Meet Edward Kenway, the son of AC3’s Haytham Kenway and the grandparent of Connor.  Edward is a pirate that loves to be free, sail the seven seas and loves to live life by the pirate code.  Deep down he is just a mere man, that just wants an easily (ish) life and to provide for his loved one.  But to get this life Edward must take an unexpected journey, not just to sail the seas, but a journey to discover who he really is, a journey that will ultimately lead to his destiny.

Be warned spoiler ahead!  Throughout the Assassins Creed series, Desmond Miles has been our navigator, but he is no more.  So what now happens with the Animus and Abstergo Industries (or Abstergo Entertainment as their known in AC4), well both are very much alive and much like Edward Kenway, have a new tale to tell.  Without Desmond to lead us into the Animus, we are now an employee of Abstergo Entertainment.  It is our job to jump into the Animus and explore Edwards’s world to pick from his best memories and use them to make the ultimate pirate movie.  Yes you’ve read that right, Abstergo want you to explore memories to make movies.  Knowing the history of Abstergo, this seems a little odd as something tells me that the company  that is run by the Templars have ulterior motives, but what are they and what do they really intend to do with Edwards memories?  That is up to you to discover, so let’s once more jump into the Animus and follow the adventures of the charismatic Edward Kenway.

The Assassins Creed series have always been one of the most visually striking games within its genre, it perhaps began to show its age with AC3, but when you consider the size of the game, it may be fair to cut it a little slack.  While more linear games such as Killzone: Shadow Fall and Battlefield 4 may have the better textures, AC4’s worldly environments and character facial animation is of the top draw and is easily one of the most visually impressive games on the market.

The facial animation is to such a high standard, that even when Edward is not uttering a word, you can almost read his emotions and thoughts like a book.  Whether it be sarcasm, irritation or moments of happiness, it’s often quite clear what Edward may be thinking before he’s even said a word.  That is quite an impressive feat for the developers and one that not many can boast.

In my opinion the star of the show is the huge open world that you have to explore.  Whether it be small villages in the Caribbean, bright and green jungles, crumbling temples or the expansive open seas, the world of AC4 looks stunning regardless of the environment.  There may be more linear games on the new gen that have more refined textures, but when you consider just how much of a huge game AC4 is, currently its difficult for any game to come anywhere near it.  The only game that arguably beats Black Flag in this area is the great GTA V.  Even though both games are in worlds of their own, at the time of GTA V’s release, it was hard to believe that it would have a rival like AC4 so soon after its release.  It truly is a great time to be a gamer for a fan of the open world.

There are many great visual wonders in AC4, but the greatest moments are those that arrive unexpected.  Those of you that have already played this game may just know what section of the game I am about to refer to here.  It’s hard to say just how early on in the game this moment is, because much like GTA V, AC4 is a game that you can lose hours to and not even touch the main campaign. Without giving too much away, if my memory serves me correct it was either the 2nd or 3rd sequence (chapter) and the mission involved chasing down a target in a tropical jungle.


I was running through a seemingly endless trail of trees and vines, edging closer to my target with each frantic step.  Then in a moment’s notice as I appear from the trees I come close to a great height and sudden death; hitting  X frantically I managed to jump to the next platform avoiding death.  It was then I saw one of the moments that will likely stay with me long after Black Flag has come and gone.  Right before my eyes was a wondrous waterfall, spanning across a huge tropical cliff face.  If there ever was one in a video gaming universe, this beautiful and impressive sight would go down as one of the eight wonders of the world.  This was the first of many ‘wow’ moments in Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag, which firmly inducts itself into one of the most visually striking games currently available on any format.

In essence, AC4 plays in much of the same way as AC3; only here the gameplay feels a little more simplified and as a result, more accessible.  The Assassins Creed series was just in need of a little tweaking here and there, and that’s exactly what Ubisoft has done.  The combat feels more free flowing than ever before, and it shouldn’t take you long to become a master combatant.  Though there is one annoying gameplay factor that still remains from the previous games, one in which I wish that at some point Ubisoft would iron out and that’s accidentally running up the wrong walls/trees when be chased or being the chaser.

