Play Expo 2013: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag PS4 Preview
Last weekend I got the chance to attend this year’s Play Expo, one of the UK’s biggest yearly video game expos. Though there were many different games to test your skills at, both new and old, from the likes of Dark Souls 2 to arcade classics like Donkey Kong and Killer Instinct; I was eagerly awaiting my chance to get my hands on Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, for two reasons:
1) I’ve been a huge fan of every game in the series (forget Assassin’s Creed 3)
2) It was being previewed on the PS4!
The main reason why I attend Play Expo is to try out new hardware; last year I got a chance to use a Wii U months before it’s release and this year I was especially excited, as PlayStation have always been my console of choice.
A Pleasant Shock
First, a bit about the controller; the first thing I noticed was that it looked and felt completely different to the tried and tested design of the DualShock 3 we all (well, most of us) know and love. It was noticeably thinner and sleeker than the previous model and a lot less bulky, allowing it to fit in to my hands a lot more comfortably. I was a bit sceptical about the concave analogue sticks but they actually felt really secure and gave me a lot more control over my character. And, finally, PlayStation has triggers it can be proud of! It’s fair to say Sony’s past three attempts have been absolutely awful, but now the triggers are moulded around your fingertips and have a very satisfying ‘click’ when they are fully pressed.
One thing the AC4 demo didn’t support was the touch pad, which I was pretty disappointed about; if this is also the case with the full game – only time will tell. All in all, from first impressions, the DualShock 4 seems to be an upgrade in almost every possible way; after using that, my DualShock 3 seems pretty bare bones.
Now, on to the game. Anyone who knows Assassins Creed will know it involves, primarily, assassinating people. It comes as no surprise that this was my objective – specifically, to assassinate a naval commander. The demo started with a cinematic of the game’s protagonist Edward Kenway on his mighty pirate ship, the Jackdaw. Already off the back of a single cutscene I preferred Edward to his excruciatingly dull son and grandson (Haytham and Connor respectively) the two playable characters from the previous game. His rebellious attitude and appearance raised his level of coolness all the way to eleven; not to mention he is also a goddamn pirate – how much more of a badass could he be!
Anyway, after the cutscene, I was thrust into a naval battle in which I was to sink two enemy ships. This is where Black Flag really shines, the naval battles from AC3 have returned, but this time around Ubisoft spent a lot of time fleshing them out and making them feel more fluid. There were a few different attacks I could use, including a massive barrage of cannon fire and a highly accurate, pinpoint cannon to exploit enemy vessels weak spots. I was extremely delighted to also find a minigun attached to the side of the Jackdaw, which I used to mow down the opposition as I was docking the ship. From what I can gather this was a basic version of the ship that is highly customisable, hopefully it can be fitted with a whole array of deadly weaponry so you can build your very own floating fortress.
Once I was off the ship I was tasked with infiltrating a castle and dispatching the enemy commander. This was standard Assassin’s Creed fare, you could either fight your way through the enemy guards or let your men do it for you, then eagle-eye the target and enter a hot pursuit over collapsing rooftops and through burning buildings until you terminate him. Then the demo ended and the man from Ubisoft politely asked me to leave. However, what I could gather from the ‘on-land’ portion of the demo was that not much has changed in terms of controls or gameplay elements, which I didn’t particularly mind as I have always been a big fan of AC’s mechanics. What were new, however, were some of the awesome acrobatic counters that Edward uses – some were a lot more brutal than in previous titles and all the better for it! (He is a pirate after all.)
The graphics looked polished and a lot more colourful, partly due to the setting, but they are definitely a big step up from AC3 in terms of character animations and the water in particular. Ubisoft have come out and said that around 40% of the game will be set on the water, which is a huge chunk, so it’s a good thing Ubisoft put the extra effort into making the ocean look stunningly realistic.
After my brief time with the demo I was left pleased with more or less every aspect of the game. Sure, I can’t tell you anything about the story or any other missions but playing the demo has already washed out the bad taste in my mouth left by Assassin’s Creed 3 and recaptured the excitement I felt playing the first two titles, to put it simply: I can’t wait for its release.
If I had one complaint it would be for the PS4 rather than the game itself. Although the graphics did look great, they didn’t look particularly next-gen. I was expecting a huge improvement like the difference between PS3 and PS2 visuals, but instead I was met with a slightly more polished version of current-gen graphics. Maybe this was down to it being a demo rather than the finished product or maybe due to Black Flag being a cross-gen title – being developed for current as well as next-gen consoles. Hopefully the visuals will be more of a step up once the PS4 version is officially released.