Ahoy there mateys, Ubisoft’s pirating title is upon us at last. Following months of feverish, almost sea-sick-like anticipation of its arrival, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag has stormed onto store shelves, wild-eyed and waterlogged, seeking out our hard-earned loot.
Now, with Ubisoft’s review embargo behind us, opinions are pouring in from every which port – so how does this lengthy adventure stack up? Well, the salty sea dogs of the Internet have spoken, and Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag appears to be in shipshape.
However, while the vast majority of outlets report smooth sailing, others appear to be less-than-thrilled with some of the game’s unfortunate quirks. Overused mission types come under some particularly heavy fire, while many critics appear to agree that the game’s storyline represents a solid at best outing for the franchise.
For a more in-depth appraisal of the game, check out these choice reviews – as well as our own official Black Flag review:
NOTE: While some of these opinions are based upon PS4 copies of the game, the only discernible differences between current and next-gen editions relate to improved frame rates and higher quality textures and effects. Sony-exclusive content also goes largely unmentioned.
Game Rant (Andrew Dyce):
” it is absolutely baffling that this game was released just one year after AC3 […]Some glitches or hiccups were fully expected in the shift to an aquatic open world, but the finished product is seamless, groundbreaking, and immensely refreshing. […] ‘Refreshing’ could be applied to several aspects of the game’s design, with performances and an attention to detail that place it among — if not ahead — of the franchise’s best. And with no discernible shortcomings when placed next to its American-Revolution-predecessor, Black Flag is the step into next-gen that many fans have been waiting for.”
Joystiq (Ludwig Kietzmann):
“Beyond its present-day feature set, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag is a vibrant historical adventure, drawn from bold characters and edge-of-your-seat sailing. 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.”
Gamespot (Shaun McInnis):
“…moments of stagnation are isolated events in what is, ultimately, a massive and highly ambitious game. […] There’s an incredible scope to what you can do in Black Flag, with a level of harmony between its component parts that encourages you to try it all, and a story that keeps you invested throughout the whole thing. 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.”
Polygon (Arthur Gies):
“For all of its mechanical improvements; for the wonder I felt as I sailed the ocean, with 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 throughout … [Assassin's Creed 4] felt disjointed. Directionless. Black Flag, like its protagonist, is constantly waiting for its dare-to-be-great moment.”
IGN (Marty Sliva):
“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. At no point in my dozens of hours was I ever at a loss for something to do. Simply sailing wherever the wind takes me and seeing what sort of trouble I can get into is a complete joy. Beyond the underwhelming main campaign, Black Flag delivers a world brimming with gorgeous places to go, amazing secrets to discover, and nefarious pirates to stab.
Videogamer (Steven Burns):
“On land, it’s (literally) the same old Creed. […] you’ll want to collect the seemingly inexhaustible amount of things on offer, even if you know that what you’re doing isn’t technically good or even interesting. You just don’t care; it’s the gaming equivalent of fast food. Whether it’s looting, fighting, or raiding coastal forts, it’s at sea where the game really excels. […] Flawed yet addictive, this Creed needs to change.”
Eurogamer (Tom Bramwell):
In the wrong hands, this could have been a lame duck year for Assassin’s Creed at the end of a console generation: floating around on old mechanics, a game and story caught in limbo. […] But the developers have worked around the series’ foibles brilliantly. […] clumsy mechanics are downplayed in favour of the thrill of the open sea, where everything feels fresh and exciting. If I ever felt down while roaming rooftops, I just answered the call of the ocean and everything was right with the world again.
CVG (Matt Gilman):
“Beautiful, expansive and rewarding. Fresh experiences mark a return to form for the franchise. […] 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.”
NowGamer (Adam Barnes):
“Assassin’s Creed is a series that has become increasingly complex – both in terms of gameplay and storyline. Assassin’s Creed 4 is a step towards regaining the series’ simplicity, but when even the otherwise mundane modern day content (which lasts no more than 30 minutes in total) resorts to unnecessary – and distracting – sci-fi twists, it becomes clear the series has lost its focus somewhere along the way. [Black Flag] has the gameplay, it just needs to present it in a fashion that doesn’t spoil an otherwise completely absorbing set of characters, locations and gameplay tools.”
Game Informer (Joe Juba):
“Black Flag is ultimately better than Assassin’s Creed III. Some elements seem crafted directly in response to criticisms about the previous game. […] However, some of the same complaints resurface with a vengeance: frustrating stealth, numerous glitches, and poor performance. 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 for PC, Xbox 360, Wii U and PlayStation 3 platforms. Xbox One & PS4 versions are slated to debut alongside their respective consoles, later this year.
You can follow Sam on Twitter @GamingGoo