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Assassin's Creed 4 on PS4: We demand a next-gen shrubbery


As I mentioned in my review of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, shrubs are a necessity for stealth, at least while you're on foot in the Caribbean. Since you spend so much time looking at jiggling leaves, then, it's nice to have three-dimensional plants that lift up and glisten as you slither beneath them.

The graphical differences between the pirate adventure on current and forthcoming versions (PC, Xbox One and PS4) are minor, especially in Black Flag's massive scope and structure, but I'll cover the most visible ones in case you're splitting hairs over which console has the best corsairs. I have yet to play Assassin's Creed 4 on Xbox One or PC.

I completed the entirety of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag on a PlayStation 4, which brought several expected benefits over current consoles. Assassin's Creed 4 runs at a native resolution of 1080p (1920x1080), Ubisoft says, and also uses high-resolution textures, clearly apparent in the vivid colors of historic Havana, the only city in the game that even approaches opulence. Jagged edges persist on thin objects like ropes and mast lines, which is unfortunate for a game filled with ships. The single-player game runs at an unflinching 30 frames per second, even during some of the more complex naval entanglements (which often led to hectic boarding sequences and fighting), as does the multiplayer portion.

Gallery: Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag (Review) | 10 Photos

You spend just as much time on the ocean as you do clambering up cathedrals in Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, which brings the PS4's richer lighting, lightning, weather and water effects to mind. The oceans behave more realistically, and when your ship pierces a rogue wave in a tumultuous storm, for instance, water swills and swishes across the deck until it spills overboard. This effect doesn't seem to have made it to the Xbox 360 version, which I played for comparison.

All of that being said, I've seen nothing that would halt me from recommending the current-generation console version of Assassin's Creed 4. The resolution is at 720p (similar to previous Assassin's Creed games) and while the framerate isn't quite as consistent in cluttered conflict, even the larger cities boast an impressive level of detail.

A more personal recommendation would be to play Assassin's Creed 4 on the controller you most prefer, and for me that was the DualShock 4. I haven't spent enough time with the controller to review it, but there are some benefits as it pertains to playing Assassin's Creed: The R2 trigger has a concave grip for your right index finger; it's resistive enough to provide feedback, but not enough to tire your finger after hours of holding it (necessary for free-running). The d-pad also feels precise for navigating AC4's streamlined, cross-shaped item and weapon menu. The in-game map is well suited to the controller's touchpad – albeit with a little input lag – and supports sensible movements like dragging the map with a finger, or pinching to zoom. You can, of course, shove the map off to the side entirely if you sync it to the Black Flag companion app on a tablet or mobile device.

Assassin's Creed 4 also introduces a few social components on PlayStation 4: Royal convoys, which move throughout the ocean and entice you with their carried riches, will be marked on the maps of all connected players (pulled from your friends list) once the ships are discovered. You can also discover special treasure chests in this way, sharing their location with everyone else playing. These features have been announced for Xbox One as well.

I'll have a more thorough comparison once we get access to the Xbox One version of Assassin's Creed 4, but for now I can say it's a worthwhile game regardless of system. It definitely looks better on PlayStation 4 (and offers Sony-exclusive DLC) over current consoles, and with Watch Dogs bumped far outside the launch lineup it may be best to pick up a more visually polished Assassin's Creed 4 – at least if you're already set on purchasing a next-gen console.

The PlayStation 4 launches on November 15, followed by the Xbox One on November 22. The PC version of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag is due on November 19.

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