ASSASSIN’S CREED IV – BLACK FLAG [X1/PS4 Face-Off]: Welcome to the Jungle.
“The Bishop” Richard Zom: Salutations, you deck swapping scrubs! The Bishop is here to join forces with you fellow Assassins in training, as we all run around in our bathrobes with a duct taped butter knife to our wrists proclaiming assassins guild pride. This journey though, is a bit different. We set are mental sails to travel speed as we boot up in the Animus to speak on Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag. This installment of the game in technically the 6th of the series, if you include Brotherhood and Revelations (which I thought were awesome). I’ll admit, however, that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Assassins Creed III for Connor felt like an incredibly empty character. The poor guy had no personality! But I digress…ayyyy…back to Black Flag. Let me first begin our mighty swashbuckling Face-Off with how truly blown away the Bish’ was from the graphics; I mean, the visuals and hard work to details are sheer gaming development magic. My eyes were drunk on such beauty like a pirate on rum chasing the tail of a bar maiden.
Travis “Monsignor” Moody: Well, shiver me timbers! Robin Williams couldn’t get me into pirates; Johnny Depp couldn’t get me into pirates; and, hell, not even LEGO’s as a child.. could get me into pirates. AC4, tho? Argghhhh…you bet your last of the Fleet booty that this game has gotten your monsignor into pirates. More than anything, I learned the deepest origins — and the possibly darkest, deepest regrets — of William Kidd, Edward Teach a.k.a. Blackbeard, Anne Bonny, Bartholomew Roberts a.k.a. Black Bart, Henry Every, and our Welsh-born protagonist, Edward Kenway, who may now forever be the most popular pirate this side of Hook and Jack Sparrow (based on “Calico Jack” Rackham, who is bloody indeed in the game!). This game is a history lesson on the humanity of pirates! Of course, like all the previous AC‘s, heed warning that many of the facts you get are based on true historical findings, but the story, like any other Hollywood adaptation, will sway its sails to the way of the engaging. I played over 50-hours of my 70% thus far completion (same % I finished GTA V with), and loved nearly every second.
Zom: I completely agree with you one this one, Monsignor. The story was well written and definitely engaging, all the while rockin’ awesome gameplay. I dunno how to say it better that DAMN, Edward was one bar-room/tavern brawler! He kicked more ass than most 80’s action film stars! The combat system was well beefed for the no-nonsense fighting ability of Edward, from pistol blasting in the face, to sweet Damien Sandow-proud hip tosses, or to sweetly counter killing the enemy. Kenway will put your square peg ass down in swift pirate fashion, all the while lookin’ good doing so. I was very found of the blow dart during the game and couldn’t thank the developers enough for tossing a larger assortment of weapons into his arsenal.
Moody: Fighting in an AC game was never so much fun. Before, it was hide in the grass; tackle, choke, or run, punch, steal gun or sword. Now thanks to Connor’s tougher, meaner, more charming grandfather, you still do all of that in addition to a much wider range of combos. You’re right about the combat, Bishop; it’s never felt so seemless. You may tire of all the “swordfights” after a while (and there aren’t too many wenches to slay thereafter), but thankfully the naval combat goes as far as from here to the West Indies. Once you blow up other ships — and they only get more difficult to take down the further south you go — you’ve got to jump them fools (literally and acrobatically “jump” them), or only half of that gold and those resources are yours for the taking.
Blending these two combat elements is part of what makes AC4 one of the most exciting games in recent memory. And, thankfully, the open seas don’t play like traditional RPG’s either. You can spyglass your next victim or next challenge, and figure out if what they have is worth losing a few good men over. Of course, the further you go through the game, the more gold you will seize for higher ship upgrades — and there are plenty. Assassins even have the option of scrapping ship parts, adding more crew members to the fleet (with the same funny “wow, you didn’t kill me!” cutscenes), or sending a new fleet for some Battleship-inspired strategy. I typically hate little side missions like that, but this monsignor found these minigames for more mooluh quite fun.
