Since its announcement, the PlayStation Vita has promised a console quality gaming experience on par with the best systems out today. Almost a year into the system’s launch, Sony’s handheld system has not quite lived up to that pledge yet. With only decent ports and a handful of original games worth playing, the Vita has been struggling to deliver the rich roster of titles gamers expected. Sure, the Vita’s capability and horsepower is all there, but no game has truly maximized on its potential.
Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, arriving just before the holiday rush, is yet another game to test that PSVita “console gaming” mantra. It targets core gamers with an original game spun out of the AC3‘s Revolutionary War. Does it hit the mark?
Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation takes place in 18th century Louisiana at the end of the French and Indian War and parts of the American Revolution. It follows the story of Aveline de Grandpré, a female African-French Assassin who is one of the few privileged at the time to not be enslaved. It’s a fascinating backdrop for a character, but is unfortunately never fully realized. Aveline’s quest is to find answers about the disappearance of her mother and her mission leads her into the more complicated battle between Assassins and Templars.
The voice-acting during cut-scenes is fantastic, especially the French accents, but the story told is not a strong one. Again, not much is explained about Aveline’s past, making it difficult to invest in the character. Before one of the game’s boss fights, the enemy threatens to go after Aveline’s mentor after he’s through killing her. For what should have been a moment of rage and motivation, the player ends up not caring because the relationship between her and her mentor is never fleshed out.
The majority of the missions and objectives in Liberation are comprised of meeting people, assassinating and following people undetected. Controls are solid, but everything else not so much. Climbing buildings, battling guards and running on top of trees works and is very enjoyable, but that enjoyment is broken up by framerate and technical issues.
The framerate dips at unexpected times and sometimes game ending glitches occur in spotty areas. When you’re stuck in wedged between trees in a swamp, there’s nothing you can do but reset the game. Glitches also often occur while fighting a group of enemies who will warp into walls or simply slide off ledges. The best way to sum up Liberation’s gameplay: It’s not technically sound at all.
The Ubisoft Sofia team includes a female protagonist in Liberation to integrate a new and unique gameplay element called Personas. Aveline can switch into three different outfits and they dynamically change the character’s abilities and skills. Being an Assassin allows Aveline to move the fastest of the three along with access to the most weapons. The downfall to this outfit is that guards are more prone to recognize you as a threat. The Slave Persona is a happy middle ground where she’ll be a bit slower and weaker, but able to blend in well with others dressed like her. Lastly, being dressed as a classy Lady is the slowest and you’ll be unable to climb a single wall. The plus side to this outfit is that she is hardly bothered by enemies.
At first you will be tethered to using each outfit for costume specific purposes, but eventually you will be able to change to each as you please. You have to applaud Ubisoft Sofia for being ambitious with such an addition to the series, but in the end, the system falls apart. Being in Assassin mode is clearly favored over the Lady portions of the game simply because you can kick butt and climb stuff, which is why you play an Assassin’s Creed game in the first place.
It’s not only an unbalanced system, but also winds up being a clunky hassle. Swapping outfits requires you find one of many changing rooms and you also need to be undetected. This means if a swarm of guards are chasing you dressed as a Lady, you need to either kill all of them or hide long enough in order to be allowed to change into an Assassin.
Liberation does include some system specific gimmicks that work, but most are nonsensical. An example of a good one is using the back touchscreen to pickpocket a stranger as you brush past them. A couple of bad ones include using the front and back touchscreen to rip open an envelope and swiping the back touchscreen to paddle across water while the option to simply press “X” is also available.
Presentation-wise, Liberation has slick and responsive menus and user interface. Navigating maps or switching weapons is also very touchscreen friendly. Epic and adrenaline pumping music is noteworthy as some of the best heard on the system so far. Sounds effects like crackling thunder and bird chirps sound sharp as well. It’s a sad thing to say, but this area may be the highlight of the entire Liberation package.
Overall, Liberation is “a watered-down version” of a great console series in every facet of the term. Graphics, storytelling and gameplay don’t match up with its console counterpart. The PlayStation Vita is marketed as “console gaming on the go” and Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation does not meet that standard. Mark it a missed opportunity.