The Assassin’s Creed franchise actually needs no introduction – it has been one of the most successful gaming enterprises in the last couple of years. With the launch of the PlayStation 4 version of Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, players have been able to take to the high-seas for the first time on a next-generation console – and it’s amazing.
The fourth major title in the franchise takes players into an era of swashbuckling pirates – and for the first time took a step back in time, instead of following the natural progression of history.
Players take control of Edward Kenway, father of Assassin’s Creed 3 villain Haytham Kenway (who was the father of AC3’s protagonist Connor), as he navigates his way around the dangers and profitability of the Golden Age of Piracy.
The biggest difference that gamers will immediately notice is the up-scaling of the graphics. The water flows like a real ocean, small details are visible on the ships and the title just runs a lot smoother than its PS3 companion.
With a touch pad incorporated into the PS4’s new controller, players will also have a new way to access the map. By simply tapping the touch pad, players will bring up the topographical view of the world, which they can navigate and set way-points.
In all honesty, the navigation by using the touch pad isn’t that great, and players will be better off to just use it to access the map, but to navigate and select waypoints by using the controller.
Other than that, those familiar with the franchise will find the controls refreshing, as not much has changed in general. Those new to the Series, will quickly realise that controlling Edward is less complicated – but is not without its complications and issues.
The PS4 version is also plagued by the trigger points for climbing that are so sensitive, that when a player even remotely approaches a wall, it triggers the need to go up or over.
Controls aside, what sets this title apart from any other Assassin’s Creed game is that players have full control over the Jackdaw – the player’s pirate ship and mode of transport between islands and cities. The Jackdaw can be upgraded and engineered to make use of better cannons, sails and hulls, but the cost of these upgrades are often so high, that players will benefit by just taking their chances with an enemy and hope for the best.
In terms of plot, the PS4 version is identical to the PS3 title, where it takes a step back to highlight the beginning of Kenway’s assassin career, and also explains a number of aspects from Assassin’s Creed 3.
While there isn’t anything fundamentally different between the PS3 and the PS4 version, the biggest benefit that players would get is the increased realism in graphics – which is absolutely phenomenal, and by far the best feature of the PS4 version.
But in general, Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag is your typical Assassin’s Creed title, with no real innovation or changes – except for the open-sea missions with the Jackdaw. But that is what players like about the title – they know exactly what they are going to get, even if it is only a change in scenery and plot.
Black Flag is incredibly enjoyable to dig into, despite for some awkward level designs and cheesy Abstergo Entertainment missions incorporating the Animus. The game also makes use of a rather nifty companion app, where players can access their entire game’s map, ships and additional into from a tablet or smartphone.
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor