A Next Generation Conundrum

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Yesterday marked the launch of two major titles heading into the madness that is typical for the fall release cycle. While both Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Battlefield 4 are sure to move millions of units, the intriguing aspect is that they are poised to be tentpole titles  for both the outgoing consoles and the soon to be launched PS4 and Xbox One.

While I’m not overly concerned about Battlefield 4 as I will most likely adopt that later at a lower price (perhaps even on the PC), the Assassin’s Creed launch has put me in a peculiar situation. I’ve supported the series since its inception back in 2007, even through last year’s disappointing outing of Assassin’s Creed III.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

I’m torn because I am deeply intrigued with the idea of a pirate focused Assassin’s Creed and am certainly curious about the complexities of the Kenway lineage (Pirates, Templars, Revolutionaries, Assassins, Native American tribesman), but I want to experience it in the best way possible. Historically, this has always been on console because I enjoy the simplicity of relaxing to the big screen, controller in hand, wife watching like it’s an extended movie. But I have yet to pre-order either console due to the inevitable flood of issues that will occur and the fact that the initial launch window is fairly stagnant in terms of games offerings.

So I have been neck deep in comparison videos and impressions based on current generation and next generation console offerings. What UbiSoft claims is an unparalleled experience that has never been achieved by the Assassin’s Creed franchise before. Incredible weather effects, deep shadows, textures and animations that flow smoothly and an incredible draw distance. While all of this may be true, when I look at the initial comparison videos, the difference is noticeable but not miles ahead of the current generation. If the new consoles were to receive a solid A for visuals, the current generation fare is not far off that, at perhaps a B to a B+. In fact, I might be more impressed by what they’ve managed to squeeze out of the current generation consoles before they move on to greener pastures.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

I’ve been concerned about these things before, in particular with the previous launch of the new consoles. While I didn’t get an Xbox 360 until later in its first year, I remember specifically choosing games for the original Xbox over the new console because I felt like stability issues were more ironed out and developers had more experience working with older hardware. I specifically purchased the original Need for Speed Most Wanted and Madden NFL 06 with this in mind, and both titles were superior to their next generation upgrades.

On paper however, the idea that developers will have a difficult time designing games for the new consoles should be less true than the previous console launch. The new consoles are supposedly closer to PCs than ever before, and system architecture should allow for a title designed with the PC in mind to be cross developed for the Xbox One and PS4 with relative ease, providing the team has the experience and funding for it.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

But still, the conundrum exists. Do I purchase the next generation version, that I expect to be visually superior and perform better or do I get the current generation version, which by all accounts is solid and reliable? As tempting as the next generation versions are, to me a non-exclusive title does not sell a system to me. Odds are that I will end up with the current generation fare, which should be a nice experience, but not the best. And that kind of breaks my heart.


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