Some of you must know what I’m referring to here and that’s when your holding down the sprint button and you inadvertently run up the wrong wall, so you reposition and then Edward does it again and again, pushing himself off the wall/tree each time.  All while you have been either caught up and your target has escaped.  Thankfully this does not happen as much as it did with previous games, but it’s still annoying all the same when it does happen.  Oh and one more thing, when will Ubisoft introduce a crouch button for the stealth sections of the game?  Come on Ubisoft, fulfil this simple request.


One of my most welcomed gameplay improvements is the way in which you aim your gun.  In AC3 you would have to lock on to your target and press Triangle to shoot.  This could often become very frustrating when pursuing a moving target.  This is one of the many areas in AC4 that has been simplified, as now you would simply hold L2 to draw your weapon and aim, and then press R2 to shoot.  Basically the same way in which you would fire a weapon in most First or Third Person Shooters.   The previous Triangle command has now been replaced with a ‘Quick Fire’ function, which in all honesty, I haven’t used all that often.

The Naval moments that were introduced in AC3, for some unbeknown reason never really took my interest and felt much like a chore.  That however is not the case with AC4; no longer do they feel like a chore and it’s easily to lose hours upon hours on the open digital seas.  A big reason for this however could be due to the fact that the controls in the naval sections are so easy to function, as when it comes to firing upon another ship, the controls are very similar to firing a firearm.  You simply rotate the camera to aim at the desired ship, press L2 to aim and then press R2 to shoot, no longer do you have to even select which cannon to use via the D-Pad (as it were in AC3).  Now depending on the position of the ship in which you wish to sink, will depend on which cannon is to fire.  It’s such a simple logic; it makes you think how on earth this was not the approach in AC3.

During your time sailing the sea’s, whether you are on quests, hunting for treasure or sea monsters, it’s a very dangerous place to be.  There are plenty of ships that would love nothing more to sink you to the bottom of the ocean.  Thankfully this only seems to happen when you develop somewhat of a reputation.  How you get your reputation is by sinking other ships, taking their loot and making a name for yourself.  But just before a ship sinks, you have a choice to make.  Do you jump on board, fight hand to hand with its remaining crew members and take the maximum loot possible or do keep your distance and deliver a final cannon shot from the safety of the Jackdaw and gain just half the loot?  Either way, which ever option you choose you will gain a reputation and as a consequence, you will have a warrant put on your head and other pirates will be hunting you down for some generous prize money.


It is worth keeping in mind however that many ships will be easy to bring down and some will be incredibly difficult, such as the legendary Man – O – War.  So pick your battles carefully and get into the habit of using your Spy Glass to analyze a ship beforehand.  The Spy Glass you provide you with information of the danger level of the ship that you are scoping and what loot they are carrying, so you can carefully weigh up your options.

You can take on these ships and sink them to their depths in the hope that all the fuss will eventually calm down or you can visit the harbour master found on most islands, pay him a little bribe and your wanted level will be brought down.  Fellow ships and sea monsters are not your only dangers in the expansive ocean, as there are various forts scattered throughout the map which will cause you a great deal of problems.  Should you come across one, they will fire upon you on sight.  Again you will have a couple of options which should depend on the quality of your vessel.  You can either scamper away to live another day or bring that fort down to its knees.  It won’t be an easy task, but once you cripple that fort you can commandeer it, kill the officer and take it as your own.  By doing so it will become somewhat of a safe haven for you, in which you will be able to spend money upgrading at the shops or taking on a new assassination contract.

Though the greatest benefit of taking over a fort is that it will make that area of the sea a safe zone, removing all enemy ships that would want to bring your down for trespassing (other than the ones after your bounty).   If you think along a similar line as taking over an outpost in Far Cry 3, then you’ll be thinking in the right direction when comparing AC4 forts to the outposts in FC3.  Taking over a fort will also reveal all the items of interest within its radius, helpful for all you completionist’s out there.  Another new addition to the world of AC4 (with the PS4 version at least), is the DualShock 4 touch pad.  In essence the touch pad has replaced the ‘select’ button, which in previous instalments would bring up your map.  So now when you bring up your map in AC4 on the PS4, you will be able to search the map and set waypoints with the stroke of your finger.  The novelty soon wore off mind and I was once again scrolling through the in-game map via the good old analogue sticks, but we’re all each to our own.


