Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD

The girl’s got game in this high-def rebuild.

Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation released to mixed reviews last year when it made its debut on the PlayStation Vita. Critics praised the game’s protagonist and some of the larger themes (being one of the first games we know of to feature slavery as an issue), but found it wanting in terms of writing and handling. Ubisoft hopes to dispel some of those concerns in this HD re-release, which has curiously flown in mere months after Black Flag set sail. Should you indulge in Aveline’s adventure or is this a creed too many for the annualised franchise?

The game’s original title says it all; there are no pirates, no ships and no sailing of any kind. The tale runs concurrent with Connor’s own antics in Assassin’s Creed 3, so you can’t go in expecting anything akin to the open-ended nature of the most recent instalment. You’ll have to be an Assassin’s Creed purist to really appreciate Liberation for what it does – or at the very least what it tries to accomplish, though it helps that you’re playing a female assassin for the first time in the series, past online matches notwithstanding.

It’s great that Liberation has been made available to those who never chose to invest in a Vita, and Ubisoft clearly knew it could only result in more sales for minimal effort. You’re getting the original Vita game minus any multiplayer functionality, with upgraded visuals and (largely) reliable controls. What you’re not getting is anything particularly revolutionary or even that polished, given how the game clumsily handles its transitions and closing scenes.

Presentation isn’t on par with the likes of Assassin’s Creed 3, though some environments do stand out with flourishes of detail and re-rendered structures. Character models have undergone a slight upgrade too, even if the stiff animations do little to sell the package as any kind of graphical showcase. Sound and performance glitches are sadly abundant in Liberation HD, but they aren’t likely to break your game and force a complete restart.

Those who never played the original release might enjoy the way Liberation toys with the idea of strength and femininity. Aveline’s dress code also dictates how guards will react; exploring as the assassin allows full use of weapons and abilities, but guards are always on some degree of alert. The slave disguise keeps the wanted level down, but only when both feet are kept firmly on terra firma. The lady outfit provides Aveline the appearance of high society, in turn removing most gear and the ability to climb freely.

The game’s humble beginnings on the Vita have resulted in a quicker pace (despite needing an hour or two to really get going) due to the bite-sized mission structure. The overall length is comparable to that of Revelations, so you’re getting a good few hours of gameplay for your money. It does mean that an ‘epic’ adventure is out of the question and you’re not about to uncover heaps of creativity or experimentation either.

Once again, Ubisoft have failed to develop genuine challenge without resorting to frustrating mission limitations. Controlling Aveline as she leaps about New Orleans and the bayou is rarely a problem, but performing particular actions under a time limit or having to restart upon detection will begin to grate just as you might have expected. Fans can at least take solace in the lack of those irksome ‘tailing’ missions that can have a ruinous effect on a person’s blood pressure, having plagued much of Black Flag’s on-foot gameplay.

Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD is an agreeable adventure that die-hard fans of the series are certain to enjoy. Those who look upon Black Flag as the reinvention of an ailing franchise are advised to leave their expectations at the door however, as this is a grounded affair similar to the AC titles of a few years ago. Despite its obvious technical limitations and nonsensical storyline, Liberation HD is still a great ride that – in some ways – outshines its bloated big brother, Assassin’s Creed 3. She may not be perfect, but Aveline has earned her place among the creed.