While Microsoft or Sony didn't have dedicated exhibits at New York Comic Con, Ubisoft picked up the slack by offering up the PlayStation 4 version of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. While only the multiplayer Game Lab was offered, and was restricted to ranked play throughout each day at Comic Con that offered the chance to win a PlayStation 4, XBox One, and an extremely high end gaming PC, I came away thoroughly impressed with my first next-gen experience.
Picking up the controller and selecting my character was one of the highlights of my experience, and that's not meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Watching the facial expressions on characters was mesmerizing, every part of each face was highly detailed and defined, and hair and clothing hung and flowed naturally. Running round the demo level showcased a beautiful dock and surrounding town, with textures popping off buildings due to fantastic lighting, individual blades of grass can easily be seen and sway in the wind with trees and leaves, and the game overall looks far superior to its PlayStation 3 counterpart. Movement and animations are also extremely smooth and the glitches that plagued Assassin's Creed III seem to have been addressed, and no hiccups with distant or invisible buildings or trees are apparent, another great improvement over past iterations.
The Game Lab mode created for the demo, called Frantic Mode, is essentially the multiplayer from past games, where the player has to seek out a target and assassinate him or her before he or she gets assassinated themselves. You get a point for either killing, stunning or finishing off your target, however if you time a counterattack correctly, the other player won't get a point for a kill or stunning. It's an interesting system, though a bit finicky, as there were times I didn't understand why I didn't counter the guy trying to kill me, or how in the hell he countered when I was attacking from behind.
While most of the assassin abilities remain the same, how you perform them is a little different, as it takes different button combinations and precision to perform air assassinations. Assassins can also use the disguise ability, which changes the look of your character to confuse your pursuer. It only works for a limited time and doesn't work when sprinting, so it's wise to only use when you're trying to hide and not actively pursuing a target. Disguising is a great addition, as it's very satisfying to watch your pursuer assassinate the wrong target, allowing you to stun them and swiftly escape.
Given that the multiplayer plot has your character in the Animus, you can throw out bombs that catch people in a time phase, slowing them down and instantly getting rid of their disguise. It's very useful in multiplayer for both offensive and defensive purposes, and equally enjoyable to experience.
General parkour and assassin movements feel much tighter and more fluid than ever before, with characters quickly and smoothly scaling walls, jumping over obstacles, and blending into the crowd with ease. Attacking flows much easier as well, feeling and looking more natural. The camera also sees improvements, moving more smoothly and allowing for greater control. The whole game just feels tighter in general, which was highly needed after the mishaps of Assassin's Creed III.
If you're planning on getting Assassin's Creed IV, I would highly suggest the next-gen version. My time with the Game Labs demo, which will also allow players to create their own game modes to be featured by Ubisoft in the game, was a satisfying experience, even if it was a bit finicky. I can't wait to get my hands back on the full game come November 15th for the PlayStation 4, November 22nd for Xbox One, and October 29th for current-gen consoles.