As far as popular game series go, few have gameplay as popular and iconic as the Assassin’s Creed series. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is maybe the best that that gameplay style has ever been. Because despite the whole series very clearly being a stealth game about exploring historical time periods and (sometimes) deep meditations on political philosophy, I and many other players — quite successfully — adhere to the philosophy of, “No one will notice if there’s no one to notice.”

And as far as Assassin’s Creed games go, Black Flag is the most fun I’ve ever had using this method. I never expected to see a game that seamlessly blends together nail-biting stealth and chaotic maritime action, but Assassin’s Creed IV does it even better than I would have imagined.

Not that that’s the only reason this game rocks.

PotC Meets Assassin’s Creed: The Soundtrack

assassin's creed black flag

I’ve written before about games with fantastic soundtracks, such as Barotrauma, Ghostrunner (for all its issues, it did have a good beat), and the fifth generation Pokémon games, Black and White. The musical score of Assassin’s Creed IV, though, is a worthy addition to the game soundtrack hall of fame.

Nothing gets the blood pumping better than listening to epic tracks like “The High Seas” or “Take What is Ours” while trading barrages of cannon fire with an enemy ship or three, and then boarding them and cutting down the crew. Artist Brian Tyler, known for composing scores for seven of the Fast & Furious movies and for several Marvel films, outdid himself with this soundtrack in particular. It’s an exciting blend of classic Assassin’s Creed with Pirates of the Caribbean-esque music.

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Cannons over Counter: The Crazy Maritime Battles

assassin's creed black flag

This was a screenshot from the trailer for Assassin’s Creed IV, but doesn’t it look like a scene out of a certain Johnny Depp movie?

I do enjoy strolling into enemy compounds, immediately getting spotted, and flawlessly executing an entire army by pressing the Counter button repeatedly. (That’s not sarcasm — it works, and boy is it fun.) But honestly, I feel like the ‘Pirate Simulator’ aspects of this game outshine the ‘Assassin Simulator’ ones.

And it already makes a pretty good Assassin Simulator.

No other part of the gameplay feels as satisfying as obliterating a massive enemy warship with a barrage of cannonade, swinging across onto their deck (and hopefully not undershooting and falling into the ocean), cutting down the crew in the midst of the fray, and then stealing and selling off their cargo to upgrade your own ship into an armed-to-the-teeth pirate vessel. … And then heading out to do it all again.

Conclusion: Does the Story Matter?

assassin's creed IV black flag

If I had one complaint, it’d be that the story isn’t great. The narrative itself has some high points — Blackbeard is pretty cool. But playing through it is less than compelling; there are so many godawful escort missions, even worse tailing missions (seriously, why do developers keep putting these in games?), and just plain boring missions.

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All I really want to do is shoot down another ship with my wall of cannons. But for many, if not most, gamers, story has never been the strong point of Assassin’s Creed. They’re playing these games to skewer bad guys, or annihilate them with cannonballs. And Assassin’s Creed IV most certainly delivers on that.

For more gaming content, check out our reviews, guides, and more for Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.

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