Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Combat in "Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag" has never looked better

The Assassin’s Creed (AC) franchise has been around since early 2007. The first game hit store shelves with great fanfare on October 27th. It was a huge financial success raking in approximately US$7 million the first week. Ubisoft, the developers of the game, were on a roll and released AC2 two years later with far greater success. It is understandable that fans were eagerly awaiting the release of the sixth and latest installment of their master piece. It was released midnight of October 29th and has failed to meet sales expectations. It has fallen far behind the benchmark of US$10 million established by its predecessor AC3 and for obvious reasons. Though there are multiple opinions about the good, the bad and the ugly, this review will focus specifically on the storyline, graphics and game play.

The storyline of AC4 works like a tranquilizer; it puts you to sleep. It is lacklustre, unsophisticated and requires little thought. It caused me to wonder about the intellectual and creative requirements set by Ubisoft for the position of Creative Director. AC4 follows the life of Edward Kenway. The story is so simplistic and ordinary that it does nothing to stimulate game play. Kenway, an English privateer who wants a more luxurious life, turns to piracy in order to finance his dream. The player (as Kenway) loots, plunders and pillages ships on the open sea using an arsenal of weapons from daggers to cannons. As far as pirate games per se go, it works, but as a member of the AC family, it is a complete failure. It strays from the ideals and previous style that fans have come to expect from this highly popular series. AC4 is trying hard to be something it is not. The result is a game that is by far the biggest disappoint since the Stanley cup play offs of 2011. Here, like there, it leaves fans crestfallen.

The Game’s graphics component fares substantially better. The setting is the Caribbean, in cities like Havana and Nassau, but it includes multiple small islands dotted throughout this part of the world. Amazing! Everything from trees to castles looks as though you are actually there. The characters of the game have also undergone a huge makeover. Whether it is facial hair or features, every element is more realistic and crisp in appearance. Water graphics have undergone the biggest improvement, however. Now, the Game simulates the look and feel of being at sea. Massive swells hit the ship and water is actually taken on deck. Naval combat also adds a sense of realism as shards of wood fly through the air when cannon balls find their mark. Combat between crews is similarly life-like. From this perspective, the experience parallels a movie in which you are the star.
Unfortunately, poor writing keeps it from the Oscar list.

One of the Game’s redeeming qualities is game play. It eases the frustration of having to deal with such a weak and feeble storyline. The practice of free-running and parkour throughout the city has been upgraded to allow players the momentum required to keep up with an increased pace. Obstacles are traversed with ease, but remain realistic and player movement appears authentic. Imitation combat, on the other hand, does not fare as well. The only real improvement here is that players are now able to wield multiple swords simultaneously for superior offensive action. In addition, free-aim guns have been added to Kenway’s diverse arsenal of weapons. Unfortunately, this change has not been integrated with full satisfaction. The analog stick on the console makes for a fastidious and frustrating experience. This is especially annoying when your pistol has only one bullet! Thankfully, naval combat has vastly improved. Players now have more choice when upgrading their ship and they have greater accessibility to a range of weapons. Success in combat earns you several options: loot the ship, take it over, or send it to Davey Jones’ locker. Boarding vessels is great! Players can use the rigging to swing from ship to ship to surprise the other side before the enemy knows what is happening.

Overall, this reviewer and former diehard fan of the series, believes that AC4 is the black sheep of the AC family and should be put down. Although AC4 excels in graphics and game play, it is not enough to make up for the serious let down caused by a deficient and unacceptable storyline. The score? An unenthusiastic 7.5/10.