Hands-on: Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag on PS4

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Hands-on: Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag on PS4

Edward Kenway is a ferocious pirate and seeker of fortune. He and his loyal crew sail the shimmering blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, plundering what they will, and winning the renown of pirates throughout the West Indies. But more than a “man of quality,” Edward Kenway is a perfect vassal for newcomers to the Assassin’s Creed series. Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag embraces the roaring thrill of pirating, while all at once throwing the doors open to invite those formally intimidated by its long-running story.

In previous Assassin’s Creed games, you filled the shoes of a modern-day character named Desmond, and that character, in turn, would live out the memories of his ancestors. In Black Flag, this narrative layer is largely absent. You are now diving into those memories alone, to live out the life and adventures of Edward Kenway personally. And he, also, is a newcomer of sorts. New to the life of a pirate, and newer still to the Assassin Order.

Assassin's Creed IV, Gamescom, 05

I sit down to play Assassin’s Creed IV for the first time with DualShock 4 in hand, noting that the in-game map features more than 50 locations to explore, from wide cities to dense jungles. But in Black Flag, your primary playground is the Caribbean Sea, offering secrets to uncover, bounty to claim, danger to face, and contracts to fulfill. Even in its incomplete state, this PS4 code grapples the Caribbean spectacle with ease, displaying incredible waves, detailed foliage, and smooth animation. The sights seem to go on forever, and the scope of the world is palpable in an instant.

I head out to sea, where I command Edward’s infamous ship — the Jackdaw. It sways and lunges in the waves, spray drenching the decks as Edward’s crew scurry up the rigging. Another ship mast pokes above the horizon in the distance, so I spin the wheel towards it and the Jackdaw lurches towards its prey.

The ship’s weapons vary depending on the angle of attack. As we pull up alongside the enemy vessel, the Jackdaw’s cannons bark into life, perforating the wood with superheated iron. After just a few volleys from my cannons, the enemy ship slips beneath the waves. My co-captain, a member of Ubisoft Montreal’s development team, laughs. Being too aggressive means that I have one less ship to board and plunder, though there’s a chance that some bounty could bubble up to the surface. Luckily, a crate bobs above the waters and I end up a hair richer for my troubles.

Assassin's Creed IV, Gamescom, 11Assassin's Creed IV, Gamescom, 13

I head towards another ship. But just as we adjust our course, the skies darken and the seas surge as a ferocious storm swallows the Jackdaw. As I wrestle with the helm, I notice that a rogue wave is fast approaching the ship.

With a button press, I command the crew to brace for impact, and the wave hammers the Jackdaw with numbing force. Bracing saves me from catastrophic damage, and I’m relieved to see the skies clear as the storm passes overhead. Seizing the opening, I head back to land to experience the bustling streets of a nearby city.

As we sail, the game’s lead writer, Darby McDevitt, discusses his passion for the time period. He explains his effort to infuse Black Flag with rich language — “Shakespeare lite,” he says, smiling. His wish is to give the player something beautiful to hear, but still keep the dialogue accessible for an international audience. Black Flag’s all-English cast brings that language to life with an authenticity that McDevitt is proud of.

The Jackdaw finds its way to the city, and soon Edward is walking among the locals in search of an assassination contract. Once he finds it, my map lights up with an extra icon, beckoning Edward from afar. But first, McDevitt asks me to duck into a nearby tavern in order to hear some samples of the game’s period-authentic music. McDevitt explains that 70 shanties and pub songs are included in Assassin’s Creed IV, and you can teach those shanties to Edward’s crew who will sing them later while at sea. It lends just a little more realism to the world of Black Flag, and gives Edward’s crew a burst of personality.

Assassin's Creed IV, Gamescom, 04

Next, I quickly guide Edward towards his target. It’s a fellow pirate, and I nudge Edward through some brush that encircles the pirate camp where my mark is located. Edward’s hood is drawn, and his blades ready. I lurk in the gloom, waiting for the pirate to make his way past us. As he strolls over to our hiding place, our hero leaps into action…

…and is stabbed to death by goons, thanks to my sudden realization that I didn’t know what button to press for the execution. McDevitt shrugs with a grin, mentioning that the team made combat much more challenging this time around. Edward didn’t last long in the crowd of enemies, but a player with a real mastery of his counters and dodges will endure much more intense assaults — and look cool in the process.

Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag is an enormous adventure. It’s especially impressive when you consider just how quickly Ubisoft Montreal leapt from Assassin’s Creed III to Black Flag. For those unfamiliar with the series, Black Flag might just be the perfect opportunity to get on board. At the very least, the team at Ubisoft Montreal aims to satisfy your pirating itch, and our near-universal love for adventure.

Comments are closed.


  • Did you get to try Remote Play? I am interested to know how they made up for not having some buttons :)

  • Remote play works with no lag?

  • Really well written, Ryan. Beyond!

    As mentioned above, any hands on with the remote-play?

  • looks ace, but i’m already burned the hell out of the series :(

    i’m taking a long break before i even get back to the series

  • Hopefully this part of the franchise is good. I just finished playing II and started Brotherhood. It won’t be a while until I reach IV Black Flag.

  • Please make AC Black Flag 2

  • Clements! So this is what you’ve been up to…

  • Can’t wait to get this on PS4. Really glad you guys showed off Seemless Remote Play and I hope that isn’t something that studios have to work at to get working beyond the control mapping. I would like to see more about this and I’d like to know if the Vita can be used as a standard controller while playing with options on screen like in other versions of the game?

  • it ‘s cool and i am so geting the ps4.

  • To Ryan:

    i really really want this game, but it seems ubisoft really really doesn’t want my money. why u say?
    Black Chest edition that’s why

    so tired of US getting the shaft when it comes to the CE’s

    i probably might buy it later down the line at a cheap price though

  • i’m so getting this.

  • @1

    The Vita makes up for the lack of buttons with the touchscreen and rear touch pad. Almost all of the main controls carry over, but for the extra buttons not on the Vita, you have to use the two touch screens. You should be able to map the button configurations to how you prefer it.

  • Ryan,

    I just wanted to say hey, and let you know that this is yet another excellent editorial on your part. I dare not call your article merely a “Blog post”, because that would be doing your talents a disservice.

    Don’t get me wrong, the other fine folks that post on this Blog do a great job too, but I have always appreciated your style of writing. It’s as though you are painting a picture in the reader’s mind, and you do such a great job at that, that I scarcely need the pictures in this post to see the game in my mind’s eye.

    Keep up the great work, and expect a friend request from me once the PS4 launches.

  • Day 1 buy….love me some AC….AC+pirates=Totally Win.

    @ 5 Gamerzlimited – Wait till you get to Revelations…is da Best.

  • I’d love to see an Assassin’s Creed Trilogy collection for PS4. I never played the AC series after I found the first one quite tedious, even though we are *huge* fans of Prince of Persia (and even TMNT).

    Teaching songs to your crew is a great idea. Will the audio assets be 24-bit/lossless? Consistent HD audio quality is one of the things I’m most looking forward to in next-gen.

    I also really like the idea of “rich” language, as opposed to dumbing things down. We loved HBO’s Deadwood and its thick, poetic language that was a challenge to understand at times, but all the more enthralling as a result.

    PS: It would be great to see some Vita-native versions of the PSP versions of the AC and PoP series.

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