Let's be honest, Assassin's Creed III was pretty much a let down. The game failed to offer a grasping story line or what should have been an exhilarating gameplay experience. However, all that is in the past and Ubisoft have seemingly redeemed themselves by offering what looks like an excellent fourth installment in the franchise.
All of the initial reviews have given it high scores and here's a roundup for some of them.
: 9/10 - The naval combat missions were the best thing about ACIII, and their foregrounding here shows that Ubisoft knows it. Plundering other ships is a multi-stage process of disabling them and then swinging aboard for a deck-based skirmish.
The emergent wrinkles of dynamic weather and potential engagement from nearby ships helps to keep these battles eternally fresh. But the same freedom you enjoy while circling rivals on the ocean like a shark also extends to stealth objectives in Havana, Nassau, and other settlements.
Stealth games are only as good as the flexibility of their encounters, and in that regard Black Flag is the most generous Assassin's Creed game to date.
: 9/10 - "Much like the first Assassin's Creed, Black Flag isn't perfect. But the treasure trove of memorable experiences on offer here put all but the very best open worlds to shame."
: 4.5/5 - "Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag is an imperfect game, for sure, but I found the overall experience immensely enjoyable. Accept that it's really a game about pirates, not assassins, and you'll love filling the boots of Edward Kenway for 30-40 hours."
: 8.5/10 - "The amazing world of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag has kept me gladly occupied for longer than any other game in the series, even though its story isn't the strongest."
: 9/10 - "If there was ever any question that Assassin's Creed needed something ambitious to get the series back on track, Black Flag is that game and then some."
: 7.5/10 - "For all of its mechanical improvements, for the wonder I felt as I sailed the ocean, orca, dolphins, even great whites breaking the surface to my port side as I outran a royal trade armada, for the excellent performances and character moments throughoutit felt disjointed. Directionless."
: 4/5 - "It's not the proper return to form for the series, but it is a concerted acknowledgement of what that form is today, and what works for the monster of gameplay systems, stealth, ships and oceans that lurks underneath."
: 8 - Much like Assassin's Creed 2 took the unpolished ideas of the original AC, Black Flag builds upon the flawed AC3 experience.
Ubisoft's latest adventure takes the best ideas of last year's game, refines them, and adds surprising new experiences in the form of underwater missions and a genuinely fun modern-day narrative.
It's unquestionable that the Assassin's Creed franchise will one day outstay its welcome, especially at the pace Ubisoft continues to make these games. However, Black Flag shows that there's still life in the series yet.
: 8.25 - Black Flag is ultimately better than Assassin's Creed III (which I did not formally review). Some elements seem crafted directly in response to criticisms about the previous game.
You get to the piracy rather quickly, without the need for several hours of tutorial missions. Weapon switching happens immediately thanks to the d-pad assignment, and fast-travel locations are convenient and plentiful. However, some of the same complaints resurface with a vengeance: frustrating stealth, numerous glitches, and poor performance (the framerate is all over the place on the current-gen incarnations).
These flaws, combined with the disjointed story and repetitive main missions, make Black Flag a game that fails to live up to its full potential. Though Edward's voyage isn't all smooth sailing, the choppy waters don't sink the ship.
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is now available on the PS3 and Xbox 360. A PC version will follow later.
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