Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation review – glitch power leaves girl power nowhere to free-run

Maybe I’m becoming less tolerant – or more intelligent, although I’m not sure how that’s possible… – but the AI in Assassin’s Creed games seems to be worse than ever. It’s bad in the fully fledged PS3 version (read our Assassin’s Creed 3 PS3 review here), and it’s equally embarrassing in this handheld spin-off.

Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation review

Case in point: an early mission tasks you with infiltrating a governor’s office and taking him out via the means of sharp metal to squishy neck flesh. I snuck through a building to the room itself, but overstepped the mark as I entered, alerting his two bodyguards. They rushed over to fight me, shouting and wielding weapons, so I dispatched them with a couple of nifty counter-kills, thinking the governor himself would be coming at me next. But he was just… standing there, gazing out of the window with not a care in the world. And, a few seconds later, with not a pulse in his body. Great fight or flight instinct, doofus.

It’s technical shoddiness like this – combined with a vague and totally uninteresting storyline – that most undermines Liberation. On some levels it’s a more than passable handheld Assassin’s game: visually it stands up reasonably well, even if the traditional synchronisation panoramas are caked in thick fog and items pop up like excitable jack-in-the-boxes, and the controls transpose easily barring the inevitably irritating attempts to shoehorn in the rear touchpad. (Note to devs: I really don’t want to have to ever again use this to sprint/paddle/turn or otherwise control basic movement. Ta.)

It’s the glitches and game-breaking annoyances that most let things down: an assassinated guard floating in mid-air breaks immersion somewhat, as does the next section of a mission repeatedly refusing to kick in for no good reason. Equally lamentable are the companion sections: never is it more important for your allies to act intelligently than in a stealth game, but seeing one fling themselves from a treetop and blow your cover makes you want to introduce your Vita to the underside of your shoe. Repeatedly.

Assassin's Creed 3 liberation screensThere’s also the not-insignificant issue of the plot. Aveline De Grandpé is our heroine here, and the opening scenes sort of make it clear that she’s the daughter of a freed slave who gets taken in by a wealthy family when… something happens to her mother. Beyond that she, her motivations and – for the most part – what the hell’s going on in her New Orleans surroundings are all a mystery, kept opaque by confusing mission objectives and a truly terrible script.

The game’s key point of differentiation – clothing Aveline in different outfits, each with specific abilities – is nothing more than window dressing, and ultimately irksome window dressing at that, as you’re consistently restricted by whichever guise you’re wearing.

This is a passable representation of an Assassin’s Creed game for Vita – the sneaking, stabbing, free-running and hay-bale hiding are all present and largely correct, and the open world is reasonably well-realised (and arguably more interesting architecturally than its big brother). Unfortunately, as these are bogged down in a bayou’s worth of flaws and irritations, they very rarely rise to the surface. Joel Gregory

Our Score

Score: 5