When Assassins Creed IV Black Flag was first announced I had little to no interest. Personally, I found ACIII was the single most disappointing video game of 2012 with an overly long intro, a dull protagonist and plot and buggy gameplay mechanics. Does Black Flag improve on these features? Mostly it does. The overly long intro has fortunately been ditched as you're plunged right into the shoes of Edward Kenway as he becomes an assassin. Similarly, stealth mechanics feel overall improved since ACIII too which is relieving as that was my biggest gripe with that game.
ACIV is based off of the naval combat that was featured in ACIII and they certainly improved on that immensely and sailing around the open world feels fun and exciting. That being said, naval combat quickly becomes dull and repetitive and I personally found myself bored of these segments (which of course take up a huge part of the game) very quickly. On the other hand, ground combat is still relatively fun though I do feel it can be improved, for exanple, playing this game after Batman Arkham Origins the combat isn't quite as fluid and as usual, rather quickly detoriates into button mashing square with the occasional triangle to counter and x to break the defense of certain soldiers.
The open world however is great and is certainly a big map with loads to explore, side quests to complete and collectibles to find. The world vaguely reminds me of Ubisoft's other AAA title of 2012 Far Cry 3 - both allow you to hunt animals to carve and create weaponry and costumes, and both have enough content to keep you having fun for a while. The graphics and scope of ACIV are certainly very impressive for this generation of consoles with few loading times outside of the initial loading screen and fast travel.
However, the plot is ultimately a let down and I just can't find myself interested in Edward Kenway or his story, which is a problem I also had with ACIII. Its somewhat disappointing as I found Ezio Auditore's saga to have some of the more interesting video game plots of this generation but the Kenway family are bland and uninspired with little hint of personality. Admittedly, Edward is much better than his grandson but I don't think he compares with either Altair of the original Assassins Creed or Ezio and I can't entirely remember too many of the plot points of this game in a year where best selling games such as The Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite have had amazing stories.
The online, on the other hand, is still just as fun as ever and the map design, in my opinion, is some of the best yet. Players of the previous Assassins Creed games will also be given costumes of all the Assassins theyve played as when they load up the game. On top of this, you'll receive a code that will allow you to upgrade to the PS4 version of ACIV for a hugely discounted price of £9.99 in the UK and $9.99 in the US when that console is released, so essentially saving those who are going next gen £40/$50.
In my opinion, fans of the previous Assassins Creed games should definitely look into this one. Not only does it feature a wealth of activities to accomplish but it also boasts great visuals with an insanely large scope and next to no framerate issues at all. For the current gen consoles, what Assassins Creed IV achieves is a stunning feat and for those of you who are picking up a next gen console this month, I would highly recommend picking up this game with it.
Overall, ACIV is a fun game but contains somewhat repetitive and dull combat and an ultimately uninteresting story. That said, gamers who like to explore will find enough to do to keep them busy for a while, and those who like to play the multiplayer side of things will find a very fun, intense experience. Fans of the series should definitely pick this up.