For what could have been the series' most interesting character, Aveline de Grandpre deserved a far better game.

User Rating: 6 | Assassin's Creed III: Liberation VITA
DISCLAIMER: No amount of time has been spent exploring the multiplayer aspects of the game, and as such, this review is representative of the single-player game only.

The Assassin's Creed games have been going on for just a little over five years now, and they have always had male characters for the leads. To be fair, the past three years have been occupied by Ezio Auditore da Firenze, but male leads nonetheless. For the first time in franchise history, Ubisoft introduces a female protagonist who goes by the lovely name of Aveline de Grandpre in Assassin's Creed III: Liberation for the PS Vita. Ubisoft has unfortunately done little to get you to care.

Assassin's Creed III: Liberation is set in the mid 1770s, where a young New Orleans is still being formed. While Connor's busy defending America from the British on the East Coast, female assassin Aveline de Grandpre is fighting her own fight with the the French and Spanish. Liberation wastes no time by letting you get to know Aveline and her story before rushing you in as a fully armed assassin taking care of business. All that is known about Aveline is that she's a daughter of a rich man and a slave, who has since been freed but has never met her. It's a shame that the game doesn't spend more time on Aveline's backstory, because her character's surface suggest a rich history.

The game opens with Aveline as a young girl chasing a chicken around the city of New Orleans, but before you know it, you're instantly whisked away to a fully grown woman in full assassin garb. This rapid pace is upheld throughout the entire game and many times, you're left wondering what you just did in one mission while immediately moving on to the next. Liberation's rendition of New Orleans, while beautiful, is very small and not filled with many interesting things to do outside of story missions. The game's equivalent of AC III's Frontier is the Bayou and while it's also beautiful and more fun to navigate through, it also suffers from being too sparse with other activities.

The game does contain some interesting gameplay mechanics, one of which is personas. Aveline can change into one of three disguises: the Lady, the Slave and of course, the Assassin. Each persona has their own abilities and ways of dealing with notoriety. The Lady is unable to run and climb and is ill-equipped for combat, but can charm gentlemen into following her and gains notoriety very slowly. The Slave can carry just about every weapon while being able to blend in with other slaves and carry cargo past checkpoints into prohibited areas. The Assassin always has at least one level of notoriety, but is completely decked out with combat gear and can use the Chain-Kill ability. When the Chain-Kill meter is full, a quick tap of the d-pad freezes time, and then it's a matter of touching which targets you want to instantly kill and off she goes.

The problem with these personas is that the game tends to trap you in them until you finish a certain number of main missions. This can be rather irksome when all you want to do is explore the city but can't, since you're dressed as the Lady and are unable to scale buildings. The Assassin's constant level of notoriety can also be distracting to the point of annoying, and there's no way to lower notoriety in the Bayou. The game does make good use of these personas during mission objectives, however, but it would have been nice to be able to change whenever you wanted to.

Liberation's mission variety is pretty decent, as you'll be setting up roadblocks to ambush enemies, attend balls and lure your target away to a secluded corner, use poison darts to make guards believe they're under the effects of a voodoo curse and more. There are a bit too many trailing missions, though, and you're left wanting the same number of great missions that Connor's game had. Speaking of Connor, there is a mission where you go to New York and the two of you infiltrate a fort together, but it's over in such a blink of an eye, it might as well not have happened at all.

Combat works about the same as its console counterparts, but countering doesn't work nearly as well. Too often, pressing O to counter simply doesn't work, as if the game's running too slow to be able to break Aveline out of her current attack animation to save herself. Instead, you may resort to cheap tactics of using the whip to yank guards off their feet instead of countering and disarming them. Plus, the fluidity of attacking is broken up too frequently, as Aveline may end up doing the same swiping animation instead of simply finishing off the enemy like you want her to. Her arsenal is rather basic as well, although she does use a blow dart to make enemies go berserk and attack other people, and a hidden blowgun in her Lady's parasol can be amusing.

The Assassin's Creed games have seen better economy systems than the one in Liberation. De Granpre is the owner of a shipping company, and you visit her accounting books in the Assassin's HQ to manage it, but it's such a cumbersome mess, it makes the convoy system in Assassin's Creed III seem well-thought out. The menus have you going back and forth like a yo-yo and you have to manually sell your cargo when your ships dock at new ports. This means you're constantly heading back to pick up your money, and there's no remote way to manage your ships. Plus, shipping doesn't become profitable until way late in the game and by then, Liberation is pretty much over before you even earn enough money to buy all the upgrades.

Liberation contains a large number of faults outside of its narrative never living up to its potential. The game's far glitchier than the Wii U's Assassin's Creed III, which was the glitchiest of the console versions. Glitches range from treasure chest icons forever staying on the map to enemies attacking you for no reason to being stuck on objects to a very weird glitch that has Aveline sliding across the street after an accidental attempt to climb a post has gone wrong. There's was even at one point a glitch that corrupted save game data. The Assassin's Creed franchise has always been bug-riddled, but to continue to see this many glitches is both frustrating and depressing.

If the glitches aren't ruining the mood, the Vita-specific hardware features are. There are side quests where Aveline loots treasure chests and finds letters that contain hidden maps. In order to reveal these maps, you have to hold the Vita to a bright light source and rotate the Vita around to see some supposed clue that never reveals itself. You'll soon figure out that you don't need the light source and can just rotate the Vita until the puzzle's finished. There's also a puzzle that rests at the bottom of one of the game's two beautiful cenote exploration segments that has you tilting the Vita like a labyrinth, but it works extremely poorly. You also use the rear touch pad to pickpocket by rubbing it slowly back and forth, but it fails more than it should. Plus, the game has a tendency to constantly lose your target lock, making pickpocketting more trouble than its worth.

Graphically, Liberation is pretty impressive as it manages to pack almost as much detail into a handheld game as its console counterparts. The modeling and textures of the characters are well-done and the animations are fluid, although not entirely on the same level. The art direction is fantastic, as the environments are beautiful. The underground cenote levels are where the game showcases its best scenery, but unfortunately those moments are far too few. The Vita begins to bog down some when there's a bit of action going on, because frequent frame-rate stutters are noticeable. Graphical glitches also abound from clipping to getting stuck in walls, and seeing Aveline unable to climb up something as small as a couple of steps is a visual disconnect.

It fares less well in the audio realm, as the sound design is just broken. When the sound effects work, they sound nice from the authentic firings of muskets to the brutal cleaving sounds of sugarcane machetes being dug into the necks of guards. There are sound effects, though, that are simply missing such as the crack of the whip when Aveline swings her away across a gap, and there's an annoying sawing effect that stays with you for a couple of sequences. The music's OK, but the franchise has been exposed to far better compositions. Ther music's also always on, which interferes with the ambient noise of city life. The voice acting is the audio's best feature as Aveline de Grandpre sounds enchanting, although the rest of the cast may not be as exemplary as other Assassin's Creed games.

Assassin's Creed III: Liberation wants to deliver a console-quality experience but is too afraid to liberate itself from what's expected of a handheld game, which is a nagging problem the Vita's been experiencing since its release. Liberation contains enough AC staples that fans of the series will enjoy playing it, but its hurried pacing and lack of noteworthy side content keeps it from being as interesting as it could be. Aveline de Grandpre was just begging to be known, but her chapter ends too quickly for that to ever happen.