When Liberation was released on the PlayStation Vita, I heartily enjoyed the opportunity to play Assassin's Creed on the go. Aveline was a great addition to the franchise, and it showed that Ubisoft could actually handle a heroine with grace.
It wasn't a flawless experience however, as it had a number of frame-rate issues among a few other technical hiccups, mostly due to the fact that it was crammed onto a portable. Here we are over a year later with the HD port, and although some of the problems confusingly remain, the overall package is a much stronger effort.
In other words, you could say the original has become...liberated.
Assassin's Creed Liberation HD (PC, PS3, Xbox 360 [tested])
Developer: Ubisoft Sofia
Released: August 14, 2013 (PS3) / August 15, 2013 (PC, Xbox 360)
MSRP: $19.99 ($14.99 if you own the Assassin's Creed IV Season Pass)
Barring an odd filter in the opening sequence of the game (that really had me worried), Liberation HD looks considerably better than it did on the Vita. It's brighter, bolder, the draw distance is farther, and most importantly -- the frame rate is a lot smoother. The same goes for the game's remastered sound quality, which is great when coupled with a good home audio setup. Basically, I saw and heard more than I ever did before, which is ultimately the goal of an HD port.
It feels like you're truly playing a companion to a fully-featured Assassin's Creed in every way, rather than a portable compressed version of the game -- at least, on a technical level. Aveline can basically do everything her predecessors could, and although the game doesn't implement the superior Black Flag-style combat system (it's basically Connor's fighting style from III), this still gets the job done. I didn't have any issues getting Aveline to climb, dash, or jump her way to any structure I could find, which is how an Assassin's Creed game should always feel.
Having said that, Liberation HD is still not on par with the newest iteration of the series, and it's less impressive than Black Flag in nearly every way. This is not only due to the less inspired world design, but the limitations of the port. Strangely, some of the same pop-in issues that occurred on the Vita happen right here in HD. It's not game-breaking, but it's peculiar given how much effort otherwise went into this version.
There are also a few other minor issues, like the inability to skip cutscenes, which can be a bother for players who have already beaten the game on Vita. The missions are also much shorter on average than most games in the series, lending itself to the bite-sized nature of its portable roots. I'm mentioning this in particular because Liberation HD is essentially the same exact game, with a few minor changes -- mostly good ones.
For instance, I noticed that one of the earlier missions has been considerably streamlined for the better. Previously, players were tasked with locating a slave who was locked up in a warehouse, then slowly lead them back by way of an escort mission. In Liberation HD, after locating the missing person you simply teleport back to the destination, and a cutscene ensues. This happens a few more times throughout the story, and the change is most likely due to direct player feedback from the Vita version. There are also a few shifted missions and added inconsequential side missions to help improve the flow of the game.
Another shake-up is the lack of any touchscreen minigames. I didn't find them to be too frustrating, but a lot of others found them absolutely maddening when the Vita's rear touchscreen refused to cooperate. Now, you don't have to deal with them at all, and I find that to be a vastly preferable option.
It's also interesting that the new "HD" naming convention strays from the Assassin's Creed III subtitle it had on Vita. Connor does show up and make an appearance, but this is Aveline's tale through and through, and I hope this remake shows that Ubisoft isn't done with her. After playing so much of the Vita game it's weird to see Aveline on the big screen so to speak, but I'm glad she has an even bigger chance to shine. Now Assassin's Creed fans who don't own a Vita have a chance to enjoy her tale, and that's easily a good thing, blemishes and all.
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