Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TECH - Mike Wilcox Email mike@ hy­per­ac­tiveg­ames. com

RRP: $ 89 ( re­viewed on PS3)

WITH the tra­di­tional sparse re­lease sched­ule that fol­lows the fl ood of new video games and con­soles at the end of each year, I’ve fi nally had time to con­quer my dwin­dling pile of unfi nished games.

This is one I was de­ter­mined to fi nish be­cause it’s so dif­fer­ent from the rest of se­ries – and in ways I wasn’t ex­pect­ing.

At fi rst glance it feels all too fa­mil­iar – the me­chan­ics, com­bat and even some of the weapons are the same as past games. What has changed, though, is the style, tone, pacing and most no­tably the game’s cen­tre­piece: your pi­rate ship.

Spend­ing much of your time aboard, ex­pect to pour most of your hard­earned cash from dis­cov­er­ing trea­sure and win­ning bat­tles into im­prov­ing the per­for­mance, de­fence, weaponry and ap­pear­ance of your ship. Another way to make money is con­vert­ing cap­tured ships into pi­rate ves­sels which you send on side mis­sions.

While the main sto­ry­line still has the un­der­ly­ing as­sas­sins- ver­sus- Tem­plar confl ict, fea­tur­ing Greek gods as su­per­hu­mans, Black Flag’s plot is less about play­ing the role of an as­sas­sin, and more about rul­ing the high seas, while meet­ing fa­mous pi­rates such as Black­beard along the way.

Black Flag is not with­out its faults and shares fa­mil­iar is­sues with past games in the se­ries. Run­ning around en­vi­ron­ments is some­times still clumsy to con­trol. En­e­mies also seem less in­clined to at­tack you one at a time and com­bat is no­tably less fl uid than I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced in other games.

The online mul­ti­player mode from past games re­turns and, be­sides some mi­nor bal­anc­ing tweaks and new perks, the main ad­di­tion is the Game Lab, where you can cre­ate and cus­tomise online matches by choos­ing the rules, weapons, time lim­its and more. It was a blast throw­ing to­gether some quirky com­bi­na­tions of rules and weapons and play­ing against friends.

Black Flag’s new set­ting of sail­ing the high seas is re­fresh­ing. While most of the mis­sions tread fa­mil­iar ground rather than rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing the game’s trusted for­mula, the over­all pi­rate theme is a wel­come new chap­ter.

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