Oh, and it’s not just cannonballs, man. You’ll need some more intense firepower to take down those pesky coastal forts, too. Until my Jackdaw was hitting near elite levels of upgrading, those joints were chiefly a pain in my arse. What was your favorite part of the Jackdaw to spruce up, Zom?
Zom: Ahhh.. yes.. the “Rebel of the Sea”, the Jack-Jaw!!! What more can be said about a pirates’ pride than the vessel he bullies the sea from his helm? Talk about a fresh breath of ocean air, the upgraded naval combat is far more fluid like the sea you ride on. Last year’s AC3 first introduced the ship battles and, boy, was the controlling stiffer than a plank. It’s good to see Ubisoft revamp their initial ideas, and recombust the entire way you play an Assassin’s Creed game. I loved the whole extension the vessel plays to the heart of Edward. Upgrading the Jackdaw was indeed a blast, Moody. “Pimpin” my ship was easy, when all the bling and swagger a pirate could wish for is available, from the traditional bare chested mermaid at point of vessel, to the most awesome looking krakken beast stolen loot can buy. Mortars, Cannons, Fire Barrels, even Swivel Cannons will make your ship the rolling Aston Martin of the seas. ARRRGGHHsome… the Jack’ be sweeter than the first time ye lay with a woman.
Moody: Another element the AC franchise has improved upon with Black Flag is its overall tone. While we’ve always looked at pirates as supremely larger-than-life characters, the game never delves into cheese. There’s plenty of self-referential jokes, particularly during the “real” animus sequences, but a large portion of the cutscenes offer a Jackdaw’s worth of fun in addition to all of the game’s sweeping violence. You’ll find out these bloody nutjobs are a lot more similar to the everyday fella or lady than ya think. I also killed a limitless amount of pirate foes, Spaniard discoverers and the British.. oh how the British loves to take it in the booty in these AC games. I’m sure Nazi’s will be next.
Zom: Or zombies? Or Nazi zombies? Call of Creed: Black Flag Ops? Once the Jackdaw is decked out and your arsennal is beefed up, the fun begins as the one true bully of the sea…until the Back Eddy comes across the far more powerful ships, such as the royal convoys. Beware those insanely frustrating Legendary ships!! You Fucks!
Blessed, this bishop’s finest enjoyment on the Jackdaw remained through my endless search for booty. No, not me on a Friday night at Red Lobster’s minibar, but rather an effort put forth through hiding, traveling, and hunting for the lavishe riches of the land and seas. At least this time, your Assassin is able to use those skins to craft weapons ala Far Cry 3 and Tomb Raider. In fact, I’d be close to call AC4 a rip if not for the vast sea exploration. Part of being that explorer is searching for sunken treasure, and avoiding sharks. Lots and lots of sharks. There are Bull Sharks — and Great Whites, mama! — you can harpoon for nice upgrades as well — but at least you can at least do your part to defend yourself from being eaten. But, no matter how much I camoflouge in the seaweeds, those “bitches of the sea” tend to find me. One flaw I found with the dive bell is an awkward freaking nightmare scenario where you just want to hop back underneath it for a quick refuel of air, and you’re still prompted to “RETURN TO SHIP.” Still, even regardless of this all time consuming process, just becoming able to label myself a treasure-hunting bad-ass made it all worth it.
Moody: Ahh… the game is as beautiful under the sea as it is on top. More to the point, Black Flag is simply majestic on next-gen. An endless terrain of high crashing waves, the beautiful tropical sunset skylight, and those deathly intimidating — and hella massive! — aforementioned sea creatures (that pop out of the screen quicker than you can say Jaws 3D) are just the tip of the ol’ Black Beard. There’s hurricanes, tornados, and gorgeous amazonian rainfall. Cowabunga. You’ll even notice the fine fabric detail on the various wardrobe options Mr. Kenway is able to rock. I’m not sure if you were able to get the Uplay bonus outfit titled “Edward the Great,” but this authentic look gives Eddy that traditional cap & eye patch/parrot on the shoulder appearance that is, indeed, great.
