Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD (XBLA) Review
A Soggy Swamp Experience –
There were high hopes for Assassin’s Creed Liberation when it initially launched on the Vita with its exclusivity and features built specifically for Sony’s powerful new handheld. Unfortunately, this new entry in the series was watered down at best and all of its short comings are further highlighted when playing on the big screen via XBLA or PSN.
Like a foggy bayou, looks can be deceiving when it comes to the HD edition of this stand-alone chapter in the AC series. When rummaging around the rooftops of daytime New Orleans, the draw distance and overall scope can look impressive but the frosting on this cake ends there. Water effects look like a dust storm, textures issues and pop-up happen constantly, mouths do not sync up, and character models look frighteningly low res. This looks especially bad considering that “HD” is in the title; even the panning camera view of the tower sync segments look a little shaky and isn’t as epic as it was in previous titles. Disappointingly, the Louisiana bayou plays a large part in this adventure but is actually the least attractive environment. The voice acting, and more specifically the southern accents, hasn’t been this bad since around the time of the original Resident Evil.
Even if you look through the lower quality visuals, the rest of the game delivers a subpar experience.
The protagonist is Aveline, the first female lead in an AC game. Although the character is built with an interesting, albeit troupe-filled backstory, the rest of the narrative is confusing and nonsensical even by Assassin’s Creed’s standards. The player doesn’t really know who the main bad guy is or what the overall main objective until the final minutes of the game; the developers even frustrate the player by purposely including a fake ending which results in a typical Assassin’s Creed WTF moment. And without giving away too many spoilers, the developers shoehorned a returning Assassin’s Creed character into Aveline’s plotline, you know, just because. Sure, I guess it is cool to tie in a couple of characters but this really has no relevance other than fan service. But since the game is filled with nothing but repetitive chore-like missions, it is doubtful players will even have the will to see this nod to fan service. It is understandable that this entire game was initially built for a handheld system but it is impossible to ignore the inconsistencies, uneven pacing and overall lack of polish.
The main gimmick behind this female lead is her ability to change outfits that grant her, or remove, specific abilities. Although changing outfits sometimes has a direct need based on certain narrative aspects, it is ultimately an inefficient mess and drags down the entire experience. For example, the slave guise allows the player to blend in with other NPCs but this feature has also been included in each AC game just by walking near a group of people, sitting on a bench, etc. When Aveline dons a ball gown, which is referred to as being a “lady,” she basically has everything fun and cool about being an assassin taken away from her as she cannot climb or jump and has a diminished health bar and access to weaponry. But what makes this lady uniform frustrating is it still requires fighting with hand-to-hand combat even though she is essentially in a weakened state. Changing costumes is also tedious as the player must travel to and purchase dress shops scattered throughout the environment. Nothing is fluid and everything just takes so much effort that most actions feel like work.
Mission structure is also a lesson in persistence and repetition. You know all those “follow this guy” sneaking missions that have become less and less frequent with each passing AC game because they just are not fun? Well, there are a lot of them here. There is also so much bland downtime needlessly running from one side of the map to the other. What makes this tedium even worse is the automatic save system. On the way to the mission it is probably a good idea to collect some items, purchase some new weaponry or a store, and or change outfits to knock out some content on these boring treks from Point A to Point B. But if you die during this mission you are running toward (or run into a game ending glitch), the player painstakingly must repeat these meaningless tasks yet again. Further, the only way to make a decent chunk of money is taking part in the uneventful ship management mini game. From a single map screen, players buy goods and tell ships where to go all from a very basic and inefficient single screen. Then wait a few minutes for these ship icons to reach their destination and repeat. This is probably one of the most boring side missions in Assassin’s Creed history but is necessary if you want to purchase or unlock anything throughout the adventure. But at least you don’t have to pick any locks or blow into a microphone (you know, because doing that is always fun, right?). There is, however, one underwater swimming section in the last half of the game that will make you throw your controller through your TV. It is more painful than the underwater swimming segments in early Tomb Raider games.
Liberation HD can hardly even be considered a completed game. It isn’t as buggy as ACIII, but this is definitely one of the most glitchy games I have played in a long while. Swimming through the air, getting stuck on the environment that requires a full restart, system freeze ups, falling through the environment, weapons locking up, poor enemy and NPC AI, invisible walls, the subtitle option randomly turning off and on, the list goes on and on. And in short, combat is also unresponsive and really just doesn’t make any sense. If it wasn’t for the one-hit kill whip combo spam move I discovered, I would have stopped playing this game early on simply because of the frustrating combat. The mission structure basically allows for a single way to play and if you mess up, you just keep restarting until you do it right; again, this is a lesson in repetition. And not that the multiplayer component in the Assassin Creed games were really that fun anyway, but this HD version of Liberation is strictly a single player experience.
Even though Aveline is a cool character, the game she is placed in is not. The disarray of programming code and poor design choices are mind blowing considering so many people worked on this title (the end credits probably take about 20 minutes to scroll through) and has apparently gone through the “HD” treatment (not to be confused with “let’s fix all the bugs and add some polish treatment”). It nice to see some new ideas become implemented into this long running series but none of them work out for the better or make the game more entertaining. It only costs $20 for this digital download but longtime fans are the really the only players that will get anything out of this slapped together adventure in the bayou.
Not As Good As: Assassin’s Creed II
Wash Out the Taste With: Prince of Persia
Also Try: The Adventures of Bayou Billy (NES)
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com