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on November 4, 2013
First off, I'm a newcomer to the AC series. I've known about it since it first came out but didn't have a 7th gen console to play the first back in '07. As such, I only followed it from the sidelines, that is until Black Flag was announced. Much as I love this game, there is much that annoys and frustrates me which I will get to after I've addressed all the positives.

The main feature of this game, piloting your own ship as you navigate the Caribbean to pillage and plunder, plays better than I had hoped. You really get the feel of controlling the seemingly massive ship as you steer across a constantly shifting landscape of rolling waves. To control a ship from the perspective of the pilot, moving the massive wheel and watching the entire vessel turn slowly, would have been an amazing novelty on its own, but it's the water physics that make this experience shine. Your boat will be tossed and turned by waves, winds and storms as you sail from place to place, making even the mundane task of travel a fun and stimulating exercise. Patrolling the landscape of, say, Skyrim was already fun, but in Black Flag, the landscape is never static and you feel as if the world is interacting with you as much as your are interacting with it. I seriously can't help but smile with childish glee as I watch my ship sail around at Travel Speed, the camera following at a distance while my crew sings Sea Chanties. (I actually love finding new chanties around the game because I can't wait to hear what new song my crew has learned!).

The first time I piloted a ship through a fierce storm after escaping from a British ship and saving several others who would become my loyal crew, my jaw dropped in awe. Imagine the gut clenching tension of going up a roller coaster as you feel the world angle upwards, waiting for the inevitable drop with fear and excitement. This was the feeling I got when I sailed into a large wave head on, braving its onslaught to avoid the pummeling it would have given me had I tried to turn away in vain.

This is your inception into the world of Assassin's Creed 4 Black Flag. It grabs you by the seat of your pants and throws you into the experience, and what an experience it is.

The sandbox (or fish tank, as it were) is a world with plenty to do and explore as you travel around collecting treasures and other collectibles both on land and at sea. The main theme of being a pirate is put side to side with that of being an assassin without one overshadowing the other. You will patrol the waves, looking through your spy glass at targets to strike. Once you've taken their load of commercial items, you can sell them for money or use to continually upgrade you ship into a mighty vessel that can stand up to even the most powerful of ships. The weapons at your disposal include cannons fired from the sides of your ship, featuring standard ammunition which is infinite, and heavy shot which packs a punch but has less range. Front cannons fire chain shots which slow down your victim, and mortar fires powerful shots far overhead to strike vessels and forts from a safer distance. The waves move enemy vessels as much as they move you, an element to take advantage of. Angling your shots over a particularly large wave which simultaneously shields you from the enemy's fire is a strategy that works well.

Once you've crippled a ship, you can then sail up close to it for the boarding process. These segments are fun, but also one the sources of the game's needless frustrations. Most often, conquering a ship will be as simple as killing a set amount of soldiers and their officers before they surrender. Other times, however, you'll have to kill scouts up in crows nests or, I kid you not, destroy the enemy flag. While these segments show off the mechanics of parkour on a ships rafters they usually amount to tedious tasks that force you to jump around looking for the proper footing while the swords clash below. I can't help by feel like I could be doing something more important, like helping my crew while they're getting killed off, instead of climbing to the top of the ship for a freaking flag. I feel like ship parkour is being forced on me. Yeah, it's cool and all but most of the time it's impractical, so why does it have to make you do it? I need to be fighting with my crew and helping them before they get killed!