Now, while I have the Xbox One version at the Moody Manse, I’ve read a couple comparison reviews online where some critics hailed both systems “identical,” while others claimed there was a tad finer detail on the PlayStation 4 (which is no surprise, since the console packs a tad more horsepower). I doubt too many people are going to complain about the “prettier leaves” or the more detailed “rope nets” on the X1. How did the game look on *cough* current-gen for you?
Zom: Graphics and detail within Black Flag were nothing short of the finest work and hour for Ubisoft. The crystal clear imaging and seamless flow of pixels brings the whole gaming package full circle. I dont own a PS4 but had a chance to play it at a friend’s house and, gaming family, let it be told that the full HD 1080P framing was one religious experience. Not forgetting Eddy’s fashion, his outfits are totally authentic to the time period and done with such beauty, that it could simply never be featured in any magazine or catwalk in New York. Move over, Tara! As for the Microsoft side of things, the Bishop has thus yet to partake in the Xbox One world to see how she rates up, but in Moody we trust (or, at least for the moment, we have to). But, otherwise, from the YouTube vids I saw, let’s just say the fight is pretty equal thus far.
Moody: Bishop, did you try the AC4 companion app for your smartphone or tablet? You can basically have the maps right on your lap while crusing the seven seas, making it easier to browse through your Animus without having to constantly hit the menu (or start/select) buttons. The only problem I had with the app though, since I play the majority of my video games doing 100 other things at once, is that my tablet battery quickly went to hell with it on. On Thanksgiving, I wasn’t ready for that..and had to resort back to tradition once my Nexus needed a good 2-hour charge.
Actual gameplay negatives? This is still an Assassin’s Creed game. That means you’re still tasked with conquering similar objectives throughout Black Flag‘s vast world. Although there’s far more disparity than previous installments, repetition still takes its course. Of course, capturing treasure has never been more satisfying (because now I’m a pirate, goddammit!), but chasing musical notes flat-out sucks. I didn’t bother. At least the animus pieces were OK to find, because they offered a moderate challenge of craftier jumps and necessary leaps.
The sections of the map where Kenway must creep on the higher society fools through well-guarded areas — for exhausting amounts of time — are definitely hit-and-miss. Most of this eavesdropping exposition is a bore; you’ll either quickly disperse of your pending victim, or be forced to reply these moments over and over. I’m not going to lie; I zoned out through a lot of the following cinematic moments, despite the rest of the story holding me over for the most part. Did you bother with much of the non Animus, first-person quests at Abstergo? I’m just glad the game didn’t boggle down too much into the modern day, despite the nice breaks in the swashbuckling action.
Zom: No tablet functions for me, nor multiplayer just yet. The campaign is just too vast and cumbersome. For whatever reason, I didn’t have as much of a problem with the flaws you described. Maybe I’m a creep… In all, I must bless Black Flag with the absolute highest honor, going with the instant classic 5 (out of 5) Bibles. If you’re a loyalist to the series or even a noob, do yourself the favor and immerse yourself within the Assassins Guild and become one of the family. It’s a Definite Sin from yours truly, if you dont. Til’ then, we are waiting to set sail with our new crew!
Moody: Ahoy, mateys! Blessed our thou, sir Bishop!!! Look, man, Call of Duty: Ghosts may have sold the most, Forza Motorsport 5 may have scored the highest, FIFA 14 may have had the most world class, and Dead Rising 3 may have the most new fans, but it’s clear nothing next-gen can hold the weight of Kenway’s wretched path. With over 100-hrs of possible gameplay, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is easily the most bang for your buck, the finest all-around next-gen title on the market, and one of the very best games of the year. It now looks like a genius play on Ubisoft’s behalf to pull back (early company favorite) Watch_Dogs, especially considering a similar game in GTA V was dominating the charts. WD can now make its impact at a later date, with Ubi manning all of their focus, all of their marketing love and all of their next-gen attention to Black Flag. So just imagine.. what many were close to deeming a watered down frachise, only began to find its ultimate stride sitting on top of the barren seas itself. 4.25 Bibles. I know I’m breaking my own scoring laws here, because it could only see fit becoming the one and only Grand Theft Pirate.