Ubisoft's worst kept secret is now one of its most assured weapons for the fall and holiday season.
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, which was abruptly revealed last week amidst rumors and accidentally leaked trailers, is the latest in the long-running series, which follows a singular hero as he uses assassination methods – among other tools – to set things right in the modern day. For this particular chapter, we're not quite sure who the game connects to in our time just yet (since Desmond is, well, not around), but we do know of the main character we're playing in the past – Edward Kenway.
If the name sounds familiar, that's because Edward is the father of Assassin's Creed III's starting hero Haytham Kenway, the father of Connor. This game takes place well before the time of the American Revolution, following Edward's adventures on the high seas as both pirate and assassin.
Though plot details haven't been given as of yet (we bet those hasty Templars are at it again, though), Assassin's Creed IV does have some interesting gameplay aspects going for it, all themed around Edward's pirate world. The game will switch back and forth between land and water, with a good portion of the time tracking targets in villages, jungles, islands and other locales, and the rest dedicated to high seas travel and, yes, the return of naval battles, one of the high points of Assassin's Creed III.
When you're on land, you'll have the opportunity to do so much more than hunt targets. The game will provide a number of side activities, including talking with fellow pirates (the ones you aren't considering rivals), hunting animals in exotic locations, harpooning whales (yep, straight outta Moby Dick) and swimming underwater for treasures and other hidden items. The fact you can swim around islands and explore at your leisure is huge, considering you aren't limited to the missions you're supposed to complete in order to keep the story moving.
Combat is also given a big boost, thanks to the inclusion of handguns. Not only can you mix these pistols up in your general combat (which also includes a rapier and, like a traditional assassin, the hidden hand blades), but you can also use them for free-aiming, rather than the traditional auto-aim that the series has relied on. This frees up the gameplay tremendously, letting you shoot enemies at pivotal points before walking up and finishing them off.
As for the remaining part of the game, it's all about naval combat. Here, you'll be able to sail your ship wherever you damn well please, seeking out enemies with the help of a spyglass up top, and then pursuing them. From there, you can overtake the enemy ship simply by swinging aboard and performing an air assassination on the captain, before moving on and dispatching of his crew. It's like something out of the movies, but with the Assassin's Creed touch.
Edward's ship, the Jackdaw, is also capable of being upgraded , along with the crew. You can update your weapons and abilities as you complete missions, pillaging for plunder and becoming even fiercer in the process. You can also make your crew better, buying them outfits or dealing with their specific attributes so they're better at specific duties, whether it's loading a cannon or joining you in overtaking enemies with swordplay.
For Assassin's Creed IV, the developers at Ubisoft Montreal are pushing for an open-world environment, one with minimal loading times and hardly any limitations whatsoever. As we mentioned previously, exploration is a huge part of the game, as you'll discover side missions and hidden goods to make you a better rounded killer for the later missions in the game. And though Ubisoft hasn't listed all the famous characters you'll rub elbows with in the game (aside from the dreaded Blackbeard, who was revealed in the trailer), rumor has it you'll deal with Calico Jack, Anne Bonny, Benjamin Hornigold and Charles Vane – all historical types from the pirating era.
One other thing you can expect from this series is historical accuracy. Ubisoft Montreal is shying away from the skeleton and Kraken-powered silliness of the Pirates of the Caribbean series in favor of something more historical, even if some facts are eschewed. So far, judging by the bits and pieces of the game we've seen, it's definitely got the tone down right, and if its detail is every bit as good as its prior effort in Assassin's Creed III, we could be in for a killer time.
And Black Flag will also mark the series' debut on the next generation of consoles, as it's slated to arrive for PlayStation 4, as well as whatever Microsoft's next console is. Whether those versions will feature additional missions or other refinements has yet to be seen…but we should know more around E3.
We'll have more gameplay breakdowns for you in the months ahead, leading up to the game's release on October 29th on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Wii U, and next gen consoles. This may just be the pirate's life for you.