Assassin's Creed IV On PS4 Is Worth The Extra Wait

Assassin's Creed IV On PS4 Is Worth The Extra Wait

The big pirate adventure Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is out today for PlayStation 3, Wii U and Xbox 360. But in a couple of weeks, it'll be out on next-gen consoles and PC. I played through the entire game on PlayStation 3 (and I liked it), and I also spent a good chunk of time checking out the PlayStation 4 version. How do the two stack up?

With reviews of the game hitting, I'd imagine there are three questions on people's minds:

1) How is the PS4 version different from current-gen?

2) If I'm already buying a next-gen console, should I wait two weeks to play that version of the game?

3) Is it worth buying a next-gen console just to play it?

I thought I'd do my best to answer all three questions.

A couple notes: I played the PlayStation 4 version of Black Flag, so I can't speak directly to the Xbox One version. I also can't speak to the Xbox 360 version, though after watching a few videos of it in action, it looks more or less like the PS3 version. My answers here are based on the versions I've played: PS3 and PS4. It'd be fair to assume most of the things in this post (other than the later stuff tied specifically to the PS4) will be true for the Xbox One version, but I can't say for sure until I've been able to test it.

Second note: I generally play Creed games on the PC, and if you're a PC player, there's really no reason to think that version of the game won't still be the best-looking one, as long as you've got the horsepower for it.

How is the PS4 version different?

How different is the PS4 version from current-gen? Well… it's not really all that different. Here's what I noticed:

Lots of graphics. Black Flag is a gorgeous game on PS3 and a gorgeous-er one on PS4. The enhanced lighting effects, high-res textures and near-constant weather effects combine to add a level of visual polish that isn't present in the PS3 version. Environmental effects, in particular, look much nicer -- the fog in the moonlight, the god-rays of the sun, the daylight shining off of the water, that kind of thing.

Smoother performance. This is probably the biggest difference I noticed. At times, the performance in the PS3 version of ACIV dips noticeably, particularly when running across rooftops in Havana or the game's other geometrically complex areas. Swordfights in Havana can get a touch slidehshow-y, though it never really did much to diminish my enjoyment of the game. The PS4 version, by way of contrast, runs at a solid framerate (somewhere around 30, I'd say), and looks much smoother in action. That said, loading screens didn't seem to pass any more quickly, and you still have to stop to load before entering any of the game's major cities.

Animations tie together better. You know how in Assassin's Creed games, it sometimes feels like the fighting animations don't quite connect? Your character will stab a dude or slice another dude, but his sword will sort of float through the air near the guy, and it won't quite look right? That's still an issue in the PS3 version of Black Flag, but on PS4, it's much less noticeable. It's partly because the PS3 version appears to skip frames to keep combat moving at the right speed, but whatever the reason, combat and platforming look and move much more freely and convincingly on PS4.

Dat foliage. The trees, bushes and leaves all move in the next-gen version of Black Flag. It is… nice, but not really a big deal. Storms blow leaves around more realistically, when you're moving around, you won't really notice it. I did like how bushes and grass would push around when Edward was sneaking through them. It reminded me of that part in Jurassic Park 2 when the raptors are sneaking through the tall grass, and… oh, you know what, it's just cool looking. You can see some of the foliage and weather stuff in action in this Ubisoft hype-demo, which actually isn't all that hype-y and shows off a lot of the tech they're using:

The PS4 Controller. Input-nerds like me will probably be wondering, does the PS4's new DualShock 4 controller make the game play differently? The answer: Yes, actually!

Because the DS4 pushes your fingers up to the triggers, the run/aim buttons have been remapped on PS4 from L1/R1 to L2/R2. On Xbox and PC, the triggers have long controlled running, which gives players a middle option between sprinting and walking. Squeeze the trigger halfway, and your character jogs. It's a welcome degree of control, and makes a small but noticeable difference in the overall game. (On the debug PS3 version of the game I played, it's not possible to flip L1/R1 and L2/R2.) Past the triggers thing, there's the fact that I already vastly prefer the Dualshock 4 to the PS3's Dualshock 3. It's tighter, snappier, and feels better in my hands.

Now about that touchpad...

The touchpad map. The other distinctive aspect of the PS4 version of the game is the fact that you can access and manipulate the map using the touchpad. It sounded pretty cool in theory, but in practice, I found it to be more trouble than it's worth. The touchpad on the version I played was overly fiddly, and it was too difficult to zoom in on a given map icon to get more information. It may just be that I'd already gotten used to manipulating the map using the thumbsticks, but I couldn't really see a reason to use the touchpad to do it. The map in Black Flag is a substantial improvement over past Creed maps, but you can simply use the thumbsticks to access it.

Other miscellaneous PS4 stuff. The game will also come with the same new bells and whistles other PS4 games will come with: You'll theoretically be able to capture and share video with the press of a button, and if you own a Vita, you'll be able to play the game via remote-play. I haven't tested out either of those features, but given that Black Flag does tend to generate sharable moments, it'd be cool to have a recorder on hand. And I'm quite curious to see if the remote-play stuff works as well as advertised; I hope it does, because it'd be fun to play this game on a handheld.

On to the other questions...

I'm getting a next-gen console. Should I wait two weeks for the next-gen version?

