360, Wii U, PS4

Open world games often give you a sense of discovery, and reward you for exploration, and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag gives you plenty of this. Taking the naval sections of Assassin’s Creed III, and giving you the ocean to explore are some of Black Flag’s greatest strengths.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag has strong ties to Assassin’s Creed III and stars Edward Kenway, the grandfather of Connor Kenway, and father of Haytham Kenway. Kenway is a pirate with coin and leisure on his mind, although is dressed and disguised as an assassin almost straight away. The lead character is more interesting and charismatic than the rather bland Connor, although he still isn’t up there with Ezio. The story is pirate themed and set in the late 17th and early 18th century, and you’ll also come across some legendary pirates over its duration. It’s an enjoyable enough story, and the snarling pirates have been captured well.

After the events of Assassin’s Creed III, the modern day character of Desmond Miles is out and in is a brand new protagonist, who you play as from a first person perspective and remains silent throughout the game. The character is an Abstergo Entertainment employee, and the company is making a game based on Kenway’s historical exploits. You’ll hack computers, and learn some interesting things, while more areas of the building will also open up to you over the course of the game. These modern day sections are brief and often humorous, and never feel as if they are pushing out the main event of the historical sections too much.

So back to the pirating past and Caribbean we go, and there’s a big ocean and world for you to explore in Black Flag. There are over 70 different locations for you to discover, and it’s one of those games where I wanted to dig up all of its secrets in a bid to stay rooted in its world as long as possible. The world itself is also impressive and atmospheric, and whether you are exploring the well built-up areas of the likes of Kingston, Nassau and Havana, discovering an uncharted island, sailing the seas, or diving underwater to plunder the depths, it’s a wonderful world to get lost in.

Early on in the game, you’ll get hold of the Jackdaw, a ship that will be your main method of transport as you sail from location to location. Like Assassin’s Creed III’s ship, the Jackdaw is built for warfare, and you are able to upgrade the ship throughout the game, while also recruiting crew members.

You’ll come across some opposition ships that are tough to sink, and sometimes there’s really no other option than to flee. There are various upgrades to improve your chances of victory against the tougher ships of the sea, and you are also given the likes of cannons and mortars to take the enemy ships apart piece by piece. Once a ship is defeated, you are able to sink it for half its cargo or board it to get hold of as much of its precious cargo as possible.

On land, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is also as great as ever. There’s really nothing more fun in games than effortlessly leaping across rooftops in the way that the Assassin’s Creed series allows, although it still does suffer from the long problem of accidentally running up something which you really didn’t intend to. The combat is also likeable enough, combining well animated sword swings and kills with defence breaking animations and counters. As always, Black Flag makes you feel truly special, without having to make much effort in order to do so.

Wherever you may be in the game world, there’s also loads of stuff to do. If it’s finding treasure and other secrets on islands, taking down forts (which reveals more secrets on the map), raiding smuggler dens, scaling heights to find viewpoints (which allows for fast travel alongside the usual revealing of secrets), discovering new areas, finding treasure maps, raiding warehouses for upgrade materials, assassinating targets and more. This is all when playing outside of the main story, so it just goes to show how rich of a world that Ubisoft has crafted.

The main story missions are varied enough, and take place on both land and at sea, with a combination of both at times, starting in the Jackdaw and then ending up on foot later on in the mission for example. Still, there are slightly too many tailing missions in the game, and why Ubisoft had such an obsession with these during development is anyone’s guess. Still, this is hardly enough to ruin such a well made game as this one.

Visually, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is absolutely gorgeous. As you’ll be spending a lot of time in the sea, it’s good to know that it looks so marvellous and that the physics are so believable, with stormy seas being a real sight to behold. On land, things also look mightily impressive, and Kenway’s animations are also as wonderfully smooth as ever.

The multiplayer hasn’t received many changes, and is much the same as previously. It’s still something entirely unique, and remains refreshing in an industry obsessed with repetition when it comes to multiplayer options. It’s still all about a keen eye, as well as blending in with the crowd. A missed opportunity is definitely online naval battles, which would have surely been an exciting option to have included.

The pirate themed Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is definitely one of the strongest entries in the series. There’s a sizeable ocean to sail as well as land to acrobatically run, jump and climb across, which all combines to make for an amazing world. By the end of the year, many will consider this as one of the games of 2013, and it’s not difficult to see why.