I’ve traveled throughout the middle east with Altair. I’ve taken Ezio from Italy to Damascus and back with the assistance of Leonardo DaVinci. Yet, before I prepared to embark upon Connor’s romp through colonial Boston, I knew there was another assassin who had piqued all of my attention. Was it because this assassin traveled a path that differs from Desmonds? Perhaps, but I’m lying if I told you there were any other reason than one: I bought my PlayStation Vita because I couldn’t wait to play Assassin’s Creed as a woman. Enter time spent with Aveline de Grandpre, time spent with an assassin I immediately liked – but quickly became unsure of.
As you take the first playable female assassin through the streets of New Orleans and several other mysterious locations. You’ll find her story is deep, but it’s not very clear. Quite frankly, Aveline often seems to do things for very little reason. Sure, it’s explained that Aveline is mistaken for a slave child at the beginning and is taken into slavery, then the game fast-forwards and you’re suddenly an adult. She’s given her freedom by someone you’ll meet later, but obviously she strives to free the slaves because she was one. However, in doing so, you’ll partner with unlikely (and often shady) people and, well — honestly, no matter how hard I tried to wrap my head around this story it’s just not very solid. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation takes about 10 hours to finish, and rather than being an engaging story that unfolds, it suffers from falling into repetition as the story is often stretched extremely thin in order to span the entire play time, even including all of the side tasks before finally getting decent shortly before it ends.
Story aside, the soundtrack is fantastic. This game is meant to be experienced with headphones, so do yourself a favor and kick on a pair of earbuds so you can appreciate the audio as it unfolds. Gameplay is solid at its core, as you’ll find Aveline can pull off a nice set of moves that will often leave you with that “holy shit!” type of feeling. Her executions are impressive, and her combat reversals are jaw-dropping. I really like the one where she grabs a guy by the wrist and whips him and his bayonet straight into a downed soldier’s gut. Assassinating enemies from the tree tops feels fantastic and it’s even more impressive as there’s a slight slow down to emphasize that moment before the decent and eventual kill. Feels good, man.
As you traverse the world, you’ll find that Aveline has access to dressing rooms that allow her to switch between her three different personas: Assassin, Slave, and Lady. Each of the three personas have a unique feel to them. Assasssin is your typical assassin, while Slave allows you to run/climb/jump but you do less damage and take more damage in combat, and Lady means you can charm guards and go mostly unnoticed in the city but you’re unable to run/climb/jump. While I certainly enjoy what this brings, you’re not given nearly enough freedom to play with it. You’re often forced in sections to don one certain guise often resulting in missions taking far longer than they should because you were stupidly able to walk off of the pier into the water yet you’re unable to pull yourself back up because the stupid Lady guise can’t climb.
Unfortunately, as much as I want to love Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, it’s got so many technical problems that it’s really hard to stay interested in it. The frame rates suck and it often has some horrendous slow down when there’s a lot of on-screen action. If it’s this laggy downloaded digitally, I can only imagine what it’s like reading it from the memory stick cartridge. Another big problem is that there are a ton of rampant glitches. Use eagle vision to follow footprints? That’s great, except the second set of footprints fails to load causing you to have to restart the mission before it will finally let you pass. What’s that? Yeah, I got stuck in the terrain and yes, I got stuck in the water without the ability to escape. The biggest problem though? By far, the Vita’s unique ability to handle motion, light, and touch control. For whatever reason, they’ve decided to shoehorn in absolutely awful interactive controls that result in some of the most frustrating gaming sessions I’ve had since the original Kinect launch. Yeah, they’re that bad. If you’ve gotten past this stupid ball puzzle, you’re golden.
In fact, the touch interactions are so bad they warrant more bitching. You can pickpocket by walking up to someone and sliding your fingers up and down the rear touch panel which is not at all natural but does make sense in context. It’s a cool idea but it only works right about 30% of the time. Same idea with using light to see through and decode messages — that is if you can get your PS Vita camera to get enough light. I had to turn the LED of my iPhone on full blast then lay my Vita’s camera directly on top of it in order to complete the deciphering. It refused normal room lighting, even at work under fluorescent lights. Touching enemies to target them is a great idea, but why do I then have to rely on Triangle to fire blow gun shots? Why not just let me press again on a highlighted enemy and hold that press to target and shoot? It’s like for every good idea they had with these PS Vita interactions, they screwed them up by half-assing the integration. Don’t even get me started about the shitty canoe controls, but thankfully those can be controlled with buttons.
There’s a multiplayer mode too, but it’s asynchronous and feels more like a Facebook game than what you’d expect in the PS Vita’s multiplayer experience. Do yourself a favor and go play Project Legacy on Facebook. It’s a far better Assassin’s Creed experience. Hopefully in the next Vita title, we’ll see some real multiplayer. If Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified can do it, there’s no reason why Assassin’s Creed can’t too.
Overall, If you can deal with all of Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation’s technical problems you’ll find there’s actually a very decent game buried underneath a ton of problems. The cavern sections are fantastic and the game really starts to pick up steam after sloshing along for the first half of the game. Perhaps maybe they shouldn’t have rushed it to release along side Assassin’s Creed III, considering the two stories don’t really even meet up until the end of the game anyway. IMO, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation would have been much stronger had they waited just a little bit longer to give people something to play once they’d finished Connor’s tale. It really is a shame too, because this game is (even with all the glitches) one of the best games available on Vita, but until it’s fixed, the game is it’s own worst enemy.
Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation is exclusive to the PlayStation Vita, and was provided for review by Ubisoft.
Unique abilities given to the different costumes. Levels are designed well. Feels like a real Assassin's Creed game.
Stifled by frame rate issues, terrible PS Vita gimmick interactions, and some crashing/glitch issues.