If you have a PS Vita then you've probably been waiting for the next big franchise to hit the handheld for some time. Not since Uncharted has Sony's device had a sprawling adventure to call its own. Well now that's about to change, thanks to Ubisoft and the arrival of Assassin's Creed: Liberation.
Assassin's Creed: Liberation sees you take control of the memories of Aveline de Grandpre - this much is announced at the beginning of the game. Aveline is a mysterious character, able to disguise herself as an Assassin, a Lady of the highest order and also as a slave. Each of these guises will be utilised throughout the game as you make your way across the title's three huge areas of New Orleans, Chichen Itza and Bayou.
Given that Aveline is the first female character in the Assassin's Creed series it makes sense that she should have an interesting story, however this is something which the game never really touches on unfortunately. It's a shame really because other than a brief nightmare scene at the beginning of the game, we never get to find out why she went from child to a fully grown up Assassin.
On the bright side, Assassin's Creed: Liberation is a lot of fun. The controls will be familiar to anyone who has played a game in the series before, with Aveline scaling buildings, sneaking, blending and syncing her way through the large open-world areas. Missons are quite varied, with Aveline tasked with infiltrating parties, tailing leads and killing set targets. Adding to the main missions are plenty of side-quests too, which will see you freeing slaves, buying new places to change persona and more. There's no need to worry about this game not providing you with value for money, because there's plenty to keep you busy, even once you have completed the main storyline.
As briefly mentioned, Aveline has three personas which she can use throughout the game. Each of these provides a different way to play the game. The Assassin obviously explains itself, giving her access to all her weapons but also a quicker way to be spotted by guards. The Slave meanwhile, allows Aveline to blend in better with crowds, while also giving her access to some of her weapons, however the disadvantage is that this persona is weaker in combat. Finally, the Lady persona allows her to charm guards, which is great for infiltrating certain areas, although being a lady means she can't climb up walls, well she wouldn't want to ruin her dress now would she?
While the personas are a great addition, you're often guided as to which you'll need to use, which is a bit of a shame. This does open up a little bit later, which each even offering differing missions, however it's still a bit of a shame that you cannot have more choice when the game is warming up.
On the combat side of things, Assassin's Creed: Liberation works well. Aveline has access to numerous weapons such as a hatchet; sword; assassin's blade and a musket, while further into the game she'll also be able to take down enemies using a blow pipe. Other non-combat areas will see Aveline pickpocketing and even canoeing, with Ubisoft utilising the back touch panel for these areas.
Speaking of Vita's touch controls, Ubisoft seems to have done its best to cram in the use of as many of the handheld's features as it can. This will see you bizarrely using the front and back panel simultaneously to open a letter (which frustrated me after numerous attempts), while you'll also find yourself holding the camera up to light and using the gyroscope, although I'll leave it to you to find out what these functions achieve.
Graphically I'm quite sad to say that Assassin's Creed: Liberation is not the best looking game on the Vita. That's not to say it looks bad, it's just that you'll constantly be greeted with jaggies and slow framerate issues, especially during any action scenes. It's a shame really because some moments are truly wonderful, but this just doesn't happen often enough to make it stand out from the crowd.
In addition to the lengthy single player campaign, Assassin's Creed: Liberation also includes a multiplayer option. Here you choose between the Brotherhood or Templars, with the objective being to capture nodes and hold on to them. To do this you have a number of agents at your disposal and you have to decide how to deploy them. In the meantime others are doing the same, with nodes changing places as you battle to take control. It's all a little confusing really and will probably end up very much unused, which is just as well really.
So there we have it. Assassin's Creed: Liberation is certainly an enjoyable game, but it could have been better. There are moments when Aveline is jumping from rooftops or jumping from trees, that you'll be lost in the moment and really enjoying the company of this game. At other times however you'll find yourself frustrated at the clunky use of Vita's touch controls and the occasional glitchy and jaggy graphics. Don't get me wrong, Liberations is not a bad game, it's just that it could have been better.
(Version tested: PS Vita)
- Occasional jaw dropping graphics
- Huge sprawling adventure
- Personas offer a different take on the series
- Assassin's Creed on a portable screen
- Occasional jaggies, glitches
- Multiplayer is difficult to understand and feels tacked on
- Touch controls are too fiddly