This game holds a special place in my heart. It really does. Not because it’s a standout piece of media that will be looked back on in decades to come, but because it was one of the first times in my life I managed to get a game before the expected release date.
I was living in France at the time in the small town of Chambéry. I walked into the local Fnac store and there it was, in all of its glory: Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation for the PS Vita. At the time I only had a PS Vita to hand as I was living in a hotel apartment suite, so this game was an absolute treasure. A fully featured Assassin’s Creed game that I could jump into anytime and anywhere. More crucially, I didn’t have to buy a TV and console. But there it was. A full… day early. It was a long time ago and Pure PlayStation was not yet founded. It was a big deal for me…
And so, almost seven years, I’m back on the dirty streets of New Orleans. Things are a little different this time around, though it’s mostly the same. The big differences come in the graphical upgrades over the original Vita release. The resolution has been bumped up to take advantage of the newer machines, as well as their mid-gen refreshes. However, don’t go into Liberation Remastered expecting a graphical tour-de-force. In fact, it looks quite poor when compared to Assassin’s Creed III Remastered running on the same machines.
The increase in resolution is welcome, as are the general improvements to the game’s performance. Frame rates were never consistent on the PS Vita version of Liberation, but this time around things are a lot better. Heck, it’s even better than the mainline Assassin’s Creed III Remastered in that department. Where it lacks is in the general presentation. This is really noticeable early on in the game’s cutscenes. Character models look distinctly last-gen with plenty of blocky limbs and sharp heads hammering home the reminder that this was originally a handheld showpiece. Still, it’s good enough and I’ve had a blast playing through Aveline’s adventures, regardless of the odd frame drop here and there and the sometimes crummy-looking world. It is what it is, but it’s no Nathan Drake Collection remaster.
So, technical stuff aside, is this side-story worth a play? Yes! Why is this even a question? It is without a doubt one of the finer Assassin’s Creed stories and it’s lead by one of the best protagonists in the franchise. Aveline is fiery, cold, suave, and brass, all in one deadly package. Watching her interact with her allies, victims, and everyone in between is a joy and, despite having played the game several times, I’m still not tempted to reach for the ‘skip’ button once a cinematic starts rolling.
Much like Assassin’s Creed III Remastered, Liberation Remastered does feel like a step back when compared to the newer releases. And that’s because it literally is. It’s a seven-year old game at this point and you’d do well to remember that. That’s not to say it’s not a decent game, it just depends where you stand on how the series has progressed since the game’s original release. Personally, I’m a big fan of the tight story that is told over a dozen-or-so hours. I like the simple combat that allows me to slay a gang with a few button presses. I like having a city to explore, memorise, and then use to my advantage when the going gets tough. So for me, this is brilliant. There are no RPG systems, level-gating, or useless side-quests. If you’re on my side of the fence (the good side) then you’ll enjoy what Liberation Remastered has to offer. If not, then you’re S.O.L. and a fool. Sorry.
Aveline makes for an interesting character choice in Liberation. She’s the first black protagonist for the series and the first female playable character. To some that matters, to me, it doesn’t. All I care is that she is written and acted brilliantly and her story is one worth investing in.
The game starts off with a flashback that is later revealed to be a nightmare, but it helps set up the story. You play as a young Aveline looking for her mother on the city streets. You’re quickly introduced to a few of the game’s mechanics, such as running, avoiding enemies, and environmental maneuvers (ducking under a clothes line, for example.) Then you get a quick taste of action before the game pulls back and we’re left watching an alarmed Aveline wake from her nightmare. From here, it’s pure Assassin’s Creed. Aveline sneaks out of the family home she shares with her father and step-mother (she didn’t find her mum as a kid) and gets to work. The city is open to explore from this point onwards but the game does make it clear that you’ve got tasks to complete.
A feature that was new at the time of the game’s original release was the ability to don different disguises. Aveline can pop into a dressing chamber and change into one of three disguises. Each one comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and each is used at least a few times during the course of play. If you want to sweep up all the achievements Liberation has to offer, you’ll be in and out of these chambers a lot…
The Assassin outfit is Aveline’s default for her assassin work, so naturally she can parkour and go toe-to-toe with the game’s baddies. However, naughty actions will result in wanted posters being plastered around, though they can be removed to reduce the heat.
The slave outfit plays a few crucial roles during the story as it’s needed to get into places and be seen doing things that you wouldn’t expect from anyone else in society. Dressed as a slave Aveline can still fight and run, but she’s also more likely to be picked on by the bullies that litter the docks and alleys.
And finally, the lady outfit. This one’s a little more annoying than it needs to be. Aveline will dress as a lady of luxury, but in doing so she is severely limited in what she can do. You’ll not be able to fight at full capacity and you can forget running away and crawling up the sides of buildings. She can swoon guards, though, and that itself has its uses. This way by far my least favourite outfit as it reduces mobility and just makes everything feel so damn slow.
Combat, as I say, is simple. It’s pretty much mirroring what’s available in Assassin’s Creed III, though Aveline does have her own moves and fighting style, and some of the weapons she can yield are truly nasty pieces of killer cutlery. It’s an easy ride, honestly, and the only way to fail in combat is through clumsy bad-timing or taking too many pot-shots from a rogue sniper. I never really struggled with the combat and I really enjoyed it, especially now that the frame rate doesn’t take a tumble when you’re fighting more than a couple of victims.
As with other Assassin’s Creed games of the era, Liberation has plenty to do outside of the main story. You’ve got the city of New Orleans to explore and collectables to snap up. You’ve got upgrades to acquire. You’ve even got the Bayou swamps at your feet if you fancy taking on a few alligators and then stealing their eggs. There was also a multiplayer mode in the original release, though it’s nowhere to be found in this remaster. It’s not that big of a deal, really, as it wasn’t all that engaging anyway. Still, I know it had its fans so it’s a shame to see it got left on the cutting room floor.
As expected, there are a few differences between this home console remaster and the original Vita release. The Vita version made use of the console’s touchscreen and camera – something not possible on the PS4. Such missions have either been altered, reduced to a quick cutscene, or scrapped altogether. It’s not the end of the world and you’re not losing anything, but if you were wondering how they got around the limitations, this is how they did.
I’ve still got a lot to do before I’m truly finished with Liberation, but considering that it’s a fairly small game (by Assassin’s Creed standards) and the story is complete, I’m happy to know that I’ll have this one finished with less than 24 hours of play. Elsewhere, my Odyssey save is running in 70 hours and I’m nowhere near done. Pick your poison.
Assassin's Creed Liberation Remastered PS4 Review
- Overall - Fantastic - 8/108/10
Assassin's Creed Liberation is a fantastic game that is, unfortunately, a little underwhelming when it comes to the visuals. Graphics aside, the rest of the game is a top-notch experience for those yearning for an old-school Assassin's Creed adventure.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game bought at the expense of the reviewer. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro, Xbox One X