Hands-on with Assassin's Creed III: Liberation for PS Vita

Liberated from the television set

Hands-on with Assassin's Creed III: Liberation for PS Vita

The most interesting thing we've seen about Assassin's Creed III: Liberation so far is its story.

Set against the backdrop of the Louisiana bayou and a fledgling New Orleans in the latter half of the 18th century, this rarely visited location (in video games at least) is the stage on which one young African-French woman - Aveline de Grandpré - stalks her victims.

That's right - video games have finally decided to feature a non-sexualised, non-stereotyped black woman in a lead role.

Unfortunately, from what we saw in our brief hands-on this is the only breakthrough the game achieves.

asscreedprev1 Heritage

The title is looking detailed but choppy. The frame-rate was low as Aveline stalked through the lush middle-American swamps, and the Vita quite clearly struggled with the otherwise beautiful detail.

The frame-rate remains constant, but it's disappointing to see the most powerful handheld on the planet unable to cope with the world in which you inhabit.

In the bayou stage, you can use the rear touch-panel to paddle a boat while you discuss with a local the prevailing political and social climate. However, it's fiddly to use and you'll likely revert back to the standard button-based controls, which work much better.

At one point in this dark and dangerous land you rather abruptly encounter a crocodile, at which point you enter a QTE mini-game and begin wrestling with it. It's simple fare, but provides a break from the Assassin's Creed norm.

And other than these minor novelties it's business as usual for the franchise. If you've ever played a home console outing, or even PSP Assassin's Creed outing Bloodlines, you know what to expect. You're given a target to assassinate, you find said target while staying hidden, then leap from the shadows to put an end to his diabolical plans.

Controls feel responsive and Aveline is as agile as an Altair or Ezio, but the move from cities to natural or sparse urban environments makes her every move a little more challenging. There are fewer corners to hide behind, so running up into trees and over rooftops proves the safest way to murder government officials undetected.

The all important climbing mechanics are rock solid, but - again - the visual downgrade from home consoles makes for blurrier edges and less defined colour separation, meaning that some handholds are really tricky to spot.

asscreedprev2 Where did everybody go?

The PSP's Assassin's Creed never really managed to get across the hustle and bustle of crowded Middle Eastern cities, but with this outing there's extra processing power in the Vita to help render a slightly more full world than the previous attempt.

Of course, it also helps that the locations just naturally aren't that crammed with people, meaning that Liberation stands a better chance of doing justice to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 series title of which it's a spin-off.

Assassin's Creed III: Liberation isn't as structurally bold as its forebears, nor as attractive, but it plays well and it has the potential to tell a strong story. That should be enough to satisfy fans of the series.

Just don't expect a revolution - or even a Revelations.

Assassin's Creed III: Liberation due to launch on October 31st. Check back with Pocket Gamer around then for the full review.
Peter Willington
Peter Willington
Die hard Suda 51 fan and professed Cherry Coke addict, freelancer Peter Willington was initially set for a career in showbiz, training for half a decade to walk the boards. Realising that there's no money in acting, he decided instead to make his fortune in writing about video games. Peter never learns from his mistakes.