As an Assassin's Creed title, Liberation stands tall in its attempt to replicate the console experience. Each location you get the chance to explore feels large and expansive, and you'll never feel like the settings have been shoehorned onto the Vita. The streets of 18th-century New Orleans bustle with activity, the watery Bayou is filled with wildlife and seedy smuggling operations, and even a brief trip to Mexico offers location-specific touches and plenty to see.
While the game's ambition can't be faulted, you'll be reminded that you are in fact playing on a handheld system far too often. Turning down a new street can cause NPCs and objects to suddenly pop into existence, and when the action gets intense, the framerate takes a knife to the throat. Liberation is also a major offender of adding useless, Vita-specific touches that quite simply do not work.
When I say they don't work, I don't just mean that they don't fit into the story, I mean quite literally that they do not work. One particularly egregious offender is a mechanic that demands that you point the Vita at a bright light source in order to read hidden messages on slips of paper. You'll be asked to do this several times throughout the story, and never once does it actually function as intended. Every single time I attempted it, I pointed the system's camera directly at either the sun or a light bulb, and never did the message unlock while doing so. It seems to be completely random, and once it even unlocked on its own while the camera was completely covered and dark. There is quite honestly no excuse for this level of broken functionality in a full retail release.
The touchscreen features - which let you do everything from string together combos to pick pockets - are a mixed bag to say the least. Most of them work most of the time. What it comes down to is that if there's a button assigned to any particular action, you'll want to use it, and if not, do your best not to drop your Vita while fiddling with your fingers.
The included multiplayer mode is also nothing to write home about. If you're expecting a portable version of what past Creed titles have offered - hunting down fellow assassins on crowded streets - you won't find it here. It's simply a stat-juggling game where players work together to control "nodes" around the globe. There is no combat to speak of, and no real action of any kind, aside from comparing your numbers to those of your opponents. When you start the mode you get to choose a faction -either Assassin or Abstergo - and as you can imagine, nobody picks anything but Assassin. The map is completely dominated by red nodes signifying Assassin control, minimizing any real need to play - simply pick Assassin and you're already winning. Yuck.
Bottom Line: It's almost as though Ubisoft wasn't confident enough in Liberation's story and gameplay to let it stand on its own. The result is a game that is fun to play, but in spite of itself. It's an Assassin's Creed game through and through, and fans of the franchise will find the key elements very much intact. But brace yourself to deal with useless gimmicks and a patchwork story that ultimately holds Liberation back from greatness.
Recommendation: If you're into slicing throats, you're going to have a good time, but if you prefer a good story to rivers of blood, you're going to be let down. Liberation just isn't the Vita-seller it could have been.