Thursday, November 14, 2013

Overview and Review: Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag US Limited Edition (Gamestop Edition for PS4) (w/Pics)


Note: This is a review of the Limited Edition’s Content and not the game itself.

            It’s that time of the year again. The now annualized Assassin’s Creed Series is continuing with Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. As with the last title’s Limited Edition (reviewed here), Black Flag’s bells and whistles version costs considerably more than the standard edition. In fact, at 130 bucks, it is, surprisingly, even more expensive than last year’s 120 dollar limited edition.
            Black Flag’s Limited Edition will have to offer quite a lot of content in order to justify its price point. One can only hope that it fairs as well as last year’s excellent Assassin’s Creed III Limited Edition. As far as first impressions are concerned, the size of Black Flag’s box in comparison to ACIII’s sets the stage for what will hopefully be another excellent offering from Ubisoft.

What’s Included:
1) Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag game for PS4
2) Steelbook Case
3) Soundtrack
4) Hardcover Artbook
5) Assassin’s Creed IV Pirate Flag
6) Various DLC
7) Edward Kenway Statue



            Black Flag’s box is a very boring affair. It is almost completely black and surrounded on three of its sides with Black Flag’s pirate themed Assassin’s Creed logo. The lone non-logo branded side shows a nice image of some of the game’s characters.


            Surrounding the black box is a plastic slipcover that lists various game related information. Usually these kinds of slipcovers are great because they allow the box design underneath to not be tarnished with the kinds of ugly necessary logos that are usually plastered on game boxes. Though the slip still serves this purpose, the lack of any intriguing art on Black Flag’s box makes the slip sort of unnecessary. In short, the inner box was not special enough to need protection from the elements or branding. 


            As far as the inside of the box is concerned, we see an almost exact recreation of what was offered with ACIII’s Limited Edition. The flag, game, and artbook are held in a cardboard book, of sorts, that has cavities for each item. Aside from the cardboard tray/book, the rest of the box’s space is reserved for a large plastic blister that protects and holds the Edward Kenway statue.


            On the whole, the packaging is functional and boring. Not that that should be a problem. It’s what’s inside the package that should matter.

Steelbook Case:


            The old steelbook case. It’s become quite a staple in special editions. Sometimes they’re done very well (as with the recent Last of Us release) and sometimes they’re done very very poorly (as in the Metal Gear Rising LE). There are two big problems that can befall a well-intentioned steelbook. The first problem is the unforgivable choice to use DVD sized steelbooks for games that should come in Bluray sized steelbooks. The other problem is when a steelbook uses art assets that just don’t make for a compelling cover. Thankfully, the Black Flag steelbook is the correct size and the art used, while not great, is certainly not as bad as something like what we saw with Uncharted 3’s steelbook.


            The steelbook has the pirate assassin logo on the front and an image of Edward on the back. The spine is clearly labeled. The inside includes a space for both the soundtrack and game disc. It also has tabs for the game’s manual and inserts. All in all, a nice package.


Soundtrack Track List

            If you’ve read some of my previous reviews, then you know that I don’t really care too much for game soundtracks. Though the music is usually good, I don’t really know when I would ever be in the mood to listen to it. The same is true of this soundtrack. The songs are of good quality and most are very reminiscent of the kind of music used in Disney’s Pirates movies (no surprise there).
            The few non-Pirates of the Caribbean style songs are the ones found at the end of the soundtrack. The last eight songs are sea shanties that sound curiously Irish. They are quite excellent. It seems a shame that Ubisoft didn’t see fit to include more of them. Or to even include a separate disc with only sea shanties. Or to just omit the game’s score entirely.
            The Soundtrack, thankfully, comes on an actual disc and it is housed safely in the steelbook. Unlike most soundtracks, this one will get at least some replay due to the last eight tracks, but there is still the unfortunate case that most of the soundtrack is, to me, mostly useless.

Hardcover Artbook:


            I am getting pretty tired of these little mini-artbooks that we are getting. If the purpose of an artbook is to present art, then why are we getting books that make it harder to appreciate the art?


            The included artbook is hardbound, thin, and small. The quality of the artwork inside is absolutely phenomenal. Ubisoft’s concept artists are firing on all cylinders always and the included art is a testament to that fact. The art is divided into sections. The paper and print quality seems good enough. The only real failing with this artbook is the aforementioned size. At the pricepoint that this edition is at, I don’t think it would have been impossible to give us something a bit more hefty.



Assassin’s Pirate Flag:


            It’s huge. It’s 24x28 inches. It’s the exact same size as last year’s Colonial Assassin flag. It’s a fantastic inclusion. Though not as complex as last year’s flag, it is still a quality item with actual stitching. This is not some cheap wallscroll. This is an actual working (sadly, polyester) flag with rivets on the end to aid in its use with a flagpole.


