In Sony’s booth at New York Comic Con 2012, I had a short hands-on with the PlayStation Vita’s exclusive Assassin's Creed title, Assassin's Creed III: Liberation. Even though I only had a short time with it, I noticed some good signs and some bad signs of how the game will play in its final form.
The demo started with this game’s assassin, Aveline de Grandpré, and a guide canoeing through a dense swamp. What should have been a simple task of rowing behind the guide was made complicated and frustrating with the use of the rear touch pad. In order to speed up the canoe, I had to swipe my finger along the rear track pad while moving with the joystick. While I could use a button to move the canoe forward, it did not move very fast. Having to swipe my finger continuously eventually wore on me, especially since it took too long with little conflict. As soon as both characters hit land and was given a briefing of the next mission, a massive alligator appeared in front of me without any warning. Within seconds, the large reptile attacked me, and I encountered a quick-time-event to dodge its jaws. After messing up once, I finally killed the beast. And then I stole its eggs. That’s right: in Assassin's Creed III: Liberation you get to assassinate a large alligator and steal its eggs.
Once I was done pillaging the eggs, red markers appeared all over the play area. Each of these markers represented a different thug for me to assassinate. Holding the right trigger, I raced toward the encampment, leaping from moss-covered tree branch to tree branch. Leaping around was effortless and seamless in a way that would make the series proud. After some tree acrobatics, I eventually snuck behind one thug high up in the encampment. Despite sneaking behind him, I was not given a prompt to kill him, so I ended up trying to push him off the ledge. This failed to work, and he slowly turned to face me. The thug did not seem all too threatening as he moved around, giving me ample time to strike him down. Hopefully not all of the game’s AI acts like this. Finally, I moved myself through the trees over to the masts of a broken ship. Seeing another thug on-board I decided to move into position to dive him, only for Aveline to dive into the water instead, where I stopped playing.
The graphics looked great as would be expected on the PS Vita. The characters closely resembled console counterparts, and the environment looked murky and full of plant life. While the game’s animation looked smooth and natural, the game suffered from an inconsistent poor frame rate, choking up with any detailed character movements. This is a shame since the game has great graphics that would have benefited with smoother animations. While I did not encounter a group of thugs together, I am worried that the frame rate issue would have made any large encounter drag the gameplay down.
The game looks like a proper Assassin's Creed title and is filled with the advanced climbing system that fits its newest entries. However, the use of the rear track pad felt out of place, and the frame rate issue may hurt one’s experience with the game overall. Liberation has a high bar to reach if it intends to stand next to other Assassin's Creed titles, especially with III coming out so close to it, but we will have to see if it can.