HANDS-ON: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (PC) - PC Retail

HANDS-ON: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (PC)

Latest open world stealth-action game sees players sail the high seas
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The latest Assassin’s Creed game is set for an upcoming release on PC, and PCR has set sail with the stealth action-adventure.

Developed by Ubisoft Montreal, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag will allow players to step into the boots of sea-faring Welsh pirate Edward Kenway, as he explores the Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy.

Kenway, unlike previous protagonists, doesn’t begin the game as one of the hooded assassins, but instead decides to impersonate one to try and gain profit.

While Assassin's Creed III's Connor came across as a po-faced grump, Ubisoft has imbrued Kenway with a sense of humour, aligning the fun dialogue of the roguish character with the self-referential metafiction of the modern setting, which plays off of Ubisoft’s own continuation of the franchise – and gently mocks the overwrought plot of the preceding titles, while getting back to the basic enjoyable gameplay of the series.

As with previous Assassin’s Creed titles, the story combines the historical gameplay of Kenway – where players will sneak, stab and sail while trying to uncover the mysterious connection between the Assassins and the Templars – with escapes into the modern day, where players will hack computers and eavesdrop on conversations to see where the secretive orders stand in the 20th century.

While conducting a menial office job hardly seems like a blast compared to singing sea shanties and diving off clifftops into rolling waves, the offices of Abstergo Entertainment slowly begin to reveal involving details, in the same engrossing manner as the symbols in Assassin's Creed 2 (which this writer collected in full, alongside the multitudinous and widespread feathers).

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Returning from Assassin’s Creed III are sailing mechanics, which now play a pivotal role. Players can upgrade Kenway’s ship, the Jackdaw, in order to battle and board other vessels – with rum, sugar and Spanish reales up for grabs.

It's not just disgruntled Spanish sailors who present a threat in the Caribbean sea – water spouts and crashing waves can as easily disintegrate players' ships as cannonballs and fire barrels.

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Inspiration has been taken from Ubisoft’s own Far Cry 3 as well, with the islands dotted around the world map occupied by a number of animals, which Kenway can hunt in order to craft new items and clothes.

Like previous Assassin's Creed games, the open world is privvy to a number of secrets and side missions, meaning players can be lead astray from the storyline by the pursuit of the treasure described in a letter gripped by a sand-blasted skeleton or, as ever, the obsessive climbing of viewpoints from which the map can be uncovered.

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Combat in Black Flag has also been improved, with Kenway gaining an edge over enemies with his combinations of swords, blades, pistols and bombs.

Players can distract and subdue guards by ducking into haybales, stalking through vegetation and diving down from rooftops, but should Kenway be discovered, a number of new counter and kill animations should make short work of combatants.

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Multiplayer also returns for the fourth time, since first appearing in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.

The matches see players play a deadly game of Guess Who as each avatar disappears into wandering crowds while trying to work out which seemingly innocuous civilian is planning to stick a blade between their shoulder blades – hoping to catch their own target first.

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Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is available now for PS3 and Xbox 360, with PC, PS4, Xbox One and Wii U versions due for release on November 22nd.

(All screenshots were taken from the PC version of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag by PCR. The game was running at high settings at a resolution of 1080p.)

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