• Gamer's Gazette Issue VIII (Originally published December 3rd, 2013)

    Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. Well, the Americans at least. I am not privy to the late November festivities of other countries. I should've probably look that up before typing this intro. Anyway, the Gamer's Gazette is back from a short hiatus to bring you the last issue ever...of volume 1. You see, the Gamer's Gazette for the past year and a half of existence has been like a Caterpie caterpillar, munching on delicious, non-poisonous leaves and thread views. But the past few months we have begun the process of becoming a Metapod cocoon, with fresh ideas, new games, new consoles (which none of you get to have because you have your PCs), and a few new mental illnesses that may or may not have produce videos that will never been seen in public. Good times. But with this last issue of the year, we wave goodbye to the old and say hello to the new, and our beautiful Butterfree butterfly will be ready to bring in the new year the only way it knows how; with even more content! In all seriousness, we here at the Gamer's Gazette would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, a Happy New Year...uh, and the fact I didn't look up more holidays has once again bit me in the rear.

    Ignoring my terrible insect analogy above, we've got a review heavy issue for you to finish off the year. Up first is Gen. Chris, who has followed up his comprehensive look at the Grand Theft Auto franchise to give us a Grand Theft Auto V review. I hear that game is a big deal. Next is Daily with his first impressions of Rimworld, a space colony builder. Everything is better in space. SturmChurro braves the world of online multiplayer to bring us a review of Batman: Arkham Origin's new multiplayer mode. Did they succeed like Assassin's Creed, or should the Arkham series remained singleplayer only? You'll have to read to find out. Last but not least, some guy wrote a review on Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag. I keep spelling that as Blag Flack. I don't even know what that is. So grab a cup of hot chocolate, get a fire going in your living room, then leave that room, go to your PC, and read the eighth issue of the Gamer's Gazette!

    Yes, I have been playing Pokemon, why do you ask?

    Gamer's Gazette Editor
    Confederate Jeb


    Grand Theft Auto V Review
    GTAV Review
    GTAV Review

    Grand Theft Auto V (2013)
    Grand Theft Auto V

    Nine years after a botched robbery attempt, Michael de Santa (real name Townsley) lives a relatively quiet life in the city of Los Santos under witness protection with his wife and two children. Though he lives a life of luxury, his life is far from perfect. Also living in Los Santos is Franklin Clinton, a young gangbanger who aspires for a better life and who works as a repo man for a less than credible car dealership. A chance meeting between the two as well as a misunderstanding leads to Michael and Franklin being forced into committing a high profile heist in order to pay off the resulting debt. The heist catches the attention of one Trevor Phillips, a former associate of Michael’s in robbing banks and who believes Michael to be dead. Traveling from the desert town of Sandy Shores to Los Santos and discovering that Michael is indeed alive, Trevor’s sudden appearance causes the worlds of both Franklin and Michael to unravel as they both must deal with the trouble it brings.


    After a five year absence, Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto franchise came back with a bang in Grand Theft Auto V. Set in the fictional State of San Andreas and in a way an HD remake of GTA San Andreas, the game takes place mostly in the city of Los Santos and the surrounding desert, based on Los Angeles and its own arid climate. The scope of the game is absolutely extraordinary, and feels like a living and breathing world no different than ours. Though not the same as San Andreas that featured three cities and multiple diverse locations and small towns, GTA makes up for this in the exceedingly beautiful city and landscapes that are present in the game. Where you are fleeing from the police in the Los Santos canal (based on the LA canal), cruising through Vinewood Hills in a fancy sports car, or visiting a cult in the mountains north of the city, the game has practically everything you could ask for in a city and a state. The draw distance in the game has also improved to the point where you can see things from a much greater distance than you could in previous games, really enhancing the beauty of the world. The level of detail in the game is absolutely mind blowing, and simply does not disappoint. Rockstar really threw everything into creating a masterpiece of a world for the players to play in. The map is huge, and with so many places to explore, you will almost always find something new.

    What almost immediately sets this game apart from its predecessors is the characters. Unlike in previous games where the player took control of a single protagonist (with the exception of the DLC content of GTA IV), the player has control of three interesting and unique characters that all have a story of their own. Though you initially only have control of Franklin and Michael, Trevor becomes available later in the game, and Rockstar takes full advantage of the new system. Each character has their own missions (main and side missions), where only they participate, while all characters can also take part in many of the missions, where the game will either offer you the option of switching between all the characters or making the switch for you. This allows for the player to build a diverse set of characters each with their own strengths and weaknesses while also allowing for the player to participate in all aspects of a single mission in a more realistic way than previous games where the main character did everything. Switching between the three characters is easy, and only limited by the point of the story you are in (some characters are unavailable at certain points) or limited by the point in the particular mission the player is doing. Each character has their own safe house, car, relationships, skills, money amounts, and more that all make them unique and fun. Additionally, with all characters available you can drop in on them at any time and see what they were doing just before you take control. This can range from Michael coming out of a movie theater to Trevor waking up hung over and confused and in the middle of nowhere. Every character has a different personality and a different sense of morality that creates an interesting story as well as gameplay possibilities. Finally, each character also has a “special ability” to utilize at certain key moments: Franklin can slow down time while driving and increase his driving ability, Michael can enter a sort of ‘bullet time’, and Trevor can enter a state that allows him to deal double the damage while taking half the damage he normally would.

    Missions and their effect on character and story progression has been changed slightly from previous games. For the most part, most missions no longer reward the player with money or respect or any sort of tangible benefit. A lot of the missions involve the specific character’s person lives, but many of them involve the overall story; the pursuit of money. The point of most of these missions is the groundwork towards pulling off increasingly more difficult heists throughout the state. These heists are the main way for the player to make money, and each character has their own money amounts. For the heists, the amount of money obtained depends on the quality of participating NPC’s. For exampe, for a heist the player can recruit people a selection of people to act as an extra gunman, a hacker, a getaway driver, etc that all have their own levels of skills that can affect the outcome of a mission. Their skills directly affect their ability in the mission, and making a poor choice such as a bad driver could cause you to lose a significant chunk of money should they screw up. Their skills also determine how much of a cut they can get from the heist, which is something to consider. Additionally, these heists are different in that the player can choose two ways to do the heist, typically simplified to a “loud and dumb” way versus a “quiet and smart” way. Also, in an improvement over its predecessor, GTA V has checkpoints during missions. Failure will not mean starting over from the very beginning of the mission. The benefit of this cannot be overstated at all, as some missions can take a very long time to complete, and failure near the end would be enormously frustrating.

    Side missions are also numerous and diverse. These are known as “Strangers and Freaks”, involving the character interacting with a large variety of people throughout San Andreas, from a paparazzi trying to get a perfect compromising picture of a celebrity to an exercise enthusiast that you try to keep up with in varying activities (running, biking, swimming). Each character has their own side missions with different people and some of the Strangers and Freaks are shared between characters.

    Additionally, the game has a number of “random events” that can occur throughout the game. These can range from catching a wallet thief to driving a person somewhere to rescuing someone from a dangerous situation. These can reward you with small amounts of cash, a person to participate in side activities with (such as golf), or even a new person to add to your heist crews.

    Overall the missions are fun and fresh for the franchise. You can also go back and replay the missions whenever you want in order to take advantage of the new “full completion” mechanism that offers increased challenges in completing each mission. There are around a hundred and thirty missions and side missions, and fifty random events, lending the game a huge story and amount of side activities to play through.

    As far as other facets of gameplay are concerned, Grand Theft Auto V does not disappoint even in the slightest. As implied by the title, driving cars as well as operating other vehicles is a large component of the game, and features an (in my opinion) improved driving mechanic. Grand Theft Auto IV was criticized for its driving and Rockstar seemed to have listened, making the driving a bit more forgiving than before and allowing for cars to take a significant amount of damage before becoming inoperable. It’s still possible to really mess up the vehicle in one hit and make it difficult to drive, such as a wheel on your car getting jammed under a damaged wheel well, or getting your tires popped and the rubber coming off, but overall it seems more difficult to completely wreck a car to the point where it will not start. Some players are not happy about the controls and physics being relaxed a bit, but as far as I’m concerned it makes for a much more enjoyable experience.

    In addition to cars, other vehicles are heavily featured. Planes make a return due to the incredible size of the map, and with a large variety of those and helicopters, it is easy to quickly travel around the map at certain stages of the game. There are also two main military aircraft, an attack helicopter and a fighter plane, available if the player is willing to take the risk in stealing them from the military base north of the city. Boats and other watercraft are also available, with the notable addition of a single-seat submersible that is used during a heist but is also available later for just diving.

    Combat remains similar to the Grand Theft Auto IV with the addition of far more weapons to play around with as well as an improved cover system. With several categories (pistols, assault rifles, machine guns, sniper rifles, heavy weapons, etc) available, each category also has several different weapons to choose from with varying degrees of power and capabilities. Getting the weapons is easy as you can acquire weapons from dead enemies or by visiting the various gun stores around the state that offer weapons available for purchase depending on what stage you are at in the game. You can also purchase five different levels of body armor to protect yourself, with appropriate levels of cost for each one (ligher armor being cheaper, for example). With such a large variety of weapons comes a new way to switch guns: the weapons wheel. Pressing the appropriate button will bring up the wheel and slow down (but not stop) the gameplay as you select the weapon you desire. This makes it simple to change from a shotgun for enemies that are just a few feet away to a sniper rifle to pick off an enemy significantly farther away. The combat also allows the player to take cover from enemy fire by running behind an object and “sticking” to it. You can then blind fire around the corner or come out briefly to aim properly. The only REAL problem is the fact that the shooting reticle is somewhat small and can be difficult to see in certain conditions, especially while driving and firing, while the AI has the magical ability to shoot accurately at moving targets in a car from a great distance. Overall, the combat is fun but perhaps a bit too easy, especially with higher levels of shooting skill where you can headshot people at a hundred yards or more away with a pistol. Also, wounded enemies will no longer try to retreat out of the line of fire, but will instead fire at you from the ground. The game also takes into account headshots from the enemy on the character; it is now possible for one shot to kill you. Even still, the combat is rather fun and the enemy AI does seem to be substantially improved, if a bit too much improved.

    Speaking of combat, the police of course return to the franchise, and they return with a vengeance. The police are quite trigger happy and will search for you quite thoroughly. When given a wanted level the player must attempt to get out of sight of the police. When no police are nearby, the player is considered hiding, and must stay away from any cops and their cone of vision (established on the mini map). If spotted again, the police chase after the player, but if the player remains out of sight long enough the police will give up. There are varying levels of difficulty, represented by five stars, and with each extra star it becomes more difficult to escape as faster law enforcement vehicles and helicopters join the pursuit. At higher levels the enemies are better armed and armored, and substantially more difficult to kill. The helicopters also function as platforms for men to take shots with carbines at the player, or even rope in four officers into the immediate area. The police have substantially better AI than before, and this comes at a cost of more aggressive police who can be called in in seconds by witnesses with cell phones. The AI is actually quite something to behold, with police attempting to box you in or do the pit maneuver to bring the chase to an end. You will hardly ever see them on the streets outside of wanted levels, however, and if you do they will typically be chasing other criminals.

    Outside of the missions and the story overall, there is a large amount of features available for the player. Featuring a return to the franchise is the ability to customize both your character, your cars, and even your weapons to a limited degree. You can buy a variety of clothes to alter the appearance of your character at several clothes stores. You can change these clothing arrangements at that character’s safe house. It is also possible to customize vehicles, from changing the color to changing the suspension to even armoring the car so that it could take more hits/bullets. Characters can also visit several barbershops and tattoo parlors to change the physical appearance of each character. Finally, the guns themselves can be changed at a gun store by buying weapon modifications, which can be a silencer or an extended clip or even changing the color of the gun (though only two additional colors are available in addition to the standard black color. Though there is not as much customization overall in the game compared to its predecessor San Andreas, GTA V does offer more than GTA IV.

    Another large feature of the game is the cell phone. Making a return from the previous game, the cell phone in GTA V allows each character to call and be called during the course of the game. The cell phone is important in several missions, enabling the player to receive updates outside of the missions and during, and allows the character to access the internet and even play the stocks online for a bit of extra cash. This cash can be put towards buying more customization for the characters or even toward the purchase of properties that can be used to boost each characters’ income.

    I could go on and on about the game and its features, so instead I will wrap it up. Grand Theft Auto V is an amazing step forward for the Grand Theft Auto franchise. It builds upon the work of its predecessors and improves them (or brings them back) and even manages to introduce some new features. The atmosphere of the game is fantastic, with the world feeling almost too real, and the story can really suck you in. Of particular note is the weather effects, which are sometimes scripted into a mission to provide a dark or intimidating atmosphere for the plot. The addition of more than one protagonist is a fresh take on the franchise, and ensures that the story never grows old as each character has their own motives in what they do. The combat and evasion of enemy NPCs is fun, though perhaps a bit easy. The writing and the voice acting is superb, the best of the series in my opinion. The soundtrack, featuring both real world music as well as an original score, adds much to the scope of the game. The game is of course not without controversy, including a full and interactive torture scene, and has managed to offend pretty much everyone with its satirical look at aspects of American life present in dialogue, the world, and even the radio. And the ending…Well, the ending can play out in three different ways, offering the player a choice in how the journey ends. Really the only criticisms I can offer is that the heists are the primary way of making money, which can be a slight drag early on in the game. The countryside is also mostly unused, specifically the most northern part of the map, which I feel is a waste as the developers clearly put a lot of time and effort into making these places. Many of the places are so unused that I have significant areas of unexplored map even by the end of the game, and there plenty of things to explore. But perhaps the point is to explore them on your own.

    The awesomeness of this game can never be overstated. This game deserves a perfect score, and that is what it receives.


    (This obviously does not include Online. I haven't played enough of it to do a proper review as of yet)

    Rimworld Impressions
    Rimworld Impressions
    Rimworld Impressions

    Small disclaimer:
    This game is far from finished. This impression is made on a very early stage of the game and everything I say here may be up for change in future releases. You have been warned.

    Rimworld is a real time space colony builder with inspirations from other games such as Prison Architect and Dwarf Fortress. It has recently passed its goal in kickstarter with a great margin. It shows off great potential as another indie game on the PC platform that brings new life the genre. As a huge fan of management games in the flavor of the games mentioned, will Rimworld live up to my big expectations? Or will it go into the pile of forgotten games? Let's head into another game that has hit success with the crowdfunding option.

    Rimworld started off as several things as mentioned on the kickstarter. A starship creator, a school builder game and zombie tactical sim. All these were scrapped later for the space colony builder. Because that is what Rimworld is. You start off crash landed on a outer rim world and have to mine, farm and fight for your life against monstrosities such as boomrats and the familiar human. Tynan Sylvester is the "one man team" behind this game and he has previously worked on mods ranging back to Unreal Tournament, worked four years on Bioshock Infinite and his latest project before Rimworld was a game design book. As he himself states in the kickstarter video he likes how Dwarf Fortress and Sim games create unique stories for the player and he wants to do the same thing for Rimworld. How, my dear reader, you might ask.

    A big part of the game is the A.I storyteller. Sylvester compares this to the A.I in Left 4 Dead where it spawns in mobs and try to beat the player/players and create intense situations. This is the same in Rimworld. You can choose a nice A.I that will only send the occasional angry squirrel after you or you can choose the random crazy A.I that will send a 30 man death squad raider team barely before you have planted your first crop. This is to give the players a option in how difficult and how intense they want their game experience to be.

    So how do you play the game? Quite easily in fact. You do not have direct control over your settlers unless in a combat situation, but more on that later. Instead you designate things to be done and the settlers will get to it when they have time. Things are prioritized in their work list and for example crop growing and planting comes before sweeping the indoor area. Some settlers have skills appropriate to their life before their stranding such as building, mining, farming, fighting etc and you can bet your life you will get a medieval lord as your first settler, who refuses to do any manual labor. All the settlers have names and will in the future have personalities. This is to create a connection with your little minions and I have to say that losing my best shooter in a last ditch effort before the raiders retreated was very heart-wrenching.

    Because that is what most of the game is about. Defending yourself from other humans. There is a arrange of different weapons, new as old that will help you fight off the waves of raiders. You also have access to mines and turrets though there is a debate on what is the best possible defense. You can mine away rock and set up walls and sandbags to fortify yourself. In general you have all the basic tools to create a grand base that can stand the test of time. Head over to the forum and browse some of the colony bases the members have posted and be amazed at how involved many of the players are.

    The combat itself is quite simple but ingenious, and I wish something similar was possible in Dwarf Fortress because the military feature there can be off a great annoyance. You choose your settler, draft him into the military, make him pick up a weapon and send him to his death. Or hopefully the colony continued survival. With this you can choose when you pull your settlers back, on who to shoot on or in general just make decisions that the dense little defenders themselves never could have fathomed. "What? Shoot the man with the grenades that potentially could take out three turrets and half our defensive wall? Nah! I'll just shoot this guy with a pistol."

    You also have the possibility to capture raiders or random stragglers moving into your map. Choosing a drafted settler and making him drag these people into a prison cell you have a range of different options such as feeding them, talking nice, giving them a light beating, giving them a vicious beating or just dragging them out and executing them. All of this depends on your playstyle and how many settlers you want or need. I usually feed and try to recruit my prisoners to the colony and in time it works. Your settlers will react to environment changes in your colony.

