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Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Review

Excellent Game

Assassin's Creed Black Flag Review

I am a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed games so admittedly I approach these games with a healthy benefit of the doubt and positive bias in place. I hope I’m not an outright fanboy and I don’t think I am since I can harp on some quibbles and nitpicks I had from previous games, whether it be the KBM controls on the first one or the utterly ghastly first person platforming that was in Revelations.

In complete defiance of the normal trend of sequelitis, this series continues to expand and improve upon itself with each successive entry.

Assassin’s Creed 3 teased some neat concepts that are fully capitalized on here in part 4, namely the sea-faring component. The diversity of the ecosystem was impressive in part 3 and is downright jaw dropping here in part 4. Part 4 also brings a level of life and an overall organic feel to this sprawling and huge gameworld that was lacking in the otherwise still impressive part 3’s.

Simply put: This is the best Assassin’s Creed game yet and it also happens to be the best pirate game to come along in years. You are getting two awesome games in one. I honestly don’t know how they did all of this and I don’t think anyone expected this game to be this ambitious.

I really do have to take my hat off to the developers for this sterling effort.

Assassin's Creed Black Flag Screenshot 01

GRAPHICS:

One of the best looking PC games I’ve seen yet and an appreciably better looking than what I thought was and still is a very good-looking Assassin’s Creed 3. In this game everything is more varied and ALIVE. For example in AC3 you could go in the forest and it just felt dead. Not in this. Everything is teeming with life and detail and diversity. Much greater care and attention to detail has been shown throughout this game from top to bottom and if you have the hardware to max the graphics out some of it really looks photo realistic. Anyone that you seem talking about console port here simply doesn’t know what they are talking about at best.

The graphics options are as comprehensive as you could possibly hope for down to varying AA settings ranging from FXAA, SMAA, MSAA, CSAA options, and even TXAA which I think is a dud.

I recommend sticking with MSAA or CSAA variants for best performance and eye candy values. FXAA is a decent compromise although I find it can tend to add a little bit of unwelcome blurriness. TXAA I’ve give up on outright. It’s a performance hog and it almost looks like a thin layer of Vaseline got applied to the visuals.

If you have some muscle hardware and want to have some fun look into SGSSAA out of your respective GPU control panels or third-party utility apps. Be mindful that when you start going past 2X SGSSAA you are going to see increasingly steep performance hits.

If you can get that to work you will see some truly astounding visuals. I’m currently trying to experiment with it in several games.

As of this writing the game has already been the beneficiary of at least one patch that improved PhysX options and performance so it’s beyond clear that this isn’t some afterthought console port by any means.

Assassin's Creed Black Flag Screenshot 02

AUDIO:

Brian Tyler succeeds Lorne Balfe as the music composer for this game and he brings a different flavor and slant to the music that keeps thing fresh and works perfectly with the game. There are certain musical cues and use of instrumentation that say “Assassin’s Creed” but Tyler brings his own sensibilities to this just as Balfe and Jesper Kyd did before him. Tyler is a fantastic composer and I’ve been happy to see him expand into videogames past his already impressive film scoring resume.

I’m a person that’s big on audio and big on the importance of music. Music is and can be a “main character” in its own right when handled well and this game series has been blessed with some of the best in the business working today.

Past this the sound design as a whole is on my short list for best of the year along with other aspects of the game and the game itself. Everything from voices (speaking or singing), the rush of the waves, the weather, the sea life, the animals on ground, the cities… everything sounds real and as it should.

If you close your eyes you are in a real world. I can’t pay the sound design a higher compliment than that. Please avail yourself of some respectable audio options when playing this game.

Assassin's Creed Black Flag Screenshot 03

GAMEPLAY:

Where do I begin? You basically have two games in one going here. You have the best Assassin’s Creed game yet and you also have, at least in my opinion, one of the best pirate based games I’ve ever played at least the Sid Meier title.

The controls are tweaked and refined a little bit coming off of part 3 but nothing substantial has changed. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Obviously the biggest expansion of concepts coming off of part 3 is the sailing side of the game which is essentially another game in and of itself.

There is always something new to see and do. The game absolutely rewards obsessive compulsive disorder handsomely.

Let me give you an example: When I had 8 hour of gameplay under my belt I had only finished the first mission in the main storyline. At 30 hours of gameplay I was only at the 25 percent overall completion mark. At the 55 percent mark I broke 40 hours of gameplay. You get the idea. I’m not someone that’s a real hardcore OCD type player but this game has brought that tendency out in me. The vastness of the game world is huge and diverse. You always want to see what’s out yonder. The next hidden island. Take down that next fort. Find the hidden treasure. Go hunting on land or in the sea with a harpoon. Take out a navy convoy. Explore hidden areas underwater.

The underwater sequences are real gems that I hope get expanded on in future games. Maybe finally get around to the main storyline. It’s downright unbelievable how much there is to do in this game and how big it is. The game world is rich, diverse, and ALIVE. This isn’t the gorgeous but completely static ecosystem of Skyrim. This game world is organic and on many occasions the attention to detail makes me stop what I’m doing and just admire it whether it’s dolphins suddenly coming through the water and diving up in packs or a humpback whale doing likewise to the behavior of the animals on land. Truly the attention to detail and overall care is as good as I’ve ever seen in a videogame and especially for such a large and diverse ecosystem.

Assassin’s Creed 3 was and is a beautiful game in its own right but the forests and other areas in the world were not teeming with life and organic as they are in this one. It is immediately noticeable and appreciable as soon as you start playing as Kenway in his initial sequence.

I have to even give kudos for the modern world sequences. You play an employee at an Abstergo gaming front and that’s how you interface to play as Edward Kenway, the main character for this game. Without spoiling anything, the employee sequences in the main world do help you to tie up some loose ends from AC3 so far as Desmond and those characters go and it’s surprisingly satisfying and far less frustrating than the abysmal first person platforming concept that appeared in AC: Revelations.

Assassin's Creed Black Flag Screenshot 04

 CONCLUSIONS:

I was not expecting this game to be this good. I figured either Bioshock Infinite or Grand Theft Auto 5 were going to be easy shoe-ins and locks for my Game of the Year vote. Even standout platform exclusives like The Last of Us on the PS3 from Naughty Dog merit serious GOTY consideration.

Yet despite that impressive list, this overachiever has pulled the upset for me and is my Game of The Year outright much to my own surprise.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag gets a five out of five: EXCELLENT.

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2 Comments on Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Review

  1. Really is a great game. I’ve been neglecting it a bit lately only because I want to stretch it out passed the holidays. I agree that it’s the best of the series.

    Like

  2. One thing I did like in AC3 was its’ uncompromising pace. Not enough games realise that starting at ten and staying there for twelve or so hours can be exhausting. It was certainly, interesting (for a lack of a better term) to play a game that acted more like a novel. Kind of a shame that they regressed in that regard instead of finding out a way to make it work,

    I still don’t get the weird meta-game developer role you play in AC4 though, perhaps it becomes clearer towards the end. It currently just feels like a romanticised image of just how awesome Ubisoft is. They seem very generous towards their stand-ins.

    Anyway, nice read.

    Like

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