Format reviewed: PS4
Other formats available: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, PC
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Ever since Altair scaled his first towering minaret and surveyed the jaw dropping holy land around him, Ubisoft’s Assassins Creed franchise has enjoyed success beyond their wildest dreams.
Now, with the yearly update dynamic firmly implemented, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag has rolled around. This time dipping its dusty toe in the crystal clear waters of the next generation of consoles. It’s the PlayStation 4 version that we’ll be reviewing here.
In the intervening years between then and now, we’ve waved goodbye to Altair and welcomed the charismatic Ezio Auditore da Firenze. Ezio’s story ended at the end of Assassin’s Creed 3, but it was always Desmond controlling them through the futuristic Animus machine in the near future.
You’re better off playing the games than asking for an explanation from us, as it’s a mind bending, time warping tapestry of events that have been woven over the last few years.
So, for AC4, it’s kind of still Desmond running the show (we won’t go into detail and spoil the plot) but the protagonist back in the day has changed to the swashbuckling rogue Edward Kenway, in 18th Century Europe.
In what is probably the biggest gameplay shift in the entire series, a good portion of AC4 takes place on the high seas. With Kenway at the wheel and his trusty band of not so merry deck hands at his beck and call, the oceans await you as you are free to challenge and, if successful, plunder other ships that you discover.
When established game structures encounter major shifts, it rarely works, and they often either feel like a tacked on gimmick, or that the game has completely changed and the only thing that’s remained is the name. That’s not the case with AC4, as the pirating can blend seamlessly with on land sections as you travel the oceans in search of distant islands to explore.
If anything, the sea faring aspect of AC4 is actually more enjoyable than the day to day familiar grind of stealthily tracking high ranking good and bad guys, eavesdropping on conversations and acting accordingly. The excellent assassin recruitment system from AC Brotherhood retains its place, which is always welcome, but it has to be said that the rest of the on foot AC features are starting to become tedious at times. Very much a case of been there, done that.
We cannot overstate, however, the sheer fun to be had out on the waves. Firing a broadside at another vessel, cannonballs ripping through its sails and smashing into its hull feels tremendously satisfying. The atmospheric effects such as rainfall, moonlight and cannonball smoke looking all the more impressive on the powerful PS4.
As for the next gen effects in AC4, the most immediate things that hit you are the 900p resolution and 60 frames per second smoothness. It’s like nothing seen on current generation consoles, and while it’s not quite as crystal clear as some 1080p resolution, next gen games, it still makes you refocus your eyes which are so used to a maximum of 720p.
Aside from a few other effects such as swaying flora and fauna, much of the graphics themselves (such as amount of polygons used) seem very much in the Xbox 360 and PS3 ballpark, and this is accentuated further with the aforementioned clarity of vision afforded by the increased resolution.
It is of course early days, though, and the next Assassin’s Creed will no doubt be blowing us all away (hopefully with more cannon) in 2014. Until then, there’s a lot of great fun pirating to be had in Black Flag.
Review by MarketZero for BCS