The rustles rise beneath while the sea splash slowly rises, giving room to the protruding smell of fish and the wafts of seabreeze air against the half-open nostrils of Edward Kenway, the most ruthless assassin first and pirate second of the early 18th century. The gameplay covers many elements in the beautiful vistas of the jungles and desolate island shrubbery scattered across the world, with equally dangerous and fiery parts of the world with the smell of the burning mast of another pirate ship. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag lets you learn the Davy Jones locker combination of fun even if it fails to create something truly memorable in some areas.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag creates a fantastical recreation of the Golden Age of Piracy with famous faces such as the legend Blackbeard and more. Players take on the role of an Abstergo researcher, in the facility to dissect the life of Edward Kenway, a notable point of interest for Abstergo and the lineage of Desmond Miles. Edward Kenway joins privateers for the need of money and walls which “hold the wind back.” After a 3-year contract goes wrong, Edward Kenway assumes the identity of a dead assassin and heads off to Havanna to meet with a governor who adjoins him to a templar cause. Witness the rise of Edward Kenway from teen into one of the most notorious and deadliest of pirates with quite the reputation to sail the high seas with a devotion and ruthlessness of a great white.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag actualizes a pirate experience in the single-player realm, creating a free-roam adventure that is seamless in terms of the high seas glory, the technology, and more. The first thing anyone will notice of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is the sheer beauty due to Ubisoft Montreal’s AnvilNext Engine. The intense recreation of the high seas engine to complement shattering waves is nice for this generation. What most people will be wondering: what are the differences between this generation and the next? Based on our play with the 360 and the PlayStation 4 versions, they are stylistic visual showcases but noticeable. The differences include, more reflective puddles of water and ocean (screen space reflection), better volumetric lighting, more physical wave effects (beaufort) and 3D foliage. Essentially, more lighting fog, better puddles, 3D Rain, better oceans and plants that move sporadically. The weather system is common and included across all technology. What the current generation version lacks is the sporadic foliage as Edward just goes through plants than even a simple system used in Assassin’s Creed III during the farm shootouts, which is literally disappointing. The oceans do look very similar, but the next generation version is the best: it comes complete with volumetric fog, higher resolution foam textures, more foam per square area of ocean, a third wave frequency for more thrashing waves, tessellation and improved Screen Space Scattering of waves on the surface which make the ocean truly look like an ocean, more crisp and detailed Screen Space Reflection on the ocean with direct illumination from moon/sun, increased physics water reactivity, and finally a more detailed shader. Global Illumination in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is essentially high quality baked lights with one indirect bounce in real time from the day/night and object light emission, Textures are higher for next generation consoles as well. These features are delicious eye-candy but in terms of graphic superiority – PC will conquer in terms of its MSAA, HBAO+ (rather than console SSAO), Improved God Rays and Shadows.
The gameplay involves naval and land exploration. Land exploration compliments the same mission structure as Assassin’s Creed III, with a host of things to do from collecting, to scavenging and hunting. Three primary areas – Havanna, Nassau, and Kingston – act as an open-world playground 1 hour into the experience with the open waters of the ‘Horizon’ engine acting as the vessel. Exploration on the deadly seas happen with Edward’s Jackdaw, a sturdy beginner ship that can take on a good number of ships and navigate the open waters with a vengeance. The minimap indicates how to avoid rogue waves and face them head-on. One on an island, Edward Kenway can hunt and craft items for more upgrades that lend a great deal of experience for unlockables and upgrades. Two upgrade systems exist: one for Edward’s ship, the Jackdaw and the other for himself. Upgrading the Jackdaw opens the route to naval combat which is unforgettable. Using dynamic 3D mesh engine, players can board the other ships seamlessly – a feature shared this generation and the next. With that, the Jackdaw can unlock weapons and new abilities. The gameplay land combat and assassination takedowns operate more similarly to Assassin’s Creed III, creating the next series which builds upon the former one, only dawning a pirate costume and really reliving the Golden Age of Piracy.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’s multiplayer is the only aspect of the game which severely feels dated and lacks any true essence. The cooperative modes such as Wolfpack and Discovery mode are more refined, but are largely the same frustrating bouts of cooperative linearity. Game Labs is a major contributor to ending repetitive map type quests with over 200 parameters that can be altered, but base it off of the same mode configurations that have certain fixed aspects. Whether or not you tweak modes, it only changes the style, which is not exactly a solution to the disparate game mode structure multiplayer embeds.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag provides a decent experience this generation with the added benefit of gameplay which will propel the single-player. Of course, current-generation players will only wish that the title looked better, as it seems to noticeably seem a little lacking in comparison to the PlayStation 4 version. Alas, the multiplayer still holds this game back to its traditional roots despite making some changes which seem to bland out into shallow waters. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag has elements which are solid in terms of gameplay but also misses its target by assassinating the need for truly original gameplay that has more than naval warfare and is essentially Assassin’s Creed III in pirate robes.