PS4
Recommended
4 stars
Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Game Itself
4 Stars
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
4.5 Stars
The Audio: Rating the Sound
4 Stars
Replay Factor
1.5 Stars
Bonus Content
2.5 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

Assassin's Creed Freedom Cry

Street Date:
February 18th, 2014
Reviewed by:
Review Date:1
February 21st, 2014
Game Release Year:
2014
Platform:
PS4
Publisher:
Ubisoft
Developer:
Ubisoft Montreal
ESRB Rating:
M (Mature)

Editor's Notes

'Freedom Cry' is available as both DLC for 'Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag' (Season Pass) and as a stand-alone title.

Introduction

With each new year, the 'Assassin's Creed' franchise threatens to implode, and yet the series remains on the cutting edge, an amalgam of top-shelf elements and accessible gameplay. With the combination of 'Assassan's Creed IV: Black Flag' and the PS4 continuing to draw in players, of one of the more intriguing tangents was the announcement of the story DLC, 'Freedom Cry,' which ultimately was compelling enough for Ubisoft to also offer as stand-alone downloadable title. Starring a new protagonist, 'Freedom Cry' has the potential for both new and veteran 'Assassin's Creed' players.

The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

After playing more than half a dozen 'Assassin's Creed' titles, but only finishing half that number, there remains one thing about the series where Ubisoft and I don't agree. Less is more. And that is where 'Freedom Cry' comes in.

'Freedom Cry' somewhat famously plucks 'AC4's Quartermaster, Adewale, out and makes him the lead character. As an Assassin in pursuit of stopping some Templar scheme, Adewale gets washed up in Port-au-Prince, which is characterized as subsisting on slaves under French colonial rule. Adewale, being a former slave, pirate, and current Assassin, initially seeks a quick escape from the city and return to Templar pursuit, but becomes torn by a need for allies and the brutal examples of slavery both in the town and in its surrounding plantations.

Had the name not already been used, 'Liberation' would have been even better than 'Freedom Cry.' Saving and freeing slaves while recruiting Maroon resistance fighters become the game's center focus, and while vestiges of 'Assassin's Creed' proper, like memory sequences, and desynchronization concerns remain, the grand conspiracy on conspiracy aspects of 'Assassin's Creed' are jettisoned. Case in point, there is no "exiting the Animus." And without that and the DNA memory/alien god plot elements, the game's West Indies' setting is free to shine.

And shine it does. Unfortunately, the tropical paradise is spoiled the pervasive existence of the institution of slavery. In town, slaves are being sold or punished, while the first hint of trouble on a plantation can lead to mass executions. And that's before having to come face-to-face with an all-time horror, the slave ships.

As for gameplay, Adewale is fun to control with an array of clever side weapons to augment his purpose. (Shooting the awful slave jailers with berserk darts is always fun.) There are several problems though. Adewale only gets a beginner's amount of health, and trying to save slaves in town can easily attract a dozen enemies, who are all somehow superior swordsmen and dead shots. The side activities reset so quickly and so often that they feel as pointless as quests in an MMO. Equally bad is how the respawing side quests interfere with main mission objectives.

Out on the sea, the naval combat and exploration feels a bit shallow. Upgrading the ship's armor completely shifts the outcome of sea battles, while the hunting for treasure chests is only worth the time for the obsessive. I'm ashamed that I found them all.

These small gameplay issues aside, and the set-up for the story and lead character are ripe with promise. There's even some notion of a race to map the world, eliminating piracy, and other nations through scientific understanding. The execution is unfortunately muddled, under-realizing in some aspects.

While on the whole 'Freedom Cry' is less than excellent, Ubisoft's decision to make a stand-alone version makes great sense as the game is nearly perfect for introducing players new to the series everything that the 'Assassin's Creed IV' engine is capable of without a large commitment.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

One the PS4, the game looks stunning. The tropical locales and high resolution rendering are instant demo material. Though future installments better tailored to the hardware should easily surpass 'Freedom Cry,' the game's day/night cycle and weather system along with the UI and even Adewale's scars are marvelous.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The voice acting is very good, and that's with some turns in the plot missing from the story. Some new pieces of music both in the soundtrack in the ambient channels are also very good, residing a echelon or two below the best like 'Red Dead Redemption.' Surrounds work well on the plantations, in naval battles and when eavesdropping. You can always hear the shot from three rooftops away you're hit as you try to save a slave from being killed.

Replay Factor

Aside from demo material, the replay value is quite low. The game clocks in at four hours, though I played for much longer before finishing. There are no shanties or other annoying collectibles aside from a handful of chests, secrets, and trophies. The game pretends like you have an option to free "X" amount of slaves/recruit maroons, but locks missions until you hit certain numbers anyway. That leaves little to nothing to do once the credits roll.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

I'm only counting Remote Play here as a bonus because it works so well, at least locally. Sailing out to a question mark on the sea to find one chest is one of the more mundane activities well suited for using Remote Play through the Vita.

Final Thoughts

Backed by the production values of 'Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag,' while highlighting some filthy all-too-recent history puts 'Freedom Cry' well above what usually passes for single player DLC. That 'Freedom Cry' also provides a stellar way for those unfamiliar with the franchise to experience the best of its current product, means it's perfect for those who haven't played 'Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag' at all, which this review score reflects. Even so, Adewale's tale only scratches the surface of what could have been.

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Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p

Motion Controls

  • No

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