The year is 1715 and a lawless pirate republic rules the Caribbean Sea. Neither land nor sea is safe from these rapscallions, and the biggest hellraiser of them all is a young captain named Edward Kenway. He’s recently arrived in Havana as a privateer, or maybe a pirate; it’s a little unclear and just a matter of ethics (which are also a little unclear in the world of Assassin’s Creed).
Freedom is at the heart of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. While the game isn’t as open as Grand Theft Auto V, the world is highly unstructured and more expansive. While there are always mission objectives, you can explore wherever you want and do whatever you want—and then go fulfill the mission. And you’ll want to explore this beautiful lush world to the fullest. I sometimes found myself sailing off towards the horizon to watch the sunset (and its flaming red-orange reflection on the rolling sea) or climbing to the top of a church tower and perching silently on top of the cross to watch shadows dance across the walls and sides of buildings in town.
The first level is a tutorial where you follow a pretty straightforward list of objectives. After that the world opens up—not completely, but pretty close. You can preempt missions to go off on side quests, explore, investigate and loot underwater shipwrecks, or even go hunting and fishing. In fact, simply following all mission objectives sells the game short because there is so much other good stuff in there. Ubisoft says there’s up to 80 hours of game play in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and I believe it. I’ve played for 20+ hours and the game still tells me that my progression has merely scratched the surface of the Caribbean game world.
My only major Black Flag criticism is that sometimes it seems very hard to control my character. This has been my criticism of the Assassin’s Creed franchise since the beginning. Sometimes I find that Edward jumps down from a wall or climbs up a wall when all I wanted to do was walk by the wall. This can be more than frustrating. The control issue is absent during combat, but when you make the split second decision to flee because of your deteriorating health, you may scream in frustration as Edward stops to hide against a wall in plain sight instead of scaling it and gets stabbed to death.
Equally frustrating are the minor incongruities that crop up in the environment where objects and areas sort of appear then disappear and then appear again. Another minor issue is that firearms are far too accurate; there is no way that a flintlock pistol could have been fired from the hip and hit a target dead on at 25 feet. And while I’m at it, the concept of momentum completely eludes the sailing portion of the game—sailing ships don’t stop or turn on a dime.
The Black Flag iPad and Android tablet companion apps demonstrate the potential of the entire companion app concept. It turned my iPad into almost a necessary accessory for the game. The map is far more detailed than the in-game map and let me to see my objectives and progress in real-time and set waypoints in-game. It was also very cool to find a treasure map in the game (on my TV) and view it on my iPad while searching for the treasure.
Gamers who purchase Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag for PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 4 get an addition hour of exclusive missions featuring Aveline, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation’s heroine. These three missions take place after the conclusion of Liberation, and are independent of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’s main campaign. There’s also a limited edition bundle available that includes an assassin statue, a pirate flag, an 80 page art book, and more.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is a not a perfect game, but it is fun and enjoyable. The graphics are beautiful on the ageing PS3—I can’ wait to see Black Flag running on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It’s an enormous open world. Get out there and explore it!
|ESRB Rating||T for Teen|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc