Tech Analysis: Assassin's Creed 4

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May 4, 2013
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Six releases of one game from eight studios, all within a month. Credit must be given where it's due, Ubisoft is certainly keeping its arms wide open to owners of every format with the launch of its stealthy swashbuckler, Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag. To our count we have versions on PC, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4 all etched in for a busy November - a similar case for Watch Dogs' debut that same month. It's a cross-gen project on a scale we've rarely seen before, though surprisingly, principle development only started at Ubisoft Montreal around mid-2011. For such a grand effort this hasn't been much time at all, meaning satellite studios in Kiev, Montpelier, Sofia, Singapore, and Quebec have been tasked with aiding the design of the single-player mode, while offices in Bucharest and Annecy take charge of its multiplayer portions.

Quite a few cooks circling the broth, then. Based on the game's stop-starting live demo at Sony's E3 conference last month, there is a justified concern that Ubisoft's divided attention might not be doing any favours for unleashing the true next-gen potential in the PS4 and Xbox One versions. The demo is no doubt impressive, taking us from a piratical stupor on the Caribbean beaches to a jungle sneaking mission, and then closing with a pyrotechnic ship battle as our anti-hero, Edward Kenway, takes charge of his Jackdaw frigate. The question is: can a cross-gen game of this kind give us a fair example of what these new consoles bring to the table?

Based on our guided demonstration of the game at E3 - the same demo as shown during the conference, as controlled by a Ubisoft rep - there's plenty going on here to make a case for the premium price-tags of next-gen hardware, though the drawbacks of multi-platform development do creep in. To start, environmental design appears closer in tone to that of Far Cry 3's, and makes for a great example of how loading screens have been cut out of the equation when transitioning from on-foot stealth in jungles to navigating the seas. What appears to be a push for 1080p native resolution can't be faulted by the naked eye here either, though this crisp presentation lays bare some assets which clearly belong to the previous generation.

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