Despite being a loyal fan of the Assassins Creed series, over the recent years the franchise has seemed to be running on fumes and its past success.  Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed Assassins Creed 3, the storyline was somewhat forgettable, but despite containing some very good ideas and actually provided a great platform to build upon, Connor was arguably the most uncharismatic character yet from the series.  So when AC4 came about, despite promoting some great ideas that had evolved from AC3, I felt somewhat deflated.

So as the release for AC4 drew near, I watched its progression from a far, resisting temptation to be drawn in by the hype.  Then without even realising, I’d been hooked in like a Hammerhead Shark and AC4 had my attention.  Yes the game promised many gameplay enticements and improved visuals for the new generation console, but it was the new lead character that had been the difference maker.  I never really knew this until I finally got my hands on AC4 and for the first time since we discovered the cocky, slightly annoying, but yet very charismatic Ezio Auditore (Assassins Creed 2, Brotherhood & Revelations) we had a character in Edward that was intriguing.

Edward Kenway has an Ezio swagger and charm, but when called upon, had the ruthless streak of the great Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad from the original Assassins Creed.  A perfect characteristic combination from the personalities that made the Assassins Creed franchise so popular.  But no character would be what they are without a well supported cast of characters and a well written script, and AC4 has all that in abundance.


A lot of credit must go to the writer of AC4 Darby McDevitt, who had previously worked on the short film Assassins Creed: Embers and the PSP title Assassins Creed: Bloodlines.  The voice of Edward Kenway; Matt Ryan in my opinion has performed one of the finest characters from within the video game industry in recent times.  You can always tell whether a voice actor (especially in this industry) is there for an easy payday, yet Ryan’s passion is perfectly demonstrated with all the charismatic charm that seeps through Edward Kenway.

When it comes to a powerful story aid, arguably none is more important than the soundtrack.  Of course the quality of voice acting pips the soundtrack to the post, but a well composed OST is always a close second to any successful video game (or medium for that matter).  Since Assassins Creed 2, the series has always had a great OST and despite AC3’s  lack of charisma, Lorne Balfe soundtrack to Assassins Creed 3 was simply superb and my favourite from the series yet.  That was until Brian Tyler came along with his great work for Assassins Creed 4.  The soundtrack has managed to almost evolve from the work that Lorne Balfe had done, but Brian Tyler has spiced it up with his own spin clearly influenced from Pirates of the Caribbean movies, yet still captures the rich heritage of the Assassins Creed series.

As I’m sure you all aware of by now, AC4 is huge and not just by the size of the humongous open world that is your playground.  The amount of side quests and hidden goodies is just insane; during one sitting I must have played about 6 hours without even touching any of the main missions.  I spent my hours exploring the seas for hidden treasures, fragments, taking on assassination contracts and raiding fellow pirate ships for loot.  There’s so much that I could talk about in regards to Black Flags replay value, it could quite easily have its very own feature article on the subject alone.  So for the benefit of the review, I’ll scan through some of the more important factors and leave the rest for you to discover.


The hunting elements were not one of my favourite features of AC3: I found them a little bit of a ballache and generally had no interest in partaking.  While hunting has made its return in Black Flag, it’s a little more subtle this time around.  You can spend many hours hunting down rare animals if you wish, but you can easily be more casual about it and hunt with the flow; so to speak and still reap some of its benefits.  The more you put it, the more you will get back in return, how much you do is up to you.

When you successfully hunt down an animal, you can craft their body parts (sounds lovely doesn’t it?) to upgrade items such as your pistol holster, darts, ammo, health and so forth.  Should you choose to hunt and kill a sea creature, you will have to harpoon them in your whaling boat, which in many ways reminded me of that early lake boss battle from Resident Evil 4.  But be careful of which sea creatures you decide to take head on, as the bigger the foe, the greater the challenge.

