Assassin's Creed Liberation HD Review

Another year, another Assassin's Creed game. For a series that's threatened to grow stale every November for the past three years, it's a gutsy move for Ubisoft to release Liberation HD just two months after Black Flag hit next-gen and PC. An updated version of the Vita title, which came complete with its own set of gameplay gimmicks, Liberation HD is more than just a prettier iteration of the same game. But after five years of annualized Assassin's Creed the formula has grown stale, and even at 20 bucks this side story feels like too much, too soon.

Liberation HD stars the first-ever female assassin, a French African-American named Aveline. Fans have latched onto the character since Liberation first released in 2012, and it's not hard to see why. She's a strong, well-written lead with faults and ambitions alike, even if her assassin power does come across as a little stereotypical. A female character whose secret power is to change clothes a lot? Great.

Swapping outfits is meant to be Liberation's defining mechanic, the element that sets it apart from the myriad other AC games and gives it a gameplay identity all its own. And while it does succeed at shaking up the formulaic gameplay that the series has always relied on, it's not in such a way that drastically changes up the formula of the game. You'll still be performing the same sneaking and free-running actions as always, but now certain outfits are required to perform each of these actions. It is, in essence, adding another step to the process instead of rewriting the gameplay loop entirely.

Liberation HD's improved character models

In all fairness, not every game can be Black Flag - a sprawling, vibrant game that turns old series mechanics on their heads. But in a series regurgitated into retail so frequently, why purchase any of the games that don't rewrite the rules? It's a question that Liberation HD never really answers, as its story - while unique - never feels necessary, and its gameplay is rudimentary at best. Aveline truly is the best thing going for this game, and if you're not interested in brushing up on the lore of the Assassins, it just might not be worth it. She's featured in last fall's Black Flag, too, after all.

If you've had your eyes on Liberation for a while now, however, this is certainly the definitive version of the game. Unburdoned by a cramped handheld control scheme and unleashed with fully redone visuals, this release of the game is vastly superior to its predecessor. Visually speaking, the game hasn't just received an HD once-over; most of the in-game models have been redone entirely, and some rooms look completely different, with more furniture and ambient details like paintings being added to make the environments feel more alive. These are subtle changes, and not ones that will impress fans used to playing on consoles or PC, but a side by side comparison with the Vita version puts into perspective just how much environmental work was done in the porting process.

Unfortunately, smart visuals and better controls aren't enough to alleviate the feeling that you've done this all before. With none of the lively ship combat to distract from the same-y parkour and fighting, and a much smaller world than in recent console Assassins' Creeds, Liberation HD feels stifling and dull in comparison.

Assassin's Creed Liberation HD gives gamers exactly what it promises in the title - a prettier version of 2012's Vita game. And while that may be enough for hardcore fans of the series looking to fill in some story gaps, the climbing and combat that form the core of the series have never felt more stale, especially in the shadow of the excellent Black Flag. Wait for a Steam sale, or let this assassin slink quietly past.


Score: 6/10

This game was reviewed on PC

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