Posts tagged #xbox 360

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (Review)


Platforms: PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, PC

Another year… another Assassin’s Creed. Is that a good or bad thing? Find out after the jump!
**WARNING!! There may or may not be spoilers for the game contained in the review. Do not read if you don’t want to have anything revealed too early!**







I’ve finally gotten around to finishing Assassin’s Creed IV on PS4. The review may seem late, but I really don’t like to review games that I haven’t finished. Some sites do that, but The Inner Dorkdom likes to give a bit more time for games to gestate, rather than throw up a review for the sake of having it available during the game’s release window.

In fact, here’s my process for writing a review:

1. (Obviously) Play the game.
2. Start writing the graphics, sound, and gameplay/control sections, as the game doesn’t have to be completely finished in order to get a handle on these.
3. Finish the game.
4. Write the story section and final thoughts.
5. Publish the review.

In order to review Assassin’s Creed IV fairly, I have to come at it from two different angles. On the one hand, I have to review it as someone who reviews videogames on this website. On the other hand, I have to review it as someone who is a massive fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. For the most part, I’m pretty torn about what I think of the series’ latest entry. From a game standpoint, well… it’s got a lot of problems. From a fan’s perspective… I’ll just save it for the breakdown.

Breakdown -

Like every AC game, historical figures make appearances.
Anne Bonny is pictured here with main character, Edward Kenway.
Story:  6/10
Like most games, the story and mythology behind Assassin’s Creed have always been the main things I enjoyed the most about the series. I love how Ubisoft has been able to dig themselves out of seemingly impossible situations when they run into the brick walls that they create during nearly every game. I’m not being sarcastic here. I honestly think they’ve handled the series well in terms of story.
…Until AC4.
At first, I thought that the pirate themed story was going to be hugely epic, and for a while it was. After the first 10 hours or so, however, things started to become extremely boring and just plain ol’ uninteresting. I enjoyed the character of Edward Kenway (a lot more so than Connor of AC3) and hope a few more games are released to flesh his character out, but the other characters (mainly the villains) were sort of flat. None of them really grabbed my attention.
Questions that were raised in AC3 were very quietly answered, but never really talked about all that much – particularly the cliffhanger we were all left on for a year. Do we find out what happened to Desmond Miles? Yes, but it’s a pretty brief explanation. Do we find out what’s going on with Juno? Kind of, but it’s more like we find out what’s NOT going on with Juno, due to a very not-so-cleverly-devised way of continuing the series and setting up future sequels.

(SPOILERS!!!)
My biggest complaint with AC4’s story was the fact that it’s only “kind of” an Assassin’s Creed story. The main character isn’t even an assassin for about 95% of the game. Maybe I missed something while playing, but I don’t think that Edward Kenway actually EVER became an assassin during the story. One could tell that he was on his way to doing so. For about half of the game, I thought this was an interesting angle, but (again, unless I missed something) his joining of the order is never actually shown. And from the epilogue in the middle of the game’s ending credits, we’re still given no clear indication that he “took the oath.” We know from Oliver Bowden’s novel, “Assassin’s Creed: Forsaken,” that Edward was an assassin and adhered to the creed, but are the novels considered canon? In this case, and for the sake of AC4’s story, I certainly hope so.
(END SPOILERS!!)

In summation, I felt that the story of Assassin’s Creed IV was just really lazy and was only somewhat of an afterthought when Ubisoft decided to make a game with a primary focus of ship-based combat (more on that in a bit). It really didn’t have the “umph” that previous games have had, and seemed more like a side game that was only somewhat related to the series.

(Just as a side note: When I finished the game, I actually said, “What the crap? That’s it?!” The game kind of ends without warning and doesn’t really build towards an ending.)

Visuals: 8.5/10
I have to pretty much score this one in the same way I did for Assassin’s Creed III, since it looks as though it uses the same engine.  The thing that perhaps stands out a bit more for ACIV as opposed to III (and what gives it an extra ‘.5’ edge) is the beautifully rendered Caribbean setting. It’s much better looking and immersive than the colonial setting of the previous game. Though the scenery is prettier to look at, the character models in-game are a bit stiff looking – at least for the NPCs. At times, the NPCs look as though they were pulled straight from a PS2 or original Xbox game. I’m really interested to see what an Assassin’s Creed title will look like next year, when Ubisoft develops one (hopefully) specifically for next-gen hardware.

Sound: 7/10
The sound design is great, effects-wise. Gulls and other birds, ocean waves, and cannon fire all sound extremely authentic. The voice acting is pretty good, too. Unfortunately, the area in which ACIV’s sound lacks is the music. Personally, I thought that Lorne Balfe’s score for ACIII was excellent, as was Winifred Phillips’ score for AC: Liberation. It’s a shame that Brian Tyler couldn’t capture the same magic. The score is not bad by any stretch; I just thought the themes in ACIII and Liberation were much better and more memorable. I’m really surprised that, with as much critical acclaim as she received for her soundtrack to Liberation, Ubisoft didn’t give the scoring duties to Phillips. I’d really like to see what she would do with a main, numbered title.

Way too much of this....
Gameplay: 6.5/10
Black Flag goes back to the exploratory greatness of ACII-Revelations and brings back an almost overwhelming sense of things to do in the Caribbean world they created. From assassination contracts to finding buried treasure, almost everything you could think of to do in a pirate game is here.
That being said, I don’t like ship combat. To me, it feels extremely clunky and I found myself absolutely hating anytime a ship-related sequence would start. The ship combat was something that was praised (for some reason) in ACIII, so naturally, Ubisoft had to implement it into the newest iteration (plus, the fact that this is a pirate game, ship combat and travel makes since). I didn’t like it



...not nearly enough of this for my tastes.
then and I don’t like it now.  I also don’t like that so much emphasis is put into Edward’s ship, the Jackdaw. Having to constantly upgrade your ship, as well as your character, just seemed like a bit much. But I have to admit, disabling an enemy ship, boarding it, taking out its crew and looting its cargo are very fun and rewarding experiences.


Control: 4.5/10
I already mentioned the ship combat, but what about control of Edward himself? Remember in my ACIII review when I talked about Connor running up walls or jumping off things I didn’t want him to? Yeah, that hasn’t been changed. In fact, it seems like it’s worse. There is a chase scene about midway through the game that frustrated me to no end with how many times I had to do it just to get it right. The scene wouldn’t have been all that difficult if the controls were better, but the game forces you to do everything perfectly in order to succeed. I really hope the developers go back to the original “puppet-style” controls from pre-ACIII for the next game, or that they at least try and tighten up some of the controls.

I’m a fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, so of course I liked ACIV. I’ll continue buying new entries in the franchise for many years to come. I mainly just felt that there was “too much pirate in my assassin game.” For new players, though, a lot of the game’s flaws might end up being a huge turnoff. That’s actually what I remember thinking while playing: “Man, if I’d never played an AC game before, I’d probably hate this one.”

So is it worth $60? Personally, I don’t think so. I’d say that around $30-$40 is a bit more reasonable, given the quality of the game. A mediocre and lazy story, average music, frustrating ship combat, and poorly implemented control features rank Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag as one of the lowest in the series for me.

Final Score: 6.5/10

**NOTE: I have played and completed the singleplayer DLC, Freedom Cry. In my honest opinion, if that would have been the basis for AC4’s plot, I think I would have enjoyed the game much more. Unlike the main game, it seemed to have more emphasis on actually being an assassin. I award Freedom Cry a score of 8/10.

 

-Josh

 Screenshots taken from Google Images.