The creatures can range from Iguanas, Crocodiles to Killer Whales and more.  Items that you collect from loot chests and raiding pirates can go towards upgrading your ship, the Jackdaw.  Worthwhile treasures may not always be found on land and ships, you can also see for extra treasure beneath the depths of the sea, to do this you will need to unlock the Diving Bell (unlocked at Sequence 6 Memory 1), but be warned of dangers such as the not so friendly shark.  You’re in their playground now and not within the safety of your whaling boat.

You can also acquire goodies to upgrade by playing the naval fleet mini game, which can be accessed in your Jackdaw captain’s quarters.  In many ways the fleet missions work very similar to that of sending out your team of assassins to partake on quests from previous games.  In Black Flag you simply pick your fleet battle, each will have their own difficulty and you will be provided with a % rating issuing your chances of success.  If you are successful, which you should be (assuming you don’t pick a battle with a low success rate), you will receive plenty of loot to which you can use to upgrade or sell at a tidy profit.


A new and interesting addition to Black Flag is the role that Abstergo Industries or Entertainment as their known here will play in the game.  Throughout your missions as Edward you will have a whole host of optional ‘Abstergo Challenges’, should you complete one you will be rewarded with multiplayer items and cheats for the singleplayer, yes that’s right…cheats.

Though these are not cheats in the traditional sense; there purpose is to have a good old mess around.  The more challenges you complete, the greater the fun of the cheat.  They can range from unlimited ammo, Edward only speaking in pirate clichés or making Edward permanently drunk, to turning the whole of the Jackdaw crew into skeletons.

Like with previous instalments, you can leave the Animus if you choose to.  Should you decide to leave the comfort of the Animus and want a change of pace away from the open seas, you can explore the offices of Abstergo Entertainment.  Here you will be able to wander the offices in a first person view having a general old nose and even hack terminals to uncover some interesting back story.  There are two kinds of terminals you can hack via your fellow work colleague, one being the animus and the other with the PC.

Upon hacking you will be presented with the challenge of a puzzle, one kind of puzzle for each terminal.  Once you’ve beaten the puzzle, you will be gifted some of very interesting audio or readable documents.  I won’t saying nothing here to what you can uncover, but they are well worth taking on, trust me.  Also as you progress through Edwards’s story, you will also be granted access to the more restricted areas of Abstergo Entertainment.


Multiplayer wise Black Flag is much like its predecessors, but perhaps a little more tweaked and defined.  I’ve always wanted to get stuck into the AC multiplayer, but it never really stuck with me.  This time round however, something clicked, something made me want to play one more game and think about what level I can get myself to.  I guess the difference is now (with the PS4 version) is that those tweaks over the last few instalments have now resulted in a more functional online mode, games run a little smoother, look a little sharper and you can find a match that little bit faster and when you add all those little positives up, it makes all the difference.

There is also a new addition to the Assassins Creed multiplayer within Black Flag, and that’s with Game Lab mode.  This is essentially a feature that allows you to create your very own match, with your very own stipulations.  When you’ve successfully cooked up your personal game, you can then share it will your friends and fellow gamers across the Black Flag community.  Though I’m guessing, as long as you can find the friends to play online with you regularly enough, the co-op Wolf Pack mode that was introduced in AC3 would be where most of the AC multiplayer fun will be at.

Before playing, I questioned whether Black Flag would be worth the investment, but I’m glad to report that my original doubts were wrong.  AC4 has almost everything that any Assassins Creed fan would want, it’s easy to pick up and play, has an interesting plot, strong character lead, superb soundtrack, beautiful visuals, heaps of replay value and a worthwhile multiplayer.  The list could go on much further.


Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag is one of those games that make you lose complete track of the time.  At almost every turn it teases you to explore a little more, whether it be an extra chapter, treasure hunt or whether it be its multiplayer.  It’s simply one of the most addictive and immersive games that I have played in recent times.  I’ve not felt this buzz from an Assassins Creed game since II or Brotherhood, in fact ever since Brotherhood its felt like all the sequels since then have been laying the foundations for Black Flag.

I know this may come as a very bold statement, as its very hard to compare to the original classics, but Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag in my humble opinion may not just be the best game from the series, but one of the best open world/action adventures that you are likely to play this generation.  If you haven’t picked up this game yet, then you need to add Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag to your gaming collection.

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