Title: Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag
Release Date: October 29th, 2013
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Formats: All Consoles
WARNING: This review will not include multiplayer gameplay review seeing as how I detest everything about this game in multiplayer mode. Everything.
AC4 was initially a miss on my radar with the plethora of games that have come out in the last few months. An unexpected gift card for Christmas and an even more unexpected sale on Black Flag meant I would once again be giving an Assassin’s game a chance after swearing off the series forever and ever.
The lackluster, boring, glitch-fest that was AC3 had me ready to pull that hood down permanently and never pop that hidden blade out again. I’m glad that gift card showed up because I would be missing out on a very good installment. I have yet to beat the game but so far it looks and feels like the best one since AC2. Seriously. I have yet to see any glitches after about 50 hours in and many of those were in 9 or 10 hour blocks. Aside from the Assassin randomly jumping in the complete opposite direction you want him to, which is staple, this game seems as refined as every other in the series. Except 3 of course.
We follow Edward Kenway, the grandfather of Connor from AC3, as he steals and kills his way across the Caribbean in a stolen ship with a crew full of freed criminals and slaves alike. Kenway starts the game as a pirate who kills an Assassin, assumes his identity and later finds out he was a double agent for the Templars but not really. So, wait… Let me get this straight. He’s a pirate. He’s pretending to be an Assassin. He’s pretending to be an Assassin secretly working with the Templars. He’s pretending to work for the Templars, for the Assassins. I lost track but I think we’re at quadruple agent. Triple double cross? I don’t know but it’s awesome. Finally a character as cool as older Ezio and as lacking in morals as young Ezio. Edward gets knee deep in the war between the Assassins and the Templars pretty quick as well. He is tasked with spying, killing, retrieving stuff, and intel gathering by both sides but he quickly chooses his freedom and his pirate outlaw community over everything else.
Now to the boat. Actually, I have no complaint here. There isn’t some excruciatingly long cut scene if you want to exit the pirate ship like I was worried there may have been. Just let go of the wheel, go explore that Mayan temple, jump off, usually in a super-stylish manner, and swim. Simple as that. My only gripe is that there’s too much to do and too many distractions on your way to a mission. Which isn’t a gripe really. It’s just my chipmunk attention span seeing a nice shiny red dot on the radar and convincing me that it must be destroyed at all cost or the Templars might win. Its like Grand Theft Auto. Got a mission that’s only a two minute drive/sail away? 5 bull sharks, 3 hammerheads, 12 enemy boats, 3 wanted levels, several shipwrecked sailors, tons of loot, 8 hours later annnnnnnd…I have to go to work now. Damn! Which basically translates into a replay value of 10.
All the standard weapons return in Black Flag including, of course, the dual hidden blades. I like the fact that you start out with smoke bombs and you don’t have to craft or scavenge or sell crap to get ammo. As soon as you unlock it in-game, just go purchase it to re-up. I haven’t reached endgame content yet but I haven’t seen a dagger or crossbow. On the up side you do get double swords. I miss the bow and arrow but I did just unlock a nifty little blowgun. Sleep darts and berserk darts come with the thing at unlock and they’re awesome. The sleep darts are a new addition and its a pretty cool idea. Shoot your enemy with one and they instantly drop for a nap for a specific amount of time indicated by a swirly type circular thing above their carcass. Its a good opportunity to sneak around a guard without having to kill him and hide his body to keep from raising a ruckus. Then he gets back up all confused and bewildered but doesn’t raise the alert level. Win, win.
I also like the shark catching and the naval combat. Even though I forget to use the spyglass from time to time to guage ships and end up getting owned by high-level brigs, it’s still fun and a good way to get a glimpse of your future ship status. The one thing I’m missing is the Brotherhood feature of being able to call in a duo, or trio of duos(?), of deadly assassins to do your bidding. There are trade missions and battles still but its all thru the Kenway’s fleet. No complaints there as you at least get to watch tiny ships shoot at each other as opposed to the covered wagon minigame from 3. The trade missions still don’t show any action but they serve their purpose.
A boatload of easter eggs exist in the events between the pirate adventures when the player gets to explore and hack your co-workers’ workstations at Abstergo Inc. There’s another twist. You work for Abstergo. Dun Dun Dun.
Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag has been a pleasant surprise especially since I was planning on releasing the Creed series back into the ocean. Now my second favorite storyline in video games looks to be on a comeback and its lead man seems to be back at Ezio status of coolness. We also finally get a new direction in the future/present for the Assassin-Templar war. Also I am impressed with myself that I didn’t make a pirate joke for this entire review. Argh!