    This brings me into the next aspect of the game and that is happiness. As in Prison Architect and Dwarf Fortress the happiness of your inhabitants are important. Seeing your long time friend and fellow settler get shot will leave you traumatized and when his body is left at the entrance to the base for weeks it will tear at you even more. Burying dead bodies, giving the settlers their own rooms and even planting flowers will help the settlers come to terms with their fate. If their happiness is not improved and the infamous "loyalty" bar reaches a certain threshold your settler might go insane and lose complete control of himself. You will have to incapacitate him or her and then perform one of the options as stated in the above paragraph.

    I have not covered all the details in this game and soon it will be harder to do that as Tynan adds more features. But I can mention you have to create electricity and store them in batteries, make huge armories as your weapon stock grow, trade with passing space traders, research better tech amongst a few and as an alpha I am impressed at how much already is in the game.

    So what do I think of the game?

    I like it a lot. I could have stopped here but I guess I have to justify my opinion. It's a great Alpha, it will give you everything between 2 to 30 hours of fun depending on how entrenched you become in making your base. It is also highly stable in terms of performance and my mediocre laptop managed to chug through the more intense battles. Of course this was all done on the smallest map size and I did not dare make it bigger. I am a huge fan of management games and Rimworld really plays on all my notes. I hope Tynan sees the potential in front of him and adds more features so we can have something great that will grow and not stop growing until Rimworld is a complex but still a fun game to play. The little red guy sitting on my shoulder though is spreading small drops of doubt and as with a lot of Alphas the end game might be something completely different than what you envisioned in the first place. We will just have to wait and see for what the future will bring for Rimworld but the foundation laid in this Alpha things are looking very good.

    Daily out.

    Batman: Arkham Origins Multiplayer Review
    Batman: Arkham Origins Multiplayer Review
    Batman: Arkham Origins Multiplayer Review
    Batman Arkham Origins: Multiplayer

    I almost exclusively played Batman Arkham Origins Multiplayer when I played the latest Batman game. Batman Arkham Origins Multiplayer is pretty much your average 3rd person shooter game with elements from the single player portion of the game, yes "with elements" - I will delve into this later on in this review. The multiplayer portion of the game was also developed by a different studio than who developed the single player - Splash Damage. You can find games like Brink, which I haven't gotten the opportunity to play (or review), developed by them as well.

    One part I really enjoyed about this part of the game was the character customization. It features a fairly extensive, while premade, customization options for your gang character(s), and a bit of customization for your weapons as well. There is quite an assortment of different skins for your weapons, after leveling them up in game, by getting kills and using them in general. There are also many different body options for your character as well which you can never go wrong with, though no female option.
    Character and Weapon Customization
    There are just a few clothing and face paint choices, but you can get more by shopping at Penguin's Black Market, but most things in the shop are sold in boxes of price level at random. So, you will never know exactly what you will be getting. It can be quite a gamble, which can be fun to see if you get something special or rare! Penguin's Black Market also sells consumables that boost things like Grenade damage, and more. Things that will give you an obvious advantage against your average player who isn't using any consumables. Which, I think, can be arguably quite game breaking. Especially when you can buy Arkham Credits with your steam wallet! Arkham Credits are quite easy to obtain in game, though I never got the pleasure of keeping the majority of the credits I earned since I suffered from a bug that didn't save any of the credits I earned after each match.

    Like I said earlier, this game plays very much like your average clunky 3rd person shooter game, but has elements from the single player. You might remember cracking the skulls of the almost endless amounts of criminals as Batman, but now you can actually play as one of those criminals! You can either play as a member of Joker's gang, or as a member of Bane's gang, but wait, you can also play as Batman or Robin!
    Killing the Batman
    That is where the twist comes in. You can really get the feeling of fear if you are facing off against a player who really knows how to play Batman or Robin, though Robin is quite a bit easier to kill it seems. You can be fighting off an attack by the enemy gang one second and the next you are grabbed and have gotten your neck broken! I wouldn't be relying on the cover system to hide from Batman or Robin if I was you either, it hardly works properly half the time.

    The point of the game as a gang member is to capture and hold objective points scattered across the select maps (which are quite few in number), and to deplete the enemy gangs reinforcements by getting kills on the rival gang. Playing as Batman and Robin you have to spread fear by taking out enemies so that the gangs will retreat before one gang holds the capture points and defeats the other gang. Each gang plays in a very similar way except for the select special items used. Each gang gets their own special slots which can hold things, like the UAV for the Bane gang for example. Each gang also get's the opportunity once per match to call in the boss, either Joker or Bane, and the player who calls them in gets to play as that Boss. The Boss can be a big game changer, if played right. They can be killed quite easily if your team focuses them however, so it isn't too overpowered. Just don't let either of them hit you. Bane with smash your face any chance he gets, so run!

    The multiplayer at release was very buggy, and I got the blunt of that. I was stuck on the same amount of credits after playing at least fifteen matches, it was quite frustrating for me and many other players. Like with my Credit bug, some players reported their levels not even being saved after exiting the game for a bit. Gladly I never experienced that bug, or else I might have not even played the game enough to even give a review on it! Overall however, would I say Arkham Origins is worth getting simply for multiplayer players? Definitely not, and I would certainly not spend steam funds on it either. While it is fun, it seems only fun for a short period of time, in my experience. There is only one game mode last I played it, and the match making was very empty. Sometimes spending over 10 minutes waiting for players to join your match just to start the game! Batman Arkham Origins Multiplayer is like a bit of icing on the cake, if you want more of Arkham Origins after beating the meat of the game, single player.

    Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag Review
    AC4 Review
    AC4 Review

    I know what you're thinking. "Hey, it's the idiot fanboy who gave Assassin's Creed 3 a 9.5 out of 10! I'm gonna skip his review." And, having spent more time in Assassin's Creed 3 since my review, I'm right there with you. The sheer amount of grinding for achievements in that game, which required me replaying a lot of missions, quickly turned the good will of my first impressions into a cynical analysis that only comes about after you've actually written the review and everyone can laugh at you. Not that anyone did, but they could've theoretically. So long story short, Assassin's Creed 3 is not quite as good as I first thought (understatement), I'll rewrite the review some other time (blatant lies), crucify me later (or now), blah blah blah (blah). Meanwhile, Ubisoft continues its "let's out-Call of Duty Call of Duty" by churning out another AC game, only this time with emphasis placed on a side feature from the previous game; naval combat. Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag features Assassins and Templars battling it out on the high seas of the Caribbean, searching for fame and fortune. Is AC4 the flagship to make up for the blunders of AC3, or does it sink under the weight of expectations? Prepare yourself, for naval puns abound in these waters!

    Assassin's Creed 4 takes place months after the ending of Assassin's Creed 3, which concluded the Desmond storyline. Well, sort of. Abstergo, having obtained DNA samples from Desmond, use their entertainment division Abstergo Industries (the in-universe creators of AC3: Liberation and the AC multiplayer component of previous games) as a front to locate more artifacts to gather. The player character, a no-name, no-face non-entity researcher freshly recruited to the company, is tasked with gathering information on Edward Kenway, grandfather of Conner Kenway from AC3, a notorious pirate and supposed assassin. In the early 1700s, Edward has sailed from Britain to the Caribbean in search of the funds needed to support his wife, but his glory seeking and greed quickly lead to conflict with the Templars as they search for the Observatory, a device that can locate any person on earth with a drop of their blood. Edward, hoping to sell information on the Observatory to gain infinite wealth, hijacks his own ship, which he promptly names the Jackdaw, and sails for Nassau, the pirate haven. As the story progresses, Edward's conflict with the Templars leads him to meet various pirates and pirate hunters from the era, as well as come head to head with the Templar's true adversaries; the Assassins.

    Black Flag is very much the story of a pirate becoming an assassin, rather than that of an assassin pirate. Edward, though we are told loves his wife very much, is so absorbed with glory and treasure that it is hard to like him as a character at first. Even when nearly killing potential allies, he only resorts to helping them when they offer to pay him. Edward has little character development until near the end of the game, which makes perfect use of his lack of it up to that point and gut punches him for full effect. Both in-game and plot wise this saves him, and makes the ending all the more memorable. The plot, meanwhile, starts out and ends quickly but piddles around in the middle, content with letting Edward and his pirate buddies go a-pirating about before reality decides to wake them up. Characters such as James Kidd, Stede Bonnet, and Blackbeard receive ample screen time and growth over the course of the story, which is excellent compared to the multitude of historical characters given absolutely no growth or screentime in AC3. Other characters alternate between friend or foe which, given the nature of pirates, makes the chronic backstabbing disorder actually make sense. The villain this time around is more of a group of villains rather than a single person. While not giving us the presence of a Cesare Borgia or a Haytham Kenway, the villains fill their niches well enough, with a special mention going to the Sage, the only man capable of unlocking the Observatory. More of an anti-hero than anything, this character helps make up for the lack of certain characters in the back half of the game. On the other hand, the present day story is abysmal. The researcher you play as is a hollow, non-existent shell used to give the player first-person eyes in the world. Save for a few cameos by old friends, the characters are bland or downright insane (or worse, French Canadians). The only sort of gameplay worth mentioning is a few hacking games, which are bland and unimaginative compared to the first-person puzzle platforming of Revelations, which I still hold in high regard as an original way of keeping the modern bits interesting. Also, the Abstergo Industries as Ubisoft link is blatantly obvious, with the company in-game bragging about how successful their franchise is, how great it is to make at least one of them per year, and all the potential historical settings they can use. Ubisoft is doing an obvious victory lap-esque brag (these are the nicest terms I could phrase this, and I'm not even one to curse), which is utterly obnoxious and unnecessary. Perhaps this just rubbed me the wrong way, but considering how the rest of the modern setting worked out I doubt it.

