Assassin's Creed Liberation HD
- Street Date:
- January 14th, 2014
- Reviewed by:
- Bill Braun
- Review Date:1
- January 20th, 2014
- Game Release Year:
- Ubisoft Sofia
PS3 version reviewed. 'Assassin's Creed Liberation HD' is also available on the 360 and PC.
There have been numerous high definition remakes over the past several years. From Sony exclusives like the 'God of War Saga' and 'Ratchet and Clank Collection' to the 'Splinter Cell' and 'Prince of Persia' trilogies, some were re-crafted with great attention to detail while others had a difficult time living up to our fond memories of the originals. Depending on who you talk to, these remakes either represent an opportunity to play (or replay) great games of past console generations, or are an example of publisher's greed. 'Assassin's Creed Liberation HD' looks to jump into a new trend by taking a more recent handheld exclusive title and making it available to a wider audience on a bigger screen.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Created by the same team that originally developed 'Assassin's Creed 3: Liberation' for the PlayStation Vita, Ubisoft Sofia claims to have incorporated fan and critic comments into this updated version of the game. At some point during this development process they also made the conscious decision to remove the '3' from the title and rebrand it - 'Assassin's Creed Liberation HD'. Having played some of the PlayStation Vita version, this update makes a fair amount of sense, as 'Liberation' is very much an experience separate from the other games of the ongoing franchise.
Set during a period between the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, 'Liberation HD' allows the gamer to assume the role of Aveline, the first female protagonist of the series. With a mixed heritage - French and African – and a privileged upbringing , Aveline has one of the more complex background compositions of any of the playable characters created since the release of the first 'Assassin's Creed.' That privileged upbringing, when faced with strong overtones of slavery, sets the stage and delivers an interesting, albeit not fully realized, game mechanic – the ability to tackle individual missions while under the guise of a variety of personas (aka, disguises): Assassin, Lady, and Slave.
By unlocking a number of dressing chambers across the city and the Louisiana Bayou, you are able to quickly change between these three personas in order to manage your objectives as you see fit. There are both benefits and restrictions to these personas, all of which will dictate the choice you make. In contrast to the skilled and deadly Assassin persona, the Lady is dressed in her high society finest, able to sway the hearts of her enemies, while the Slave can quickly blend into her environment. A first glance at this new game mechanic may represent total gameplay freedom, however, many of these sequences are clearly designed to benefit one persona over the others and the game often chooses for you in order to progress further.
Although playing as a strong female character, 'Liberation HD' is, at its heart, still an Assassin's Creed game. And with it come all of the highs and lows that I have come to expect from the franchise. Exciting combat sequences continue to be bogged down with repeated sections of tailing your foes. Fluid free running will come to a dramatic halt when Aveline inadvertently jumps to her death or attempts to climb an unscalable wall. And missions will unexpectedly end when spotted by an enemy with hawk-like vision. I can't tell you how many sequences I was forced to replay after being spotted by a guard that was clearly out of my line of sight. While this may be an updated version of the game, many of the same pitfalls continue to thwart an otherwise enjoyable experience.
Although many of these issues are known far and wide, I was even more interested in what additional constraints (if any) this HD translation of the PlayStation Vita title would bring with it. Having engaged in several hours of the handheld adventure I was already familiar with the touch-based and motion controls the developers baked into the game. Tapping on the front screen to chain a combat move or swiping the rear touch pad to mimic the rowing of your canoe were mild compared to other more gimmicky mechanics the Vita has promoted. Thankfully, the developers at Ubisoft Sofia have both translated and improved the controls of 'Liberation HD' to ensure a natural effect and a seamless implementation. In other words, they felt good, and any fears of an awkward control scheme should be dismissed. This port delivers a fairly solid experience and one that any fan of the series will appreciate and be comfortable with.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Adding to my concerns over how a handheld game would translate to its bigger console brothers, I paid particular attention to the presentation. 'Liberation HD' has a leg up on most of its HD remake counterparts in that the game already looks quite good on the PlayStation Vita and is little more than a year old. As opposed to collections from an older console generation, one would expect that the port of 'Assassin's Creed 3 Liberation' would account for a smooth process overall; thankfully my assumptions mostly lived up to my expectations.
