Booty Calls! Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Review

(Original article at ‘York Vision’)

Kenway

Warning. Review written by penniless first year who hasn’t bought the game. I’ve conducted my research and know this series very well, so keep yer epithets to yerself, yer port swillin’, sneaky gaggin’ reptile!

With a moderate opening title in the series, Assassin’s Creed has gone on to become Ubisoft’s biggest success story (that’s right, even bigger than that old Rayman game you played the hell out of). Gamers can immerse themselves into a world filled with a rich narrative, beautiful scenery to jump around in and killing. Lots of killing. Yet, with the recent announcement to make the series an annual release, as well as a certain degree of backlash to A.C. III compared with previous titles, is there a worry that fans may drop ship? Not at all – in fact, stay on that ship and shoot the hell out of some other ones.

This time around, players take control of cocky protagonist Edward Kenway, grandfather to that of Connor Kenyway, the previous lead role. The two of them live completely different lives. Whilst Connor spent his time getting high on herbal tea and stabbing redcoats in the name of Washington, Edward spends his raiding enemy ships for loot and sleeping with many a Caribbean courtesan (he’s unemployed, give the guy a break, eh?). He’s refreshing in his approach, feeling like a pick ‘n’ mix of previous lead assassins. A good man at heart, but completely reckless, players see how his character begins to grow as his epic adventures intertwine with the life of the Creed.

His playpen ain’t so shabby either. Set in the Caribbean, 1715, Edward encapsulates himself in the Golden Age of Piracy, a violent yet exciting time in world history. From Renaissance Italy to Damascus, players have taken part in an epic adventure of ‘Around the World in 80+ Hours Gameplay’ since the year 2007. Ubisoft have been known for visiting locales to create the best representation possible – that’s completely evident here. The vast oceans, the dense jungles, the metropolitan cities. I’m in my own pixelated world here, but it couldn’t feel more realised, even topping A.C. III’s impressive feats.

Now, I have to pick bits with this, as I feel the story may be the weakest part of the game. Sure, those concerned with the history and characters of this time period will be pleased. However, you don’t find yourself particularly interested in the main game, proving to be more of an effort in completing these missions as opposed to side quests. However, the ‘present day’ events concerned with Desmond  take a great turn, focusing more on Abstergo’s side of events. Their office has a Microsoft feel about it… interpret how you will.

All I could think of when I watched Jack Sparrow clashing swords on screen was ‘Why does Johnny Depp get all the fun?’ Now, you finally get a piece of the action. With a mix of land and sea exploration and combat, gameplay doesn’t go stale. From running across rooftops and the merciless fighting we remember, to striding across the oceans in the Jackdaw, diving into undiscovered caverns for treasure and wrestling the bajeezus out of sharks. Your crew even sings sea shanties for an authentic feel… sadly not the ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ theme tune.

Pirates, in one way or another, have steadily become a popular part of mainstream culture. Except video games. Everywhere except video games. Well, me mateys, I’m going to put a cannonball in that statement right now. This latest addition to ‘Assassin’s Creed’ doesn’t just revitalise this bloated series – it reconceptualises the pirate in gaming. So, is it a pirate’s life for you?

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