BLACK Flag is the black sheep of the Assassin’s Creed family, dispensing with the overwrought narratives of previous entries in the series that aimed to weave a story surrounding the historic feud between the Assassins and the Knights Templar.
Review: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag - Xbox One / Playstation 4 (reviewed)
Score: 8.6 / 10
Its piratical protagonist, Edward Kenway, places importance only on trinkets and wealth, a viewpoint which may well be morally bankrupt, but helps liberate the franchise from its tangled history.
The best moments in the game take place on the open seas of the Caribbean, as Kenway and his crew plunder other ships and wage vicious battles, all to the soundtrack of sea shanties, lusty hollering and, of course, cannon fire. On the Xbox 360, such experiences were thrilling and novel. On Playstation 4, however, commandeering the Jackdaw on its journeys across the ocean is even more visceral.
It is clear that Ubisoft Montreal have taken the time to use the additional processing power of Sony’s new plaything. Surface effects and texture details have undergone significant improvements. At land these are pleasing if fleeting; at sea, they are prominent, as plumes of smoke flashes over the crest of a wave and squalls of rain batter down on the Jackdaw’s creaking frame.
For an open world game, especially one so reliant on period details, these accompaniments make for a much more exciting experience without compromising a speedy frame rate, even when all hell breaks loose and fire echoes all around. The life of a pirate has been a curiously ignored conceit in gaming and even if an imitator rears their head, they will be hard pushed to match Ubisoft for the atmosphere in Black Flag.
Plays no differently
The visuals aside, the game plays no different to the 360 or Playstation 3 versions. The established parkour mechanics flow well in the urban realms of Kingston, Havana and Nassau, although the aspects of the franchise that should have been discarded long ago - the tiresome chase missions and eavesdropping sections - stick in the craw.
Given it is a game that relies on environmental features and a sense of place, the graphical upgrades afforded Black Flag by the Playstation 4 enhance an already excellent title. Ubisoft has struck upon an unusual yet welcome evolution of its most famous franchise, and it is executed masterfully on the next gen.