            Seriously, this thing is wicked cool.


Various DLC:

The DLC included is as follows:

1) Black Island Pack (Gamestop Exclusive)
2) Pirate’s Bounty Pack (first run?)
3) Captain Kenway’s Legacy Pack (first run?)
4) Uplay Passport (Disguised DRM)
5) 60 Minutes Exclusive Sony Content (PS3/4 Only)
6) Bonus 250 Gamestop PowerUp points (Gamestop Exclusive)

            Before I discuss the DLC, please note that it seems as though none of the included DLC is specific to the Limited Edition of Black Flag. As such, it is going to be listed here, but it will not be considered as being part of the Edition in my conclusion.
The first three pieces of DLC are on a card that is inside the steelbook. The content is likely nothing special. Like most day one DLC, it seems to be more a case of removing content from regular editions than it does adding extra to special editions. The first pack is exclusive to Gamestop editions of the game. The second two are a mystery. They aren’t listed on Gamestop’s website. Presumably they are included in all first edition runs of the game, though I’m not sure. For those curious about what’s included, the following link to Ubisoft’s support site explains the first and third items (link). The link also tells you how to access the content. For what it’s worth, I think it’s a bad sign when bonus content is so difficult to access within the game that there needs to be a support page devoted to it. The only information I could find for the Pirate’s Bounty pack was at the following link (link).
            The Uplay passport is an online pass. This may not be necessary anymore. I am not certain what’s going on with these online passes. It’s all very silly. It is included on a separate card.


             The Sony exclusive content is supposed to have missions involving AC Liberation’s Aveline. I am very much looking forward to this. The DLC is included via a code on the back of the manual. This is vey strange. Why not just include it on the disc if all copies will come with it?


            Bonus PowerUp rewards points. These were nice enough I guess. PowerUp rewards points can be redeemed for coupons and such, so it’s nice to get a few extra ones. The downside was the I had to sign up for some garbage thing called “Kongregate.”
            Though the included DLC is not as big a mess as Darksiders 2’s was, I’m getting pretty tired of DLC requiring the use of so many different codes. Is it too much to ask to just input one code for all of the content? If Capcom’s Street Fighter 25th Anniversary set was able to include a billion items (194 actually) with one code, then why can’t other publishers follow their example?        

Edward Kenway Statue:


            Aside from the flag, the other really big reason to even want Black Flag’s Limited Edition is the included statue. The statue shares a lot in common with last year’s ACIII Connor statue (no surprise). The plastic used, the paint quality, and the build quality are all comparable to the Connor statue. Which is to say that it is a well made and well executed statue.  The plastic used is soft enough to ensure that, though sturdy, the statue is not overly brittle. Once assembled, the statue has a nice weight to it. This helps it to not feel too cheap (a problem with many included statues).



            Putting the statue together is fairly easy. You just insert pegs into holes and tie some rope. The only really difficult part is trying to figure out how to best position the flag. Because the base is not heavy, the distribution of weight is very important to keeping the statue upright. If the flag is not correctly counterbalancing the weight of Edward, the base will tip and the statue will be crooked. It’s not rocket science, but it is something to consider when putting the statue together.



            And once it’s together, boy is it big. I was not expecting the statue to be bigger than last year’s statue, but it is. The thing looks quite beautiful. Though the detailing in the sculpt is nothing to dismiss, the illusion of motion created by the sculpt is, by far, its most impressive aspect. Looking at the statue, I keep waiting for Edward to finish sliding down the ship’s mast.
            The paint on this statue is serviceable. There is paint slop in many many places. It is also not too distracting. Like with some of NECA’s figures, a small amount of slop on figures is okay when it isn’t too distracting.


            The Edward Kenway statue is now my second favorite game edition statue. My favorite is still the ACIII one. Though this one is in many ways better, the Connor statue just seems far more iconic. Maybe this will change once I finish playing Black Flag.



            I could have bought an extra game for what this Edition costs. That is a tough amount of value for a game edition to include. The flag and the statue are both great. They definitely add value to this edition. The soundtrack, steelbook, and tiny artbook, however, don’t really add much to the total package. Unlike last year’s slightly cheaper ACIII LE, I don’t quite think that this Limited Edition earns its price tag.
            That said, the statue and flag’s awesomeness are enough to make Black Flag’s Limited Edition worth serious consideration for fans of the series. I find myself feeling as though I paid more for the included items than I should have had to, but I don’t feel as though the content was bad or lacking enough for me to have been ripped off.
            Even for fans of the series, it might be a good idea to wait and see if the price on this one drops before picking it up. That said, if you are worried about being able to get one later on, be prepared to feel like you paid a bit too much for some admittedly cool stuff.


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