Gaming reviews: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag; Batman: Arkham Origins; Football Manager 2014
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
Xbox 360 (tested), PS3, Wii U, PC £44.86 on PS3 and Xbox 360
£29.86 for PC
Although breaking sales records for the franchise, last year's Assassin's Creed III was for many a disappointing release. A more considered installment emerges this time around, narrowing the focus while widening horizons to encompass the high seas.
The naval battles in particular are excellent, and feel more positively integrated into the game, allowing you to spend hard-earned cash in exchange for hardier hulls and swifter sails. Behind the wheel is Edward Conway, a swashbuckling privateer who becomes mixed up in the Assassin's Order, providing a compelling hero substitute for the much-mourned Ezio.
Havana, Nassau and Kingston are all lovingly rendered, with plenty of parkour potential in the cities, swamps and clifftops. Expanded multiplayer modes enable lots of customisation, extending interest past an already well-stuffed single-player campaign.
Batman: Arkham Origins
Warner Bros Interactive
PS3, Xbox One, PS Vita, PC
How do you follow up two of the best action video games ever released? Fob the third off on another studio while you work on PS4 and Xbox One was Rocksteady's answer. Thankfully, Arkham Origins sticks to the tried-and-tested formula of combat, stealth, exploration and excellent use of licensed content as the caped crusader glides around Gotham doling out left hooks. The fight mechanics are still a joy to behold and are tied into a narrative that keeps things interesting over its 12 or so hours.
Football Manager 2014
Sports Interactive, Sega
PC, Mac, Linux
£45 (widely available for £30)
Office managers beware! The most addictive simulation ever now allows fans to play from any computer to which they have access, thanks to the new "cloud save" feature. The series is available on Linux for the first time and features an improved 3D match engine – and more realistic transfers and contracts also add to the game's authenticity. The latest addition to the long-running series features hundreds of improvements, but manages not to alienate the hardcore fan base.
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