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E3 2013: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Posted on June 12, 2013 AT 08:00am

Publisher Ubisoft
Developer Ubisoft
Platform XB1, PS4, 360, PS3, Wii U, PC
Release Date 10.29.2013
Not sure what any of this stuff means? Head on over to our E3 hub for all the deets.

The Rundown

More Assassin’s Creed. With pirates. That’s probably enough to convince most people, but if you need a bit more detail, here’s a quick primer: Set in the early 18th century, Black Flag follows the story of Edward Kenway (grandfather to Connor) as he plunders and assassinates his way through the Caribbean. The naval combat from ACIII makes a return with a host of new upgrades, not least of which is the ability to move seamlessly from piloting your ship to swimming in the water to walking on land.

The Verdict

I was rather impressed with nearly all of what I saw of Assassin’s Creed IV. The environments, with their lush jungles, dilapidated shanty towns, and picturesque beaches were a welcome change of pace from the locales the franchise has visited in the past, and I can’t wait to explore every inch of the massive world in search of buried treasure. I was likewise struck by how well the game flowed between ship and land without any load times, especially since I felt Assassin’s Creed III was frequently disjointed. My hands-on time with multiplayer was solid, and I appreciate that you’ll now be able to tweak just about every setting and variable to build your own custom gametypes—something that should keep the backseat game developers of the world happy.

In fact, the only thing that really gave me pause was the AI, which seemed to showcase many of the same frustrating behaviors that plagued the last game. I know that Assassin’s Creed isn’t just a stealth title anymore—and it hasn’t been for a good many years—but when being sneaky is a viable and encouraged option, having guards that behave unpredictably and seemingly randomly just doesn’t cut it. Hopefully Ubisoft can get that side of things in order by October.

One more quick note: while the demo I saw was running on a high-end PC, an Ubisoft rep told me the graphics were indicative of what I could expect from the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game, and I was somewhat underwhelmed. A few things were downright breathtaking—especially the way the rain looked as it fell onto the ship’s deck—but it mostly looked like the same game with slightly higher textures. There’s still plenty of time for optimization, to be sure, but I can’t help but feel like we’ll have to wait at least another year for a truly next-gen Assassin’s Creed experience.

Josh Harmon, Associate Editor
Josh Harmon picked up a controller when he was 3 years old—and he hasn't looked back since. This has made him particularly vulnerable to attacks from behind. He joined EGM as an intern following a brief-but-storied career on a number of small gaming blogs across the Internet. Follow him on Twitter @jorshy. Meet the rest of the crew.

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