ACIV Reveals more than Expected on Next-Gen
Ubisoft’s press release revealing Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flags was a masterclass in not saying things, but it left a pretty large set of lines within which to read between. Given that this is one of our first official announcements of a multi-gen game, it was interesting to see whoever wrote it squirm between too much information and not enough. Although it largely only confirms things we already knew, it’s possible to make a few vague conclusions about release dates and power based on where the press release fell short.
The Next Xbox is Coming and it’s Coming Soon
Let’s start with the very simplest of conclusions. We’ve all known since 2006-2007 that Microsoft would be bringing another console to the arena and we’ve even expected announcements at the last two E3s. When Ubisoft’s press release announces that Assassin’s Creed IV will be available on “other next generation consoles,” we know exactly what that means. It means the next Xbox is likely to have ACIV as a launch game and, if it’s worth announcing at this point in time, it means that it’ll be available almost alongside the PlayStation 4.
Nobody’s surprised by this and, actually, I imagine Microsoft have probably confirmed future consoles themselves over the last few years. Let’s look a little closer.
Ports are going to be Easier than ever
Assassin’s Creed IV has been in development for two years. Considering they have the engine finished and that they probably even have resources left over from previous games, this isn’t a big deal. Creating a world, making models and landscape, perfecting the boat mechanics; these aren’t easy things to do, but a good team with great designers won’t at all struggle with that time frame.
Here’s the catch: this time around they’ve had to deal with porting to the PlayStation 4 and next Xbox. Presuming that the game isn’t being built from scratch in the Watch_Dogs Disrupt Engine (and there’s no reason to think that it is), that means they’ve had to make modifications to the existing AC engine to get it up to snuff on next-gen consoles. Or does it? With both games supposedly built on PC architecture, porting the game over to home consoles is going to be easier than ever, and I suppose the proof is in the pudding. They’ve managed to not only build this game in two years, but they’ve managed to get optimized “ultimate” versions running on completely new hardware as well.
Does that mean that PS3/360 gamers are also getting a PC port, or will they build ACIV on consoles and port it to PC, and from PC to next-gen? This is a question that’s hard to answer, but it’ll have a huge bearing on how smooth the game plays when we pick it up on PS4 at the end of the year.
You Won’t See a Next-Gen Console before the End of November
We already know that the PS4 is going to be released “Holidays 2013,” which basically equates to mid-November through to, at the biggest stretch, January 1st. Of course, Sony would be mad to miss the Christmas rush, so a fair guess is sometime in December. The next Xbox will release either a few weeks before or a few weeks after. Ubisoft’s press release announces that PS3/360/Wii U versions of the game will be released early November. Now, of course, they can’t announce that it’ll also be coming out on next-gen consoles early November, because that sort of thing needs to be announced by the manufacturers.
Which, of course, makes my title above completely null and void. There’s only one thing I can think of that supports this: if the PS4/Xbox version of this game is going to be on-par with the PC version, and if it might even be a port, it’s most likely to come alongside or after the PC release. We’re talking mid-December. Just in time to be a launch title and for Ubisoft to cash-in on early buyers.
Next-Gen Doesn’t Mean Instant Boost in PC Quality
Some PC gamers were upset by the PS4 announcement, whilst others were quietly very, very happy. Although it can’t be denied that the PlayStation 4 had fantastic graphics, the leap brought it up to par with some current PC games, it in no way surpassed them. For PC gamers, this meant that developers would finally begin taking advantage of higher-end hardware again, and that poor console ports would give way to better console ports (or even – can you imagine? – PC as lead platform). Ubisoft’s announcement seems to squash the idea that that will be happening any time soon.
Assassin’s Creed always looks fantastic on PC, and it’s great that PS4 and next Xbox gamers are going to be able to enjoy that level of quality, but it wouldn’t surprise me if, at the end of the year, graphics comparisons showed there was very little difference between dedicated gaming PCs and new home consoles. Those screenshots are beautiful, and developing with that quality for a wider audience might mean developers generally do a better job of it (which, of course, means good things for PC gamers). Just don’t expect your £1500 PC to suddenly have its limits stretched.
Exclusive DLC is Still Most Definitely a Thing
If you thought early or exclusive access to DLC was going to be a thing of the past, Ubisoft denied you that dream in a single, bloody stroke. Assassin’s Creed IV will contain an extra hour of gameplay if bought on PS3/PS4. This is a very clever move on Sony’s part – big AC fans might buy the Sony console instead of Microsoft’s next, just because they’ll have the longer edition for roughly the same price – but it also shows they’re perhaps getting a little more savvy to the whole practice. They’re not an innocent party this generation, but Microsoft are really better known of relying on exclusive DLC, and it’s a little scary that there are already two games boasting exclusive Sony content.
Out of less than ten announced games.
Ubisoft had a difficult job ahead of them. They had to write a press release that not only revealed nothing that would get them in trouble, but that revealed enough that people wouldn’t start jumping to the wrong conclusions (like it wouldn’t be appearing on next-gen Xbox). With each omission, they confirmed something we’d already suspected. The above is in no way set in stone, but as we begin to learn more about each console between now and E3, we’ll be able to draw more conclusions about where these consoles will begin and where they’re likely to take us. In the end though, I think it’s hard not to agree, it’s great that we’re all getting on the same page again. These consoles are going to be well worth a purchase and that’s the most important thing.