Which brings me to the combat. It's apparent that Ubisoft was trying to emulate the combat from the Arkham games, what with your character, Edward, being able to fight and parry multiple enemies at once. But whereas Arkham City feels fast, fluid and intuitive, this game feel more like a button masher with clunky gameplay. The combat is not terrible mind you. Grabbing an enemy to use as human shield before an enemy can shoot is fun and movie like, but in the end, a movie is all if feels like since I'm only hitting buttons when the prompt comes up. Not quite QTE but not as involving as it could be.
(Editor's note: before anyone tries to tell me again that this style of combat existed first in the Ass Creed series before the Arkham series, let me remind YOU that it in fact existed before either in the Matrix video games for the PS2. And if I make more of a comparison between the Batman games and the Matrix games, it's because both had more refined combat whereas this is sluggish, so there. Don't you feel clever now with your passive-aggressive, cutesy emoticons)

Having read other people's reviews on various AC games, I find myself plagued by similar grievances addressed by them in the past, such as the story based missions. Sneaking around as an assassin is fun but sometimes absurd. There are times when you need to jump carefully from place with swiftness and then there are times when you just need to take it slow. But in AC there doesn't seem to be a button for sneaking. You're either walking or running from bush to bush to conceal yourself, not moving slowly in a crouched walk like you ought to. It makes me pine for the days of MGS3: Snake Eater when sneaking around was a simple and easy on my nerves as crawling from bush to bush. Sneaking feels hit or miss in AC 4. It's either fun or frustrating.

It's especially frustrating when you've spent an entire segment sneaking your way through without getting seen, and getting caught anyway as the story dictates. After all that, I feel like I've been trolled by the game (because I just spent the last twenty minutes trying and failing over and over just because I didn't act fast enough or failed to notice that one guard!).

Even more frustrating are the segments when you have to tail someone just to listen in on their dialogue. I'm too concerned with not getting spotted and staying within the designated listening range to pay attention to what they're saying, so I imagine Edward can't concentrate on what they're saying either (why do you make me do this, game!).

For as much as you'd be led to believe there are multiple ways around a situation sometimes there's only one, and not following this very narrow setup as the game dictates will only result in more punishment, via being forced to do it all over again.

Fortunately, only the story segments are like this. The rest of the time you can approach a situation however you'd like to during the small time assassinations peppered throughout the game. Sneaking around (when it works) and silently dispatching your hit without anyone seeing is a rewarding thrill, as is running away by scaling rooftops and trees. Although, parkour on trees is very hit or miss as it's not often clear which tree you're supposed to jump to. And trying to climb higher up a tree will have you inadvertently jumping off, which means climbing back up again! But probably the worst climbing segment is when you have to climb a windmill to talk to an important character (who just HAD to choose a dangerous place to climb up to). Be prepared to die a couple times trying not to fall off the spinning blades. Also, as pointed out by another reviewer who hated AC3, sudden QTEs with dangerous predators leaping at you is not very fun at all.

What it all amounts to is that AC 4 is such an amazing and addictive game that the occasional moments of frustration will seem all the worse when the game mechanics suddenly feel awkward or asinine. If feels like a truly great game is trying to get out but is being held back by the status quo of the series. This makes you, the player, feel held back whenever a task seems too demanding or when you're reminded that this is all a simulation in the Animus. You're actually some nameless dude sitting at a desk at Abstergo and you have to keep the memories of Edward synchronized or the whole thing goes Matrix on you and the maritime environments suddenly look digitized. I didn't get into the .Hack// JRPGs because I didn't like the idea of a video game about a video game so why does AC need to have this whole Animus conceit? I don't care about the present day, I care about the past! Isn't the whole point of games to escape sometimes and forget reality?

Well, anyways this game is still amazing and I strongly recommend it. Just be prepared for frustration to come in the wake (no pun intended) of great fun.
1919 comments| 45 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on October 30, 2013
I'm one of those gamers who has played all of the Assassin's Creed games more than once and hated, just HATED, Assassin's Creed 3. I was really hesitant to pay another $60 for AC4, but am very glad I gave the franchise another go. AC4 is exactly what I've come to expect from Ubisoft. They have definitely redeemed themselves in my eyes. The action picks up immediately, the cut-scenes are crisp and seamless without the looonnngg dead spaces between them as in AC3. And they stopped dragging you around by the nose, which I really appreciate. I can go where I please and explore the gorgeous cities, picking and choosing whether I hunt treasure or rescue pirates or follow the story line. I can do all the sneaking and shooting and assassinating in whatever sequence pleases me and the story, so far, is really fun! I haven't run into any real bugs yet. Edward is occasionally a little slow climbing or hiding, but you can get used to that. The naval scenes are great. So, Ubisoft, all is almost forgiven. AC4 Rocks!!
1515 comments| 209 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
One of my early faves on my C64 (yep...dated reference and I already know that scores of younger gamers will now just groan and move on to a much more technical review, but there are at least a few old timers who never gave it up) was "Pirate's" by Sid Meier. As a fan of the pirate genre, I have seen many attempts at recreating that gem with all the new engines, and graphics bells and whistles that have come to the gaming world, but none have ever really been able to re-create that feeling.

