Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag PS4 hands-on from Gamescom

My first hands-on experience of Assassin’s Creed 4 on PS4 is split into two sections: an actual core assassination, and then a bit of an open-world muck about on boats. The crucial thing is that within seconds of playing this really showcases the fact that stealth is back and actually works – something that simply didn’t work in the glitchy Assassin’s Creed 3.

Assassin’s Creed 4 PS4 demo

Things start as I work my way through a jungle, weaving through trees, undergrowth, and past various guard patrols increasing in size. You can hide in bushes like you could before – minus the animus overlay anymore – so I sneak past most threats easily. One of the new things you can do is clicking the left stick activates Eagle Vision, which now works a little bit like the mechanic in Far Cry 3, where you tag people with the camera. Once you’ve ‘seen’ enemies you can track them both on your mini map, and their outline if they wander out of line of sight.

As part of my initial sneaking I get to use one of the new stealth weapons, a berserk dart fired from a blowpipe. It acts like poison in previous games and in this case a brute character gets to be a test subject and soon [scribbles in note book] starts to wig out and attack his comrades. Bad news for them, great for me as it serves as a good distraction as I sneak around the side of the altercation unseen. The next bit doesn’t really go to plan: I try to slip past unseen, but Edward accidentally twitches out of cover when I try to climb a tree.

Net result: a sword fight. The good news here is that combat’s quicker now. The same basic principles are still in place – counter on circle, break/guard on X and square is basically slice and dice, again. It’s similar and quite brutal but a faster pace than before. It actually recalls the Arkham games where you can almost counter one assailant as you’re attacking other. Fights aren’t quite as slick, but that’s what Ubisoft Montreal is going for, and it works reasonably well.

“It’s a testament to the new and improved stealth system that I manage to sneak through undetected”

After the sword encounters the level opens up into a bay area dotted with wooden huts. In the distance is a large ship, and on that vessel: my target. The tricky part here is that area is filled with enemies. It’s a testament to the new and improved stealth system, however, that I manage to sneak through undetected. One lucky-ish victim gets a sleep dart in the neck, leaving me free to make most of my way unseen over the rooftops of the little huts, and eventually around the side of the bay where there’s less of an enemy presence.

With the coastal area cleared, that just leaves the ship to reach. A short swim later and one ledge assassination that sees an unlucky sailor pulled into the water and I’m onboard. One more assassination and a quick sneak around the back of the boat and I manage to hop onto the front of the ship.

Using Eagle Vision it doesn’t take long to find the target and mark him up in soon-to-be-murdered gold. Thanks to the stealthy approach he’s still unaware of the danger: doing his rounds and chatting to his subordinates. So I decide to climb the mast, which I manage to do unseen, wait for his patrol to finish, jump, and kill him from on high. If that doesn’t make it clear, it all works really well. Back to how things should be assassin-wise. The only time I did get seen is thanks to accidentally failing to climb a tree properly.