Tag Archives: Playstation Vita

Uncharted: Golden Abyss (2011) Video Game Review

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We’re nearing an end here people…This is the second last Uncharted game that I’ll be covering for a while.  After this, it will be Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and when Uncharted: The Lost Legacy becomes available…well, you know the gist of it.

Released about a month or 2 after Uncharted 3 came out on the PS3, The Golden Abyss was 1 of the first games for the Playstation Vita, and 1 that stood out for utilising the Vita’s unique controls.  What’s our story?  Well, it’s a prequel to Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.  Before Nathan ever met Elena, Chloe, Charlie, Eddy Raja or Harry Flynn (or so it seems), he knew Jason Dante, a smart-mouth used-car salesman archetype who happens to be pretty rich and capable of hiring an army as part of his work as an explorer (He also reminds me of the actor Saverio Guerra).  The other is Marisa Chase, who happens to be Dante’s partner, but who also doesn’t trust him.  The game is set in some old ruins in Panama, where Chase is trying to retrace her Grandfather’s steps.  Her grandfather, Vincent Perez, had found an amulet that was connected to the site and could lead to treasure.  However it becomes clear that Dante was doing more than he let on, as he reveals his partner isn’t Chase, but rather the paranoid, power-hungry warlord known as Roberto Guerro.

Now to discuss what parts are golden and what are of the abyss…or somewhere in between:

First of all, the graphics.  This game is the definition of what it means to play a PS3 on a handheld console.  It is very, very impressive, even to this day.  We’ve come a long way from Game Boy Color.

The art style could be best determined as this:  This is a Handheld game, therefore to save space, it is sometimes better if you have less to look at.  In this case, it comes with the visual variety.  Part of the appeal to Uncharted games is that the setting and backgrounds are constantly changing, with many numerous scenarios that could act as “levels” (or Chapters).  We would be given the insides of houses, museums, city streets, ancient ruins, mansions, beaches, mountains, jungles, trains, airports, undergrounds, rain, snow, shine, day and night, from seemingly all over the globe, and they make each game very different due to the chosen locations.  What makes The Golden Abyss different to the rest of the series in this area is the fact that you get the jungle, ruins, rivers, the inside of storehouses, small villages, caves, and cutscenes of Chases’ museum-like home…and that’s it.  The other games are a wild goose chase around the globe, and feel as such.  Here, our characters know that any treasure they’re looking for is in this area, but it’s a matter of ‘where, right here’.  Some could even argue that this feels like it begins in the middle of an Uncharted game, but the fact that the 1st half or so is a flashback will say otherwise.  Is it still a pretty game?  Yes, and it looks fantastic on handheld.  But the lack of things to see  when compared to the rest of the series could make the game feel a bit long.

The characters in general are at least as good, if not better, than Uncharted 1.  But it’s not in league with 2, 3 and 4.  It’s nice to see more of Drake and Sully, but this feels like a filler episode for these characters.  If 1, 2 and 3 (and 4) were their big, big adventures, then this was 1 of their more typical heists.  Nathan and Sully’s banter was the highlight of the game’s dialogue.  Jason Dante is a good “pest/asshole villain” in the sense that you wouldn’t mind shutting him up and dislike his decision to wear endangered species on his feet.  Chase isn’t a bad female lead, and is very different to Elena and Chloe in the sense that what she is involved in is literally out of her league – Unlike Elena and Chloe, she has little experience in fighting, and is very much book-smart.  She can even come across as a bit naive and a daydreamer – at times walking the thin line of confident and stupid…Which can be argued as a quality of Nate – but Nate is a professional in the other necessary qualities.  Guerro is your typical paranoid, power hungry maniac who would be a dictator in a corrupt government on some island south of Florida or India who would plaster his image on every street corner, and fit in well as El Presidente in the Tropico game series.  Not much else to say about him.

The voice acting, despite the lack of pauses in dialogue, is actually very good.  The writer could be seen as to blame more so than the actors, but they went with what they were given and did very well with it.

