HAVING REVIEWED the Xbox 360 version of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag mere days ago, we snuck past Ubisoft's guards to get a sneak peek at the Xbox One version.
First it's important to note that the gameplay of the Xbox One version of Assassin's Creed 4 is all but identical to that of the Xbox 360 version. Thanks to similarities between the two console's controllers, even the button controls are the same too. This meant that jumping into Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag on the Xbox One we immediately felt at home.
However, while the controls are the same we did notice a big disparity in the two versions' graphical quality. The most immediately noticeable change became apparent when we took charge of protagonist Edward Kenway's vessel to take on a British Navy schooner. Entering the battle using our front-facing cannons we noticed Ubisoft has taken seriously the Xbox One's upgraded x86 Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) designed by AMD and based on its Jaguar processor architecture, adding a host of new particle effects to the game.
These included more numerous and detailed smoke animations and more impressive feedback animations. For example, after firing our initial volley at the enemy vessel, smoke rose from the glowing, recently fired cannons, giving them a far more realistic look. Even better, when the enemy ship shot back, not only did we get a much more reactive force feedback from the Xbox One controller after the cannon ball hit, we also saw a much more impressive animation, which showed hundreds of bits of splintered wood fly from the damaged area.
Moving away from the sea battle we also noticed that the water animations and textures have been improved. This was particularly noticeable when entering a storm. While the water effects in the Xbox 360 version were impressive, compared the Xbox One effects they look outright flat. We're not sure if the Xbox One version of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag has full bump mapping, but it certainly looks like it. Waves rolled over our vessel and had much more in-depth textures. Giant waves were a particular highlight, with the animation looking every bit as detailed as the CGI effects in most Hollywood movies. After one particularly bad navigation choice we actually found ourselves recreating a scene from A Perfect Storm.
Moving to the land sections of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, we noticed a similar number of improvements. These included upgrades to the game's textures and character models. Looking at Kenway we noticed much more detail around key points, like his beard, which actually had individual hairs rendered. Foliage also looked far better, with Ubisoft having upgraded it to render individual flowers and blades of long grass in areas that previously had flat textures.
The final big difference we noticed during our time with the Xbox One version of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag involved its animations. We made no secret in our full review of the Xbox 360 version of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag that free running is one of the game's most enjoyable experiences. As before, with a simple click of the RT button you can instruct Kenway to enact a series of acrobatic feats across the game's map that would make an Olympiad blush. However, on the Xbox One this experience is magnified and improved radically, with the animations running even smoother, making jumping from rooftop to rooftop look even sleeker. We're guessing that this is because the Xbox One version of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flagruns at a higher frame rate, though the developer on hand couldn't tell us if our thought was right.
Overall, while the core gameplay of the Xbox One version of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag remains the same, our opening time with the updated version showed that Ubisoft has taken advantage of the new console's enhanced hardware. As result, while there won't be much of an incentive for those who've already shelled out for the Xbox 360 version to rebuy it, there are plenty of reasons for those yet to experience Kenway's raucous adventure to check it out.
For a an in-depth look at Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, check out The INQUIRER's full Xbox 360 review. µ