I'd say yes to this one. If you're already set on getting a PS4 or Xbox One, you should probably just wait for those versions of the game. Sure, you can buy the current-gen version now and upgrade for $US10 later, but your progress won't carry over. Given how massive this game is, it'd be a shame to have to start over. Black Flag is a fun game, but it'll still be a fun game in two weeks.

Is it worth buying a next-gen console to play it?

Nah. It's easy to tell the current- and next-gen versions of this game apart, but the current-gen version is no slouch. Ubisoft has clearly gotten really good at eking performance out of the PS3, and they've managed to put together one of the best-looking console games of the year. Most of the improvements offered in the next-gen version are window dressing. For a game this good-looking, window-dressing can count for a fair amount, but the core game is solid no matter which system you play it on.

Can I just watch a comparison?

Several sites have now posted videos comparing the graphics between the current-gen and PS4 versions of ACIV. For both of the ones below, you'll want to watch in fullscreen at YouTube's highest possible resolution.

Gamesradar compares the Xbox 360 and PS4 versions:

Rev3 Games does the same thing:

Hopefully that helps offer some insight into the current- vs. next-gen versions of Assassin's Creed IV. If you've got any more questions, let me know, and I'll do my best to answer in the comments.

To contact the author of this post, write to [email protected] or find him on Twitter @kirkhamilton.


Comments

    I was expecting a little more really...

    How about waiting for it on the pc?

      It will likely be more optimised for the PS4 than it will be for the PC version. Sure the graphics will look better, but you'll likely still have to use a controller.

        They said that with AC3, but it still worked just fine with keyboard and mouse (analogue movement input would be nice to have, but I've never been able to get used to looking around with a thumbstick - far too slow).

        Considering PS4 is essentially a PC (x64 arch etc), I disagree.

        PS3 Controller + good PC = same if not better than PS4

      Oh man I had forgotten about PC. Thank god you reminded me that PCs have better graphics than consoles.

        How did you get a comparison of graphics out of 'wait for it on PC'?

          Well it's certainly not the controls you're playing a third person action game on PC for.

            I played the original AC on both X360 and PC and I preferred it with the PC controls, personally. Same with Tomb Raider.

              Yeah that's cool. I prefer FPS with the controller myself, which makes no sense to PC gamers, but there you go. I just don't understand how movement is at all good on PC when you've got buttons (digital) instead of sticks (analogue) controlling movement.

                You get used to movement with digital controls over time, and there are some advantages like not requiring stick travel time to reverse direction. Aiming is still done with the mouse, which is not only an analogue input, it's usually considered to be more precise than a thumbstick. The combination of the two can give you some very fluid motion since aim is usually tied to facing, which is tied to movement. That said, there are games out there that strongly benefit from dual analogue controls, like Mechwarrior or anything that has independent movement and facing.

                I do think mouse/keyboard has a higher skill cap than controller in things like FPS games, but I'm not the type to treat it as a fanboy battleground or anything. Go with whatever works best for you.

      Sooooo kotaku it's exactly the same on Xbox one and judging by the previous titles and the screaming performance issues and freezing glitches how about you be a little less biased in future

    The ship carving through the waves is easily enough to convince me to get next gen.

    I think its absurd that any person would consider getting it current gen if they are getting a launch console, personally i find all frame rate issues to be in excusable.

    This is not the pc business, the game should be at a stable frame rate for the entire game ( a singular skip here and there is fine, but any noticeable lasting drop is beyond unacceptable to me), because the devs know exactly what its running on and how much grunt they have.

    Though I am glad to hear that there is a huge difference between the games, youtube videos can only show so much when you haven't seen the game run in person. So its good to know the next gen versions weren't a slack job.

    Last edited 30/10/13 4:27 pm

    Definitely waiting for PC release. Worst case it will be cheaper.

    Last edited 30/10/13 4:18 pm

    I figure if I have the patience to "wait two weeks" once for the PC release, I have the patience to "wait two weeks" twice and get it with my PS4.

      Hate to burst your little bubble os42 but you are waiting 3 and bit weeks games been out for 5 days already noob

    Amusing how that first image looks no better than the original Crysis, back in 2007. :p

    I just wanted to mention to anyone hesitant but REALLY wants the game now: It is $58 at Big W and in the game you get a digital download for the PS4 version - This costs $14.45 to upgrade when you get your PS4. Total cost of $72.45 - Theres no reason to not buy this and enjoy it now and then enjoy the ACTUAL increase in graphics visually when you do get a PS4. It is a little buggy on PS3 but wont that be so much more awesome to play the same game with your new console and make the comparison?! Maybe thats just me...

    More importantly - why is Heath Ledger in Assassins Creed?

    First impression: WOW, the current gen version is damn sexy! A lot of the early stuff shown doesn't make the next gen version look too much better, a few crisper textures here, a few nice effects there, but not enough that you'd notice too much. But when it gets to the ocean sections ... woah, the next gen version looks incredible. The difference is huge.

    Headline says: "Assassin's Creed IV On PS4 Is Worth The Extra Wait"
    Conclusion at the end of comparison video says: "Not really"

    anyone else feel the touchpad controls for the map is backwards? unless its changed in the patch (no psn for me so far) i thought maneuvering around the map would be exactly like moving around a "maps" app on a smartphone or tablet...but its right backwards to those ingrained controls...

Join the discussion!