    Exploration plays a key role in AC4. Good thing the Caribbean is beautiful.
    Black Flag can easily be categorized into two parts: the pirate component and the assassin component. Pirating, the first part, is one of the single most enjoyable things in gaming in recent memory. What makes this even more astounding is how this part of the game completely counteracts its opposite in AC3. AC3 lacked any sort of motivation to explore or collect save for 100% completionists; AC4 not only makes exploring the Caribbean and its islands worthwhile, but fun as well. Diving sections are interesting changes of pace, as are searching for buried treasure and fighting drunkards in pirate shantytowns. Even hunting and crafting, once a chore, is now enjoyable and practical; crafting is done via the pause menu, and all crafting options are either upgrades to Edward's gear or ammunition for specific weapons. Hunting on land is quick and the skinning process can be sped up (no more repetitively watching Edward skin a deer!), while hunting whales and sharks at sea is an interesting and occasionally challenging mini-game. Naval combat controls in AC4 are crisp and exact, despite the multitude of guns available to Edward (mortar, swivel, broadside, etc.), and sailing around fighting and taking prizes is a truly unique experience in video gaming. Naval combat isn't smooth sailing either, unlike most AC combats; Edward's ship cannot handle man o'wars head on late into the game, and ships such as frigates are trouble until the Jackdaw is upgraded. Upgrading the Jackdaw requires coin and goods such as wood, both obtained from prizes which also carry trade goods that make a solid profit. Early ships such as schooners only carry small cargo, while larger, more heavily armed ships serve as tempting but dangerous prizes. Locations on the map are revealed as naval forts are defeated, first by sea and then by land assault. Naval contracts continue the fun on the ocean, while legendary ships provide the ultimate challenge to aspiring captains.

    The assassin component is rather lackluster compared to the new pirate and naval elements. Edward's controls are somewhat inaccurate, and I found myself climbing up ledges I did not want to climb in the exact opposite direction I wanted to go more often than a veteran of the series should. While naval missions are fun despite some repetition, the land missions suffer from a lack of variety besides "kill" and "stealthily follow." AC4 does place more emphasis on stealth, something that has been pushed to the side ever since Assassin's Creed 2 brought us Ezio the one man army. This is perhaps because combat has become tougher due to two changes; harder hitting enemies and less health. Yep, that's Ubisoft's solution to combat being too easy; watching a guy with an axe cave your face in if you are a touch too slow to counter. Edward's arsenal is not as varied as Ezio's or Conner's, but each weapon serves a purpose. Melee weapons have been limited to a pair of cutlasses, hidden blades, and Edward's fists, while ranged weapons include up to four pistols, the rope dart making a return from AC3 two or three sequences from the end of the game, the occasional single throwing knife (no joke, I have yet to figure out A) where I keep picking these up, B) why I only get one at a time, and C) why there is literally no explanation as to why its there), and a blowgun courtesy of AC3: Liberation. The latter comes with two types of darts; the sleep dart, allowing for more stealthy measures, and the berserk dart (AKA the auto-win dart) which turns enemies into rampaging berserkers bent on killing their former friends.

