'Assassin's Creed 3: Liberation' is a handheld spin-off worth watching

A true Assassin's Creed game on the go? Check please.

If you own a PlayStation Vita, you were probably hoping that E3 2012 would be a boon for your handheld, with a wide-ranging list of dozens of games arriving this year. A good sign that you were going to be disappointed: Even Sony spent hardly any time talking about the Vita during its press conference, and they made the damn thing!

While the 2012 first-party line-up for the Vita is pretty bleak for those that don't like LittleBigPlanet, one third-party publisher seems to be putting a little more effort behind the system. Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed 3: Liberation was unquestionably one of the most promising Vita titles we saw on the show floor this year.

The game begins in 1765 and will extend through the revolution to 1780, with a focus on the French and Indian War. Unlike Assassin's Creed 3, which launches on the same day, Liberation will take place solely in New Orleans and the surrounding bayou. The Vita title also features a new protagonist, one Aveline de Grandpré, who will act as the first female lead in an Assassin's Creed game.

Because of the handheld nature of the Vita, the developers at Ubisoft Sofia are designing the missions in Liberation to be a bit shorter than you'd normally see. That said, the activities in these missions seem right on par with full console releases, ranging from hijacking horse-drawn carriages to silently taking out would-be templars. That console-style gameplay is consistent throughout, even when you're not in the middle of a mission. The free-running, stealth and assassination aspects of Assassin's Creed make the transition with flying colors, as does the open, fully explorable city and countryside.

Visually the game looks to be a slight step down from AC3, but not markedly so. The city of New Orleans still manages to stretch out from all directions when you climb to the top of a high tower, and the level of character detail is pretty evident in the screenshot above.

Ubisoft Sofia may not be a known-name at present, but the team has already proven they have handheld chops with the excellent Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars on 3DS. Here's hoping they can pull the same rabbit out of the Vita when Assassin's Creed 3: Liberation drops on October 30 of this year.

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