A New Assassin’s Creed is upon us, but this time the series takes to the high seas and a swashbuckling adventure as we are introduced to Edward Kenway.
Some may argue that Assassin’s Creed II was the pinnacle of the series so far and they’d be right. It was the game that took the promise of the original and tightened everything up to create a fantastic experience. Assassin’s Creed III felt like more of cash in, a game that seemed to be on a downward spiral and split opinion across the board.
Assassin’s Creed IV though hopes to bring the series back to the heights of its better days, creating a world and story that you don’t want to leave. It is a game that is being released on both current and next gen consoles and marks the first title to span this round of hardware generations.
At Gamestyle, as much as we’d love to wait for the PS4 version, we simply couldn’t, so we grabbed the PS3 release and set sail. The game has the usual setup, with you starting off fairly ill equipped for an Assassin, however the writing for the reasoning is much better here than in previous games. Edward isn’t actually an Assassin at all, the opening segment explains why he has donned the robes and why he is now on his mission and whilst it is a little cliche, it fits well for driving the story forward.
The opening hour or so of the game will see you introduced to the characters, the main plot of the story as well as the mechanics of the game, both new or old. Again as seems to be the trend right now, this is weaved into the game in such a way that it doesn’t feel much like a tutorial, with the mix between learning, narrative and gameplay combining well to immerse you into the world.
The environments are stunning too, probably the best looking game of the series so far and a fine way to bow out of this generation. However, there are some noticeable issues that show that this is a game that was geared towards the next gen. Whilst the game looks stunning, there were times where characters would clip through each other, the framerate would go from one extreme to the other and there would be other little graphical oddities.
During segments where you were running through built up areas, whether escaping capture, or chasing a target it got to a point where you would feel rather nauseous and disorientated. The need to take a few moments to look away from the screen just to gather yourself again. This is the clearest indication that this game is pushing the PS3 to its limits and beyond. We can’t wait to get our hands on the PS4 version just to experience the game again at its optimal performance levels.
The reason we want to play again, is that the core game is a joy to play, much like Assassin’s Creed II, Black Flag doesn’t feel like you are grinding through, or hoping for the end to make an appearance. Uncovering new areas, finding treasure maps, stalking and taking down targets, all feel great to do and you simply forget where the time goes, going on side missions because you want to, rather than feeling because you have to.
The game is still set in the Animus, but this time you aren’t playing as Desmond Miles and the Animus project has moved on to something that appears a bit more above ground. You now take on the role of a research analyst for Abstergo Entertainment, as you relive the memories of times past to open up stories to be used for entertainment. There are a couple of nods to the previous games, but these are more of a lip service than anything. Thankfully the bulk of the action takes place where you want it to, right in the past.
In fact, it is a shame that the need is there to still jump into the modern era at all. The adventure of Edward Kenway is strong enough to keep the game flowing on its own. It would be great to see the series just concentrate entirely on the the main part of the game, as there is enough world history for the writers to dip into that the modern day stuff will hopefully just fall by the wayside.
What makes the game such a joy to play is the freedom you get. It seems that the developers have learned from the mistakes of Assassin’s Creed III and removed a lot of the hand holding that ruined the experience. From the very beginning you can simply ignore the main mission, whilst you set off to get lost and go on a journey of discovery. Whether that be by land or by sea.
The times you spend on your ship are just as memorable as those on land. As you venture out to sea you really feel in control of an impressive vessel, you feel vulnerable whilst engaged in battle and mighty when simply sailing to discover new worlds. Chris Columbus had nothing on you, you are Master and Commander.
Combat on foot is excellent too, early on you feel as though you lack the advantage, you are of course without the skills and the arsenal to be the ultimate assassin. Yet as you progress you start to feel like you can control any situation, you have learned more skills, you have better weapons and are the one in charge.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is the best of the series since the Assassin’s Creed II without any shadow of a doubt. The experience is broken a little by some current gen restrictions, but not enough to ruin the overall experience. It will clearly be a better experience on the PS4 than the PS3, but whilst you wait, you will have a wonderful time being a pirate!