In fact, Assassin's Creed 3: Liberation pushes stealth even further by introducing a new feature, Personas, where Aveline can swap between three sets of clothes with corresponding skills. In her normal assassin gear she’s faster and more deadly in combat, but when dressed as a slave she can merge in with real slaves by carrying boxes or sweeping the yard, while still having a reasonable balance of acrobatic and combat abilities. In lady guise these mostly disappear, and Aveline is unable to climb or jump altogether, but to compensate she can wander around many areas with impunity, and use a charm skill to get guards to move aside or even tag along, calf-like, behind her.
At some points the game insists that you adopt a specific guise, but in many situations you can pick your own guise and approach. The lady persona might not be ideal for fast escapes or full-on combat, but if you want to infiltrate an urban area and sneak up on your quarry from behind, then it provides a different way of doing so. As the slave you're weaker than you are as an assassin, but there’s scope to blend stealth with violence as matters demand.
All of this, in tandem with some nicely designed missions, interesting characters and atmospheric settings make Assassin's Creed 3: Liberation a lot of fun to play, and in some ways the overall feel is closer to Assassin’s Creed 2 and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood than the slightly more po-faced Assassin’s Creed 3. The Vita game’s biggest problem is that it doesn’t have quite the same depth. There are fewer side-missions and optional activities than in the console games, and while there’s a simple trading mini-game and some collectibles, they’re not really compelling enough to distract you from the still nice and lengthy main plot.
It’s also a shame that one of the game’s most interesting ideas – that the Animus simulation is being hacked to show you the truth – feels relatively underexplored. And where Connor’s plotline grows more interesting as the game progresses, Aveline’s becomes a bit predictable, and doesn’t have the historical interest of, say, Ezio’s saga. It’s a decent enough tale, but you can’t help feeling that a heroine this likable deserves better.
Perhaps the biggest irritation is that USP Sony PS Vita features are occasionally and needlessly shoehorned in. Using touch to target or select weapons works reasonably well, but having to use the front and rear panels to open envelopes or the rear-camera to decipher secret messages is just annoying. You can use a canoe to move more quickly round the swamplands of the Bayou, but the touch controls make doing so so exasperating that you rapidly forget the whole idea. Meanwhile, the console Creeds’ impressive multiplayer features have been replaced for a baffling asynchronous strategy game that’s barely explained and almost totally uninvolving.
All of these factors mar Assassin's Creed 3: Liberation slightly, but they don’t change the fact that this is still Assassin’s Creed, and still a very entertaining historical thriller in its own right. It can’t match the epic scope of Connor’s world, but there’s still plenty to explore in New Orleans and the Bayou, and you’re rarely left feeling that you’re playing a cut-down imitation of the real console deal. Stop trying to compare it to the Xbox 360 and PS3 games, and it’s easy to become as absorbed in Liberation as you would have been in them.
Assassin’s Creed’s PS Vita debut has its faults, from minor technical issues to a shallower range of gameplay. None of these detract from the fact that it looks, feels and plays like an Assassin’s Creed should, with a great heroine, some atmospheric settings and a few interesting tweaks to the gameplay. It’s not quite good enough to sell systems, but if you’re a fan of the series and in possession of a Vita, then it’s an easy game to recommend.