Meet Edward Kenway
The saga of main characters Desmond Miles, Altair, and Ezio may have had a conclusion in Assassin’s Creed III and Revelations, but the trade-off here is more than worth it to introduce Edward Kenway.
Even though the story initially plays the fish-out-of-water card with Kenway inserting himself into the war between the Assassins and the Templars, the story in ACIV is far more interesting with a new face that isn’t privy to the long, complicated that history fans have followed for the last half-decade.
Moreover, the real strength of Kenway’s story is his fresh perspective and how his quest relates to you as a player.
For the first time in the Assassin’s Creed series, we finally have a lead character whose main goal in the game directly relates to you as a player: become the biggest badass on the open seas by conquering as much terrain and gathering as many riches as possible.
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Whether intentional or not, that’s some brilliant theming, and it’s also an element that makes this a great point for non-veterans to enter the franchise. Although the series’ past eventually catches up to the narrative here, seeing the Assassins’ and Templars’ war through Kenway’s commoner eyes makes the backstory more interesting.
What you won’t like
Glitches, bugs, and nitpicks
Early into the development of Assassin’s Creed IV, Ubisoft made the decision to have the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One versions all be produced as the same game.
That decision may be the reason for the occasional technical issues in ACIV; the PS3 and Xbox 360 feel like they can barely handle everything the game’s trying to do. Throughout my campaign I saw characters floating in mid-air, running in place, getting stuck in walls, ignoring gunshots to the face, and generally spazzing out while in combat.
Amid all those distractions and bouts of slowdown, it’s very evident that this game is better suited for high-end PCs and next-gen consoles.
Multiplayer feels limited
Multiplayer has been one of the best parts of several Assassin’s Creed titles, but this time it doesn’t provide near as much fun as the main campaign.
You do have great amounts of character customizations and game mode modifications available to you, but the maps feel downright restrictive in comparison to the go-anywhere, do-anything single player mode and its huge islands. Despite having so many variants of deathmatch, tag, capture the flag, and zone defense, even the best of the multiplayer isn’t as compelling as the main campaign.
With all the focus on naval combat, it feels like a missed opportunity to not incorporate it with the online gameplay. At the very least, the multiplayer maps feel like they should be more expansive.
Knowing you could soon play a better version
As good as Assassin’s Creed IV may be on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, the paradox is that you probably shouldn’t buy it if you’re in the market for a PS4 or Xbox One.
All the impressive technical demos of ACIV that Ubisoft has been showing off really take the shine off the current-gen versions, and the most discerning eyes will certainly notice the difference in textures, particle effects, environmental elements, lighting, and a few other special effects.
If you can wait an extra couple of weeks (or three), you might want to hold out for the version that didn’t get downgraded in transition.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is definitely the high point of the franchise so far, and the expansive world will have you lost in its depths for hours on end. It’s going to be exciting to see where Ubisoft takes the saga next (and you’ll get a few exciting clues if you pay attention to the Abstergo Entertainment segments).
Even though the PS3 and Xbox 360 aren’t equipped to give you the best ACIV experience, the core adventure here is more than good enough for fans who won’t be burying their current-gen consoles any time soon.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag comes out for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U on Oct. 29. The publisher provided GamesBeat with PS3 and Xbox 360 copies for the purpose of this review.
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