I have only had the game for a short while. And that can be deceptive. Assassin's Creed III initially hit me with a "wow" factor, but I guess I just got too side tracked and eventually forgot the story and just quit playing. Assassin's Creed II had sort of spoiled me.

I promise to update over the next few days as I delve deeper...but already I am blown away. Sound is amazing, and the graphics pull you in. But I got this title for the Pirate theme...and so far I am NOT disappointed. I will update tonight, but if you are feeling the vibe I am trying to put across and wondering..."DO I spend the bucks?" SO far the answer is YES!

So, after a day, the game has given me none of the frustration I felt with AC III. If anything, the fighting sequences feel more fluid. Perhaps I am just more used to the controls. However, this is a very open world! And the scenery is amazing. This is a game that I will probably become engrossed in for extended periods. I haven't even got to the real "piratey" stuff yet!
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on October 30, 2013
As a Skyrim fan, I'm surprised to find out that AC IV has a more appealing and vast world. With its fascinating ocean, colorful tropical islands and exotic cities, AC IV is such a visual feast. The world is really huge for you to explore, you can chase sea shanties, seek buried treasures, rob cargos to upgrade your ship, get materials for cool costumes, raid tombs for some Mayan mysteries, leap in a tropical jungle to hunt panthers or just abuse your mighty powers and gadgets over some poor guys, etc, roaming the AC IV world freely is pure fun.

Anybody disappointed by AC III should give it a try. The core mechanics of the game stays largely the same, however, improvements and modifications bring it a totally new feel. I, whom AC III's clumsy gameplay system gave a constant headache, could hardly believe that AC IV's gameplay gives me a satisfying experience. Combat is faster, so timing of counter/attack is more challenging. Enemies can do much more harm and can shoot you down if you're climbing up the wall trying to escape, making the combat much more intense. And you have all these new upgradeable gadgets to use, switching between different tools is much more convenient than in AC III. Besides, since the world is much more sandbox-y than ACIII with a much more diversified and open environment, the game really encourages different approaches. I love stealth approach a lot, which you can really do in nearly every task, and the it's incredibly fun and fulfilling.

The system is totally revamped, easy to understand and handy to use, which helps me recover from suffering of AC III's confusing system. I haven't gotten into the story too much yet but I think an average Hollywood plot will be enough for such a fun game. There are some bugs, but it's already pretty good for such a vast open world in which you can do a lot of difficult interactive movements.

And the naval world? Couldn't be better. This game has totally lived up to the hype around the pirate theme. The ocean itself is breathtaking. Dense fog with deadly ships rising from legend, monstrous waves and tornados coming at you in a scary storm, rosy sunset over the horizon with white sea gulls flying by, or just a tranquil ocean under a starry sky, Ubisoft has done a legendary job bringing all the beauty on high seas to your TV screen. The naval combat couldn't be more fun and has become my new hobby. Don't get it wrong because the original formula from old AC games has been polished to such a new height that the land part is already much better than older installments, it's just that Ubisoft has built a parallel naval world that is as appealing, if not more. Two worlds are integrated seamlessly together, making AC IV the best pirate game ever.

