Late to the party is my new video series in which I review popular games a while after they’ve been released, mainly because I’ve only just gotten round to playing them.
The video can be found under this paragraph, but if you’re more of a reader I’ve provided a modified version of the script after the jump so you can enjoy my thoughts in the written word instead. I’m nice like that.
I’ve got a habit of getting into big games long after other people have finished with them. The latest example is Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Although it came out back in 2013, I’m only playing through it now so here are my massively out of date thoughts on it. Deal with it.
Assassin’s Creed games are best described with Friends-style episode names. We had The One In The Holy Land (AC1), The One Set In Italy (AC2), The One With The American Civil War (AC3) and so on. Black Flag is The One With Pirates In It, and that’s pretty much all you need to know. Still, I’ve done my research and it turns out most reviews are a bit longer than this so I’ll talk a bit more about it.
Black Flag follows Welsh pirate Edward Kenway as he… um, something to do with pirates, something something templar knights, something Blackbeard… um, boats… ach, I don’t know.
Look, I’ll level with you, Black Flag’s story is utter shite. Its cutscenes are dull – despite randomly dotting a few swear words in there from time to time, which is usually my trick – and the majority of its characters are so unremarkable that by the time I remembered who someone was they’d been assassinated.
This is maybe because most of the game’s missions are annoyingly similar, making them all merge together in my head as one big recurring memory. I couldn’t tell you how many times I had to tail someone from a distance without them spotting me, or run after someone and kill them, or… well, that’s pretty much all you do for the most part.
It also doesn’t help that these missions often have annoyingly lengthy gaps between checkpoints, which is particularly frustrating when you try a mission for the first time. On numerous occasions you’re tasked with following some prick, climbing over houses and the like without being noticed, until finally you reach a point where a checkpoint is triggered and – usually – you then have to kill him.
Often, if you get caught right at the end of such a sequence, you’ll fail and have to go all the way back to the previous checkpoint, which could potentially have been up to 10-15 minutes ago.
The result is some annoying trial-and-error gameplay as you do missions numerous times, long checkpoints and all, until you find the ideal path to take without triggering a failure.
And then, sometimes, you get sent back to the present day and are made to explore the Abstergo offices while doing rubbish hacking mini-games and enduring really long and boring cut-scenes when all you want to do is be a pirate and this is as far from being a fucking pirate as you can get unless you’re playing a torrented copy of the game.
At this stage you may think I hate Black Flag, that the very thought of it sends shivers of anger up my perfectly formed spine. But in reality, despite these annoyances, I’ve put 50-60 hours into it. Why? Because boats.
This is the Jackdaw. It’s Kenway’s boat, and it’s a fucking belter. I’ve been collecting metal and other goods which I’ve used to upgrade it to some sort of seafaring war-beast.
The game map’s massive too. I can sail wherever I want, and unlike games like Wind Waker (which obviously I love, incidentally) there’s actually lots to do while sailing between islands. Sometimes I spend hours just sailing around, fucking up English and Spanish ships like some sort of maritime Grand Theft Auto.
Once you’ve worn a ship down you can then board it, killing some of its crew and using the rest to either repair your ship or join your fleet. Continuing the GTA comparison, wreck enough boats and you’ll soon become wanted, with red-sailed Hunter boats chasing after you. But I’m a pirate here, not a shitebag, so I can turn round and take on the Hunters.
See, I just have loads of fun doing shite like that. Occasionally I’ll sail past an island with a treasure chest on it, at which point I’ll order my men to stop the boat, leap off it without a word, swim over to the island, nick the treasure and swim back. Just for fun.
Or sometimes I’ll come across a shark or a whale, and try to catch the bastard in a harpooning mini-game. These bits aren’t so good but still, I’m hunting a whale while striped to the waist. I haven’t done that since I went to nightclubs in Glasgow when I was 18.
Occasionally its little annoying niggles rear their heads once again. The subtitles capitalise random words for no reason, and sometimes cut-scenes glitch, leading to odd moments like characters mysteriously disappearing.
And Kenway has one of the worst faces you’ll see in a new-gen game. It’s animated well but his odd combination of dark tan and blonde hair, realistic though it may be, just makes him look like some knob who went to Ibiza with his mates for a week and didn’t bring proper sunscreen.
I don’t want to play as someone like that, which is why I stuck the old Altair hood on him as soon as I could to cover up his wanker face.
It isn’t perfect then, and whether it’s the modern-day Abstergo bits or the repetitive stalking levels you’re never too far away from another sigh-inducing moment.
But when it all comes together and you’re leaping from your ship’s mast to another to take on a whole crew of knobs single-handedly, you feel like a legend. And that’s why, even though I’m late to the Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag party, I’m glad I eventually turned up.