The interesting locations of 'Liberation HD' deliver a nice improvement over its original form. The textures and level of detail are all exceptionally rendered – whether during gameplay or more story-driven cut scene. The atmospheric lighting of the Bayou and densely populated and active city life help to further immerse the player into a world of slavery, voodoo, and brutality. I was also excited to see a broader range of animal life when navigating the swamplands, as well as the added feature of dynamic changes in the time of day. They were often subtle but did a wonderful job of helping to further set the tone and mood of a particular assassination or stealth mission.
Graphical improvements represented during the various cut scenes simply cannot go unnoticed. They are highly polished and nicely detailed. While I wouldn't say these improvements are any better than some of the more recent games released on the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, they are certainly deserving of recognition. In particular, the attention given to the main playable character, Aveline, was quite impressive. From the slight imperfections on her face – a scar above her lip and the freckles on her nose – to the individual seams of her Lady persona's dress, 'Assassin's Creed Liberation HD' is a treat to play on a large, high-definition TV. However, with that said, the game continues to exhibit frame rate slow down and occasional screen tearing; particularly during combat involving a larger group. It was never enough to prohibit gameplay, but it was both noticeable and frequent.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
A period piece like any Assassin's Creed game can be tricky to pull off. While 'Liberation HD' did an exceptional job in convincing me visually that I was adventuring my way across 18th Century New Orleans, a poor accent or misuse of accurate surround sound can quickly tear me out of the experience. Much like the updated video for 'Liberation HD', Ubisoft Sofia did an admirable job of presenting the game with believable characters, action-heavy set pieces, and mysterious locations. Aside from a handful of characters obviously not pulled from the same pool of qualified voice actors, I was generally pleased with the majority of the performances.
I was more impressed with the subtle surround effects 'Liberation HD' presented. Walking among the crowded city streets delivered an array of conversations, arguments, and business operations one would expect to hear – regardless of time period. Working my way across the Bayou as the sun began to set was often a haunting experience. Chirping crickets, squawking birds, and the hiss of a nearby - but unseen - alligator was often enough to set my nerves on edge. 'Liberation HD' makes full use of surround sound in subtle, yet appropriate ways.
Like so many single player games before it, once completed there is little 'Assassin's Creed Liberation HD' has to offer in terms of replay value. As interesting as Avenline's story could have been, short of being a dedicated trophy hunter, expect to look for something new after you've completed the game. Based on the success of 'Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag' it's unlikely the franchise will pull back the reigns on future development efforts. I, for one, am hopeful that they find enough reason to further develop Aveline's character and take her story to the next level.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
'Assassin's Creed Liberation HD' is released with additional missions not seen in the PlayStation Vita version. New side missions specific to the individual personas account for 15 new objectives. Having never fully completed the handheld version of the game, it's difficult for me to accurately assess and describe the overall value of this bonus content. Still, I am generally of the opinion that anytime a developer adds new content and includes it with the base game is a good thing. Then again, this may be more a statement on how out of control I feel DLC and season passes have become.
'Assassin's Creed Liberation HD' is different from many of the Assassin's Creed games that came before it in that it is an Abstergo product - the player is playing in the Animus, rather than playing as the typical Assassin through the Animus. It provides a rare, yet incredibly strong female protagonist that has quickly become one of my favorites from the series. She is deadly and determined, wrapped in beauty and grace. Her heritage amid the game's pre-Revolutionary War setting promotes the idea of an incredibly deep character when faced with the tragedies of slavery and you cannot help but root for her throughout her journey. By porting this once Sony PlayStation Vita exclusive to the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC, Ubisoft Sofia has made her story, her struggle, and her adventure, available to millions of Assassin's Creed fans around the world. Common Assassin's Creed gameplay issues aside, it is a game worth experiencing, regardless of your devotion to the franchise.
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