Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation – Review (Vita)

Liberation has long been hyped as one of the ‘saviours’ of Playstation Vita (the others being Call Of Duty: Black Ops Declassified and Persona 4: The Golden). Offering a scaled down Assassin’s Creed experience to better suit the handheld style of play, does it do enough to shine?

The good news is that Liberation is a very solid game. Telling the story of Aveline de Grandpré, an assassin in New Orleans in 1765, it sees the series take on a female main character for the first time. Aveline is modelled really well and has some really great animation – especially her fluid movement through trees, which mirrors Connor’s animation in the full PS3 Assassin’s Creed III.

I found the story of Liberation to be pretty engrossing for the most part and Aveline as a character was fun to control. The game uses a new idea in terms of disguise – you have three different ‘personas’ available as you play, each with individual abilities.

The ‘Lady’ will not attract much attention from guards and can also charm characters into talking to her/following her. However she can’t climb. The ‘Assassin’ has the normal abilities of an assassin and will raise attention in guards very quickly. And the ‘Slave’ persona allows Aveline to blend into crowds of the poor and also pass for a servant/slave to gain access to restricted areas.

This gives you a fair bit of freedom to approach missions in different ways (although certain missions require you to use a specific outfit) and another thing I really enjoyed about Liberation was that it brought back a more stealthy element of play.

Unfortunately you still have your usual open world glitches, such as people spawning into the game in front of you, characters stuck on geometry and just random odd things. This isn’t limited to Liberation of course, lots of open world titles suffer similar issues and actually the game does have a small get out clause in that Liberation is a game created by Asbergo (the fictional bad guy company from the Assassin’s Creed series). Yes, you’re playing a game within a game 😮 Very Inception isn’t it? 😆

The touch controls are fairly intuitive, you open letters that Aveline finds by running your finger and thumb across the front/back of the Vita touch screen/pad together. Once you kill a few enemies you can activate ‘Chain Kill’ which pauses the action and lets you highlight enemies by touching them – Aveline will then despatch them in turn. Sadly my Vita bugbear returns… ‘Hold the Vita to a bright light source to see the note/letter.’ This should always be optional in my opinion, not very convenient when on the train or in the office 😦

There is also a little bit of cross-over with the PS3 version if you link your Vita to Assassin’s Creed III on PS3. You get a playable mission as Connor and unlock his Tomahawk, along with a few other bits.

Overall Liberation is a good, fun experience. It’s certainly one of the better Vita games out there at the moment and if you like Assassin’s Creed it’s well worth checking out. I won’t know for sure until I finish Assassin’s Creed III (I’m halfway through) but at this stage I prefer Liberation to Assassin’s Creed III, which is pretty surprising and speaks to the quality of the Vita game.

Rating: 8/10

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Dishonored – Review (PS3)

Dishonored puts you in the shoes of Corvo Attano – Royal Protector (Bodyguard) of Empress Jessamine Kaldwin. You arrive back from a trip abroad investigating potential cures for the plague that is ravaging your city, only to find yourself framed for the murder of the Empress and thrown in jail.

As you escape, try to clear your name and find Emily, the Empress’ daughter, you’ll take on the role of assassin rather than protector. Corvo receives a boost of supernatural proportions which allows you to unlock various powers, such as freezing time, teleporting or possessing enemies.

Sadly this array of powers leads to one of the more confusing aspects of the game design – the second ‘tier’ of these powers is so steep in cost that if you choose to back one power you will miss out on lots of the others. So you’ll need to make that choice early on or spend an extended amount of time during the game to find the runes scattered about the level.

I understand wanting to keep a reign on the player’s power so they don’t just get everything too early in the game but I felt disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to try out some of the powers at all because of my choice of levelling up one power. I do see that they don’t want it to be too easy but I genuinely feel all the powers at the lowest level should have been unlocked during the story playthrough.

My gripe with power design aside, Dishonored is pretty good fun. Depending on the powers available to you and your approach to the missions (in terms of where/how you get into buildings/areas etc) you can have some varied playthroughs. Add to that the numerous ways you can kill characters (or non-lethally complete the missions) and the chances are you and your friends will have all completed the same mission in a different way.

The game also features a morality meter of sorts in it’s ‘Chaos’ system. The more people you kill, the higher the Chaos rating per mission. This accumulates over missions and eventually contributes to which of the three game endings you’ll get. However it should be noted that Dishonored’s endings are more in line with Bioshock 2’s subtlety different endings as opposed to something with drastic changes likes Heavy Rain.

While the game has a strong graphical style I actually wasn’t overly impressed with the visuals themselves. Some of the water effects didn’t look that great and on occasion the game just didn’t look as sharp as I would’ve expected. The style of the game is a positive though, despite those graphical issues.

Dishonored looked like being one of the freshest, inventive games of the year – unfortunately the design choice of not allowing you to unlock more on your first playthrough hinders things somewhat. It’s a good, solid, rewarding experience but I was just left feeling it could have been so much more.

Rating: 7/10

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Borderlands 2 – Review (PS3)

I really enjoyed the first Borderlands but I think even it’s biggest fans would admit it had some issues. The enemy AI wasn’t great and it took a *long* time for the game to get going. Quite frankly the less said about the ending the better but as a whole the title was good solid fun and it sold a huge amount of copies.

So Gearbox Software greenlit a sequel, with the blueprint (based on the trailers) seemingly being bigger, funnier, crazier and just generally better.

Rather than directly continuing the stories of Brick, Lillith, Roland and Mordecai from the original game, Borderlands 2 uses those characters as non-playable ‘mission-givers’ which grants it a nice feeling of familiarity to anyone who played the previous Borderlands title.

This time out you’ll have a choice of Salvador (Gunzerker), Zer0 (Assassin), Maya (Siren) or Axton (Commando). In addition to the four characters that come with the game a fifth, Gaige (Mecromancer), was added as DLC if you want to try something different.

Each of the characters brings something different to the playing field and mixing in the variables for shields/weapons/relics etc means that it’s unlikely two people, even playing the same class, will have similar characters.

The story isn’t the best narrative experience out there but it’s funny, well written and does the job it needs to… giving you a reason to travel to different places, kill stuff and pick up loot.

The game was built for co-op (up to 4 players) and when you get a few of your friends online to blast through some missions, Borderlands 2 is in it’s element. You’ll get to see your friend’s true colours as well – though it’s not like anyone would stop reviving a fallen colleague to grab some more loot, would they @jtdangerman? 😆

Borderlands 2 can definitely be played on your own but for the full experience get some friends together and explore Pandora to your hearts content.

The environments are more varied than the first game and you are thrown into the deep end pretty much from the off here, which is a good thing.

Borderlands 2’s cartoon aesthetic and larger than life characters give the game a unique and very fun feel. The player characters and AI are well balanced and the game is really solid. I encountered only two problems (one technical – stuck under the map and one map design – we had no idea where to go next) during my entire 25+ hours with the game. For a game of this size that is fairly impressive.

I can’t recommend Borderlands 2 enough – Gearbox have improved on the original in almost every way and have delivered a fantastic open world first person shooter. Now, where’s that DLC *downloads*.

Rating: 10/10

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