Should I enjoy Liberation on the Big Screen or Stick with the Vita?
Assassin's Creed Liberation HD Intro:
The Assassin's Creed series of games has been expanding its scope and scale in every successive offering. From the enjoyable if often repetitive world of the original Assassin's Creed to the vast sandbox environment of Black Flag, the series has grown immensely.
Assassin's Creed Liberation, which was released on the Vita was the rare exception to this rule. Due to the limited power of the hardware, Liberation couldn't have the same expansive environments and brilliant graphics. And now, an updated, enhanced version of the same game has been released on the Xbox 360, PS3 and the PC under the name Assassin's Creed Liberation HD.
In places, Liberation HD looks beautiful. When you're roaming the streets of New Orleans, textures and ambient light effects look great. The powerful hardware of the PS3 and the Xbox 360 does much better justice to the story of Liberation's protagonist Aveline. However, the graphics aren't uniformly great. When you look at the textures on the water and the trees, the shortcomings of Liberation HD are quite apparent. When you're spending a lot of time in an open world, the disparity between these two sets of graphical elements is quite off-putting. The same inconsistency is found during the in-game cinematics and story elements. They seem to have been put together abruptly and don't have a flow to them. If this wasn't enough, the writing and voice acting is decidedly average. The story touches on but never fully explores some really interesting themes which combined with the unique setting of the game would have made for a great experience. This is a pity, since Aveline is a great character and her story deserved to be handled better.
The fact that Assassin's Creed Liberation HD is a port is apparent in the gameplay too. While the framerate issues of the Vita version have been taken care of, a lot of the other problems that the original had have made their way to this game. Pathing is still uneven, and NPCs will frequently get lost in the environment while following or chasing you. The fluid movement and free running that is a hallmark of the series is also lost here. You will randomly drop from places that you shouldn't have fallen from, and climb up walls that you didn't want to.
Because of the fact that Liberation HD is already plagued with so many issues, the flaws of the game stick out like a sore thumb. The 'follow an NPC while maintaining a safe distance' series of missions that were uniformly criticized in the original series are numerous here. In addition, there are certain missions where you will fail the instant you are seen. What makes these particular missions so frustrating are that there isn't really any freedom the game affords you for finding your way around them. The developers want you to play them a certain way, and you will have to keep replaying them until you figure out exactly where you have to be at all times. This linearity is a running thread through most of the missions in Liberation HD. As an assassin, you never really feel like you have free reign over picking your own methods to solve a particular problem. In addition, most of the quests are based on simple retrieval or communication. You talk to an NPC on one end of the map, and you go to the other end of the map to talk to or get something from another NPC. Even the combat is repetitive and simple. Most enemies have predictable ticks which gives away when they are going to attack, so you simply have to wait and counter.
The one interesting aspect of the game's mission structure is the parts where you have to don disguises to complete different objectives. You can take up the disguise of a slave, which allows you to blend in with other slaves and carry stuff around. You can also disguise yourself as a high-society woman, which allows you to get a different experience of wandering through the city, since in this disguise you won't be able to fight or do any free running. This allows for a little bit of variety, although the game never fully explores the potential of this interesting idea. In most cases, the disguises end up being restricting, instead of freeing up more possibilities for tackling a given objective.
Assassin's Creed Liberation HD is a poor showcase for an interesting character like Aveline. The character itself is very interesting and it will be fun to see her in a game that is more worthy of her talents. There are simply too many things wrong with this game to recommend it. The graphics are uneven, the combat is simplistic, the missions are uninspired, and even the signature free running system is not implemented properly. This is a game that, unfortunately, isn't worthy of the Assassin's Creed franchise.