    Still, not everything on the land side is treading water from previous entries. The three main cities are well-diversified: Havana is the well-established Spanish city, Kingston is the newly-built British port, and Nassau is the mismanaged pirate haven that certainly looks the part. Larger locations such as the Mayan city of Tulum and the African island of Principe provide medium sized stopping points, while visits to the Carolinas are cool one-offs. Synchronization points serve both to reveal the map and to provide quick-point access. In general the game is generous is providing quick travel options, saving time when you don't feel like sailing all the way around Cuba. Edward can collect shanties for his crew to sing while sailing around and provide historical flavor. The shanties are moving collectables that make good use of the concept as opposed to the Animus fragments which are there only to torment completionists. The graphics, even on the now previous-gen consoles like the Xbox 360 (which this reviewer used), are gorgeous to look at. Maybe scenic beaches and colorful jungles are just prettier than the spam trees and generic colonial housing of AC3? Nah...

    The multiplayer experience is more of the same.
    The multiplayer experience is another matter. Since Brotherhood brought us the chaotic fun of assassinating other players, no real evolution has occurred saved the introduction of the co-op Wolfpack mode in AC3, which was a fantastic addition. AC4 goes back to the "add little" routine, sometimes going as far as to take away. The control issues from the campaign carry over to multiplayer, leading players to kill civilians more often than they should. Game types such as Infection and Alliance have been removed in favor of player-made variations on the remaining game types. With only free for all and two teams of four as the base settings, however, this does little save give the game a rotating playlist every so often. Small changes to Wolfpack mode, such as short rounds of infection and chest defense, provide variety and improve the experience, but the challenge is gone. Failing to finish a game is reserved for only the worst of players, and one player going for sneaky kills is more than enough to carry absent-minded blitzers eager to get themselves stunned for that single, 100 point kill. No, there is no bitterness in my voice, why do you ask? Players can still customize their characters and equipment as they level up and earn points, but Ubisoft has gone full throttle with microtransactions this time around, offering everything in a second currency for those with less patience. For superficial gear this is perfectly fine, but allowing players early access to higher in-game equipment is more annoying than anything. AC4's multiplayer is simply more of the same, which is good if you enjoy the basic gametypes but provides little in terms of variety. Perhaps over time more game modes will be added; it certainly occurred in previous games.

    I'll include here a few finishing notes based off my own personal experience. The game requires a Ubisoft Passport in order to access the full game, primarily the Kenway's Fleet feature. As of right now the pass is available free for anyone to download, rather than just as a new copy addition. Kenway's Fleet acts much like sending out your assassin's on missions did in previous installments, albeit with ships captured by the pirate assassin. It's a good way to make money, but it is merely a side feature. The database is officially whack in this game, with dates and locations for events and the lives of historical characters being completely screwed up. Does this have any affect on the game? Absolutely not, but it just bugs me. Also, the subtitles capitalize every noun, which is either a historical accuracy, in which case its a nice touch of detail, or lazy editing, in which case I'm mad as they are really annoying to read. And for the love of all South Carolinians, the portrayal of Stede Bonnet is a disgrace, at least in terms of historical accuracy. But this is historical fiction, so...yeah, I'm just being silly at this point.

    As a pirate simulator, Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag is an energetic game that defines historical fiction, just as the first Assassin's Creed did with the Crusades back when the First Civilization side of the story was less apparent. As an Assassin's Creed game, however, AC4 stumbles with less than amazing controls, generic missions, and a plot that does little to advance the overall story, both in the past and in the present. Black Flag is very much Edward Kenway's story, and his life is that of a pirate, not an assassin. From this view, AC4 is a great game that rivals the better installments of the franchise when it does it's best to be different, rather than when it follows in their footsteps. And the pirating escapades are more than enough to outweigh the lesser parts...most of the time. Black Flag is definitely the best overall game in the franchise since Brotherhood, which many consider to be the pinnacle of Assassin's Creed gaming. Now if they would just quit releasing these games once a year that'd be great.

    - CJ

    Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
    ConceptPirates, Assassins, and Templars on the high seas.
    GraphicsOn the Xbox 360 the graphics look great, though there is an occasional issue with shadows. The current gen Xbox One and PS4 as well as the PC will of course improve the game in this category.
    SoundBrian Tyler, known for his movie soundtracks, takes over for Jesper Kyd, with no decrease in musical quality. Shanties and bar songs provide excellent ambiance. The voice acting is good, but nothing revolutionary.
    PlayabilityNaval controls: work much better than expected, even on a controller. Land controls: a significant downgrade from previous installments to the franchise.
    EntertainmentThe story may be up and down, but the game is addicting, whether it be via exploration or engaging in massive naval battles.
    MultiplayerDespite improvements to Wolfpack mode, the multiplayer is more of the same. For a better experience, try any of the three previous versions.
    Overall Score9.00

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