Overall, this is an amazing game with a fantastic world. For me, it's like playing a much more nimble, no-magic dragonborn(a Nord I guess) in a world similar to Skyrim, but much more colorful, light and diversified.

The only big problem might be that AC IV would keep you occupied and unwilling to quit for a long time. I'm writing this comment after a long night's exploration of Havana and some islands. Anybody who want a highly-disciplined life should NOT get this game because it can suck you many hours without you noticing it.

BTW, I really love the soundtrack. It has a really sweet Caribbean flavor and really fits in with the environment. This game is an auditory feast as well.

So what else to say? AC IV comes at a special time when the whole industry is ready to move onto next gen. This is a symbolic end of current gen and I'm not sure if I'll keep gaming like before. But AC IV comes along and for me it puts an glorious end of current gen. So...everything aside, just grab your pistols and sword, hop onto your ship and sail under the black flag to this wonderful world!
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on December 29, 2013
I bought this for my 7 year-old son because we recently got an xbox for Christmas. He was very excited because he loves pirates and I thought this would be a great first game. I was very wrong. The large "M" on the game stands for mature not magical. I thought this was a family friendly game that we could all enjoy, like Peter Pan on the wii. Unfortunately, the pirate is a trained assassin and there is a lot of violence. My child is now scared for life and is deathly afraid up pirates. My wife will not talk to me anymore so I have to sleep on the couch. Thanks a lot , Assassins Creed.
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on December 1, 2013
First off, I am a huge AC fan...been one since the beginning. I have to say that this game doesn't interest me at all. The theme is pretty cool, not going to lie, but half the gameplay is on a ship, REALLY NOW??? An assassin doesn't sit on a ship blowing up other ones. I just feel Ubisoft lost their way. They just haven't been the same since Ezio...
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on December 6, 2013
What a joke. You're going to tell me that somebody like this actually existed in real life? Pirates weren't real everyone knows that. The fact that this guy kills people and doesn't take any lasting damage to his muscles or kidneys or something like that is a load of malarkey. Don't waste your pennies on this one folks, i would recommend Madden 2001 to ease your gaming needs.
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on September 19, 2017
I am familiar with the franchise but wasn't a huge fan. The visuals and setting were too impressive to pass up. You won't be disappointed, but you will get tired quickly of blowing up and taking over ships, guards and assassinations, and looting small amounts of money from the chests. The game blocks off your ability to explore due to the nature of the storyline and that "Area Not Available" crap really sucked. AGE LEVEL: No, this isn't suitable for a child hence the M rating. First you'd have to explain why it's okay to kill people for money. There's also live animal skinning (sleep dart, then skin), moderate gore, etc... Stick to games with E for everyone ratings.

TIP: If you need money fast or wood and metal, I found that with a bit of good timing I was able to swim over to enemy ships, climb the rope ladder to the crow's nest, take out all the officers (like shooting fish in a barrel!), return to my own ship with no damage to either myself or it, and shoot down the empty ship (do NOT sink!), and gain everything. There is also a glitch that allows this from a particular viewpoint which just keeps giving you anchored ships very close to the shore and where you are making it even easier. There are many of activities, but it all gets old really fast. Also, no way to abort missions.
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on March 27, 2014
If you like adventure games, this is for you! If you want a game you won't beat and be over with within a few hours, this is the game for you! I personally don't like the fighting sequences too much. They misty are all about the right time to press ONE button. Also, it doesn't respond quite that well when there more than 8 characters in the map at the same time. On the other hand, all the collectibles, animals you can hunt, special weapons, special armors, side missions, upgrades, secret caves and treasures, and uncharted territory will make you not want to stop playing.
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on September 6, 2015
Ok so I haven't played any other AC games. This game is hard but so much fun! Sea shanties, Pirate ships, sea battles, cannons, treasure maps, it has it all! You get to battle other ships for loot, follow maps to buried treasure, fight the enemies and of course captain a ship! The controls are a bit difficult to learn and I'm still getting the hang of stuff, but overall this is a cool game. I really like it.
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