Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD Review
Written Monday, January 20, 2014 By Richard Walker
As the first Assassin's Creed game to star a female protagonist, Assassin's Creed: Liberation stands out from the the other instalments in the series; and that's where the differences between this and the rest of the franchise begin and end. Liberation HD is a remake of the 2012 PS Vita AC III spin-off, with a slight visual overhaul and a few extra bells and whistles.
Aveline de Grandpré is an assassin, a lady and a slave, though how she came to be any of these is not explored in any depth whatsoever. As a result, Aveline feels like a rather flat character whose past is hazy at best, while the game itself and its accompanying story feel like a watered-down Creed experience, jumping from one sequence to the next with a bit of text shoved between the jumpy and disjointed sequences to fill in the narrative blanks.
"Where do you want to be stabbed? Kidney or spine?"
Like any Assassin's Creed game, Liberation HD is fleshed out with a range of side-missions and collectibles, dotted throughout a 1770s New Orleans occupied by the Spanish, and the alligator-infested swamplands of the Bayou. The story is the backbone of the game, as you'd expect, recounting events from history, including slavery, the end of the French and India War, and the American Revolution, but it's a fairly short-lived experience, easily completed in a couple of lengthy stints.
As part of the game's slightly dull tale, Aveline is able to adopt three different personas, wearing the frilly garb of an aristocratic lady to blend in at soirees, donning the ragged attire of a slave to rub shoulders with plantation workers, and kitting herself out in the leather straps, boots and blades of an assassin. Of course, while you're forced to fulfil the role of a lady or slave in order to complete certain missions, you're normally longing to jump back into the boots of the assassin, able to use all of the tools at your disposal.
The lady's parasol gun and the slave's limited use of certain weapons make the assassin the far more desirable option, what with the whip, smoke bombs, blowpipe, sugar cane machete, swords and so on. Furthermore, the lady is weak and unable to climb or freerun, whereas the slave is just weak, making the sections of the game where you're made to play as either non-assassin persona among the most boring. As one of the core game mechanics, changing persona is possibly the least appealing part in what is otherwise a decent enough, if somewhat flimsy story.
"Hey, Connor. Still a miserable sod?"
Naturally, this being an Abstergo Entertainment production and all, you're not being told the whole truth. This is where 'Citizen E' comes in during intermittent segues in the story, where locating and killing a certain person will reveal salient nuggets of the story that have been tweaked in the Animus to cover up what actually happened. Your reward for killing every Citizen E character is an alternate ending, which also happens to be what the Animus nonsense is thankfully limited to. There's no Desmond character, and no sojourns to the modern day to contend with, though the fourth wall is still occasionally prodded at.
Gameplay is typical Creed fare, albeit with an increased emphasis on stealth over all-out action and combat. Thankfully, the boring tailing aspect of past Creed titles is kept to a minimum too, while eavesdropping is mercifully nowhere to be found. Indeed there are some standout missions, like warding off enemies trespassing in your mentor's territory marked out by voodoo effigies, silently picking them off with poison darts one by one.
Combat is much the same, though Aveline can trigger chain-kill attacks, taking down several enemies in one motion as the action plays out in front of you. She's almost as proficient as Altair, Ezio, Connor or Edward, hacking up enemies with brutal efficiency and speed. It's a shame we never really find out how she came to receive such training or how she came to be initiated into the assassins order in the first place. It might explain why counter attack prompts sometimes fail to appear as enemies attack, or why pressing the counter attack button sometimes does nothing, leaving you open to a barrage of axes, muskets and blades. Annoying doesn't begin to describe it.
The whip: not just used for taming lions.
There's an attempt to inject an additional layer of strategy with Aveline's fleet of ships, assigning cargo to your galleons then shipping it to various locations from the comfort of your hideout. There's no actual naval component to Liberation beyond tinkering with menu screens to ship cotton to Havana or whatever, but it's a welcome method of earning extra currency to purchase weapons, consumables, extra dress chambers for switching personas and collectible pocket watches. Alternatively you can still pick pockets, loot chests and so forth, meaning cash is seldom in short supply.
On PS Vita, the brevity of the story and the dearth of activities relative to its more fleshed-out home console siblings was easy to overlook. In making the leap to Xbox 360 and PS3, Assassin's Creed: Liberation HD seems thin and lightweight by comparison, lacking Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag's countless hours of side-quests, naval warfare and other distractions. That said, there's a good 15-20 hours of entertainment to be had for completists, which for the asking price is not to be sniffed at.
There are achievements to be had too, of course, and these largely consist of tasks cribbed and consolidated from the original PS Vita trophy list. The result is a fairly uninspired collection of goals to complete, whether it's collecting everything in the game, bagging 100% synchronisation (again) or clearing every single mission. It's a list that'll ensure you explore everything in AC: Liberation, and there are a few neat activities to perform if you want the full allocation of Gamerscore. A decent enough, if somewhat shrug-inducing set of achievements.
Assassin's Creed: Liberation HD may not look as pretty as the other titles in the series, but the HD revamp serves in ramping up the visual quality sufficiently, even if it does look a little ugly in places. It's a serviceable enough game, providing solid value for money, but Assassin's Creed: Liberation HD isn't exactly essential stuff.
The soundtrack is pleasant enough, but the voice acting is all over the place. Some vocal performances sound like they're played for comic value, with outrageous French and Spanish accents sticking out like a sore thumb. The 'Goo-ven-oor', indeed.
It's the PS Vita version with a lick of HD paint. It looks nice enough, but it's unfortunately not free of the occasional ugly texture and glitch here and there. It'll do.
It's Assassin's Creed. Again. You know the score. The big difference is in Aveline's changeable personas, which add a bit of extra strategy to proceedings. The whip and blowpipe are cool too, but combat has a habit of being an occasionally stodgy affair.
For an XBLA title, Assassin's Creed: Liberation offers a solid amount of gameplay for your money, with plenty of additional activities on the side. We just found it hard to care about any of it when the story and character of Aveline are both so paper thin. Aveline is a strong enough female lead to carry a much larger game, and deserves more.
A perfectly decent achievement list, with a few cool tasks to complete mixed in with the more dull by-the-numbers progression and completist fare. Fine.
Boasting a strong female heroine in Aveline, Assassin's Creed: Liberation is worth the asking price, but only just. The fragmented story was excusable on PS Vita, but on Xbox 360 and PS3, Assassin's Creed: Liberation's myriad cracks and flaws are glaring. Aveline may be a thinly-drawn character, but she's one that's deserving of so much more than this.
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