Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag Review - Didn't See That One Coming

xl_assassins-creed-4-box-600x300 I warn you before you start reading, whilst this is by no means a professional review of the game, it is laced with witty sarcasm and spoilers so tread carefully. I'll be honest from the start, I knew AC4 was going to be a terrible Assassin's Creed game as soon as I saw the trailer; Ubisoft's earlier work last year has shown us that they're starting to lose the plot a tad and after playing Edward Kenway for an hour or so I wasn't changing my opinion. We seem to have slipped from a plot that involved Assassins VS Templars to a sob story where the main character became an assassin (sorry, did I say assassin? I mean a professional hit-man for the American forces during the revolutionary war) to the latest mess in the current release. My first impression of the trailer for Black Flag was that Ezio and his successors didn't set up an Assassin den in the Americas and so they've had to sub-contract to pirates until they can get the necessary man-power out there. It reads a lot like when the trains are down on a Sunday night and Transport For London plop you on the replacement bus service, however unlike Ubisoft they have the balls to at least refer to it as a bus and not try to force a double-decker onto the District Line. Don't get me wrong, it's a really fun game to play and for the past few days I've been locked in front of the TV hunting down any sort of ship that dares show its sails on the horizon. Assassins Creed 4 Granted I'm a tad bias here as I do rather enjoy any game that involves ship to ship combat and the few naval missions that were available in AC3 were rather fun. However that's where my enjoyment ends and in all honesty, there's not much else to be excited for. For those hopeful few who were looking forward to running around in different towns hunting down Templars or sneaking around in jungles tracking your prey; I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Whilst there are a few missions that involve being on land and there are many more town/villages that in the previous games it's all rather repetitive; each town looks the same and most missions boil down to stalking a character in a town that seems to have recently developed a union for the guards who now only venture outside to picket the governor's office. Whilst combat remains the same as in AC3 it sort of loses it's fun as we seem to have reverted to Ezio days where guards were more a small annoyance than an actual hindrance. AC3 may have made the guards easy to kill with combo attacks and a plethora of weapons but it also threw 30+ guards at you when you caused any sort of disturbance. In cases like this you couldn't win every fight and you had to run most of the times unless you'd set up your method of attack and managed to ambush them all. AC4 however seems to have decided that the people who play the game are the same mindless luddites who enjoy CoD for 14 hours a day so Ubisoft decided that 4 guards was more than enough for our simple brains, I mean having to actually dodge attacks and use your different weapons seems far too difficult right? It's probably for the best that we only have to paw at one button at a time as the guards do seem to take a while to realise that it's completely fair to stab the Assass--sorry, pirate in front of them in the back. ACIV-Black-Flag I digress though, whilst I didn't find the game to be worthy of the title of an Assassin's Creed game it was still highly enjoyable to play. Spending hours at sea slowly stalking royal fleets and Spanish treasure fleets until I saw I moment to pounce kept me entertained and having to finding different treasure chests around the map to upgrade my ship further was all fun and games. In fact, by the end of the game I was ready to forgive Ubisoft for making the same mistake they did with AC3; not actually making an assassin game. That all changed however with the final mission, the real world story was somewhat lacking near the end so I was hoping we'd see a few more interactions between Templars and Assassins; maybe Juno could make a little appearance or two beyond her shaky and distorted "Hello, is it me you're looking for?" cameo. With Desmond being dead I was wondering how Ubisoft were going to get us back into the animus but it seems they had their bases covered here as Abstergo decided to open up a movie studio and using Desmond's (Subject 17) DNA they were able one of their employees access to his memories (no explanation of this of course, but it gets worse). I took this little side-track on the chin however as I wanted to rules the seven seas and pillage my weaselly guts out -- sorry, forgot I'm not talking about Pirates of The Caribbean here -- I really wanted to foil the Templar's sinister plot! Quirky one-liners and phrasing aside, by the time I reached the last mission I wanted to see what Juno had been up to and how Shaun and Rebecca were faring with Desmond gone. They both make a few appearances in the game and when you do reach the end it almost feels like it's building up to a great finale. Abstergo don't know about all the hacking you've been doing and all those terrible cringe-worthy trailers you've been watching, nor do they know about the Assassin's within the building. The final mission involves sailing as fast as the wind can carry you to the Observatory where the Templars are trying to acquire the "device" which is conveniently sitting in your pocket. As you approach the island your quartermaster warns you of the "armada" that is waiting for you, a solitary man-o-war, which I blasted away soon enough and then picked my way cleanly through the "multitude" of guards that had been been left patrolling the jungle and killing the natives. After a bit of skipping about within the observatory you finally find the Templar grand-master in front of the device's resting place, Edward expertly leaps from his ledge and lands on the old man thrusting his weapon of choice into his body and so protecting the world from the Templar's watchful eye; even though Edward had the device on his person and the only way to extract it would be to send over an army or two of guards and hope the player got bored of hitting the block button after a few hours. With the Templar's plot foiled and everyone of note in the animus dead it seems like a perfect time for the playable character in Absetrgo to be roughly pulled out of his animus and for the real world story arc to be completed. Ubisoft however have decided to pull an EA and rake it a bit of money with the ending. See, why release a full game and then work on the next game when you can release most of the game and then charge people to complete it. They already tried this somewhat with AC3 by giving us a somewhat mediocre ending and then releasing some funky expensive DLC that made barely any change to the story. This time Ubisoft decided that they weren't even going to bother with an ending at all, instead they decided that it would be a lot more fun to have the player bouncing happily on the seat waiting for some wonderful plot twist and then throwing the credits at them. I was so flabbergasted I nearly missed a few tidbits that they decided to give their fans; you're not joining the Assassin's yet -- (10 seconds of credits) -- you're moving back to England -- (5 seconds of credits) -- Edward has a daughter -- (15 seconds of credits) -- his wife is dead -- (5 seconds of credits) --one of the Templars you "killed" is still alive -- (10 seconds of credits) -- you're with your daughter at an opera in England and a young man comes up to her and asks her for a dance -- (5 seconds of credits) -- you have a son called Haytham -- THE END. That's right, the story's not over, we don't know what happens in the real world or what shenanigans Juno has been up to nor who on earth the sage was and why his accent slipped between Welsh and Irish every 5 seconds. assassins_creed_4_black_flag-wide I didn't believe it at first, I couldn't believe it at first; this was the kind of rubbish I'd see in a Bioware ending not a Ubisoft one. It's as if they were still developing the game and realised that if it came out after the PS4 people would mock the graphics so they quickly it pushed it out beforehand and then offered people a discount for the PS4 edition; that's right I can now own the same game twice with absolutely not graphical difference on TWO consoles! I guess I can forgive all of this because they had some quirky jokes in the game, you see the Abstergo employees are actually modeled after Ubisoft employees, hysterically funny right? Actually no, that just strengthens the "wouldn't be released before PS4" argument and they couldn't hire any additional voice actors in time so quickly decided to use themselves and pass it off as a hilarious joke that the press lapped up. I do however have one final remark for Ubisoft, U-Play being a useless piece of programming space aside I did like the final achievement title of "Saw That One Coming" because in truth I didn't. I grew to love the Assassin's Creed game and was really looking forward to getting my hands on this next installment in the series. I kept double-checking my Amazon order and even left a little note for the postman to tell him to break a window and throw the game in if I didn't answer the doorbell. How did you guys re-pay my excitement and dedication to your company? You pulled an EA and milked a series for the money and forced out a horrendous ending to a wonderfully fun PIRATE game. As far as I am concerned Assassin's Creed died with Ezio and Desmond stayed in his coma to enjoy the good ol' classics.
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