PS3 Review: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Should you let this assassin shiver your timbers?

I’ve been a huge fan of Assassin’s Creed from the beginning, but even I was disappointed with AC III. It lacked focus; the protagonist was uninteresting and forgettable while the game itself was marred with bugs that let it down. The saving grace was its ship missions and what a surprise…now they’ve made a sequel that focuses more on that success with Black Flag…
You play as Edward Kenway, a notorious pirate with respect from the likes of Blackbeard. He’s a better protagonist than Connor was, but still doesn’t quite match the quality of Ezio. The story will take you across the Caribbean through activities like plundering ships, attacking legendary ships, assassinations and many other side missions and collectables to find. The ship controls have been vastly improved from AC III and is more accessible. There’s still a lot to be done on land so it’s not all on the high seas, so don’t go expecting anything too drastic changing in the AC universe…it will feel very familiar, but improved.

There’s a large emphasis on exploration in Black Flag with dozens of collectables, rare animals to hunt and treasure to find deep underwater. You gather resources for your ship by boarding other ships and stealing their supplies, but doing so raises your wanted level and eventually you’ll be hunted on the open sea if you don’t bribe the harbourmaster, however the hunter ships do carry great loot for upgrades…so it’s worth doing if you think you can survive the onslaught.
Multiplayer remains the same as before, but luckily the trophies aren’t hugely focused on that this time around. It would have been nice for them to add ship battles on the high seas, it would have been interesting and it feels like a missed opportunity to me. There are some co-op missions for multiplayer and a lab mode where you can design your own game types, but other than that its business as usual.

Visually, Black Flag looks great for the most part. The environments look stunning and I can’t wait to see the next-gen equivalent, but facial animations are a mixed bag and there are a few glitches to contend with as you would expect. Voice-acting is a lot better this time around; Edward Kenway is a more enjoyable character to play than Connor who I found to be a bit whiny. The music is also well done and fits the whole “Pirate” theme.

The Verdict

While it has its flaws, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is a huge improvement over AC III. It’s more enjoyable, the ship battles are well done and exploring the Caribbean is a wonder to see. Being a pirate has never been more fun, I can’t wait to see what Ubisoft do with the franchise from here but it’ll take a lot to top this…