The story is good, but at the same time an element of it feels…like fan fiction.  Amy Hennig, 1 of the 3 original writers, was the story consultant, but it was actually written by John Garvin, who is also the director of the game.  Nate and Sully are about 70-80% accurate when compared to the trilogy, and while banter plays a role in the series as a whole (aiding in the enjoyment factor), the banter in this game feels…forced.  Yes there’s sarcasm, tall tales, locker room jabs and deprecating humour, but here it felt like it was being thrown as fast as possible against a wall.  In ‘Fortune, ‘Thieves, ‘Deception (and ‘End…finished it recently), there is a delicate balance between the narrative dialogue and the character-developing chit-chat, but here the chit-chat is…fast…very fast.  There are few pauses in between lines and if their minds matched their mouths, they’re thinking as sharply as Doctors and improv comedians.  It doesn’t have the same weight as the main series in terms of danger, highs and lows.  But it’s a decent side-episode that follows (most) of the usual formula…minus the round-the-world chase.

The music is once again by Greg Edmundson, and most of it is recycled from the trilogy.  It’s still fantastic though.

The gameplay is good, and likes to utilise the various characteristics that the Vita brings, including the ability to either tap your jump by pressing your finger on the screen at where you want to go, or by simply using the analogue stick.  You’re also given the mini-games that include cleaning dirt off items by rotating it with the back of the vita and cleaning it by rubbing the Vita’s screen with your finger, as well as creating charcoal rubbings of the stone patterns.  You also have to swipe your finger across the screen in the right direction as part of a sequence in order to perform a successful melee attack.  Outside of simply exploring the areas and fighting the traditional way, much of these gameplay qualities come across as very gimmicky, and not necessary.

Would I recommend Uncharted: Golden Abyss?  Yes – but I don’t recommend it in the same way I would recommend the Uncharted trilogy.  Is it a good reason to get a Playstation Vita?  It’s 1 good reason – but Gravity Rush, Persona 4 Golden and several digital PSP games would make it much more worthwhile.  Is it a necessary part of the Uncharted Series?  I don’t think so.  But is it a good instalment to the Uncharted series for those who can’t get enough Uncharted?  Yes.

Graphics: ***** (For the Vita, **** in general)

Art Style: ****

Characters: ***1/4

Voice Acting: ****1/4

Gameplay: ***3/4

Story: ***

Music: *****

Overall: ****

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Persona 4 Golden Video Game Review

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Persona 4 is a very interesting game.  Originally out on the Playstation 2 in Japan in 2008 and everywhere else in 2009, it was surprising because (obviously) by this stage it would seem like everybody had moved onto the next generation (PS3 & 360).  This game came out during a time when new games on the PS2 were becoming directed at small children (due to how much cheaper the PS2 became after its prime), so it became debatable as to whether this game would actually fly after the console’s mainstream value had already reached the top and is now climbing down.  Fast forward 7 years later, Persona 4 has 1 of the most dedicated cult followings from both Japanese and non-Japanese fans.  It spawned Cosplay, Drama CDs, Manga, 2 Anime TV shows, spin-offs and sequels (Including, believe it or not, 2 fighting games called Persona 4 Arena and ‘4 Arena Ultimax, and an alternate story called Persona Q on the Nintendo 3DS).  Even the name Persona 4 is like Street Fighter 2 in the sense that the number at the end lets you know which characters are going to be involved.  Then in 2012, Persona 4 Golden was created for the Playstation Vita.  So what can be said about it?

Like its original PS2 version, Persona 4 Golden is so good, but also so big that it has to be played at least twice in a row (I’ll explain why).  Our story follows a primarily silent silver-haired protagonist who is known in the anime & manga as Yu (but in the game you can call him whatever you want).  He’s a city boy who arrives in a small rural town called Inaba to stay with his Hard-boiled Detective uncle, Dojima, and Dojima’s daughter Nanako, who is about 5 or 6 years old.  Shortly after moving in, Yu goes to school, where everything is normal, with the exception of a rumour that’s going around.  Something about a TV show called “The Midnight Channel”.  The rumour is that if you stare at a TV screen that has been switched off on a rainy night at 12am, your soul mate will appear on the screen.  Soon after hearing about the rumour, a murder take place.  The victim was a TV Announcer who had appeared on TV, and then appeared on the Midnight channel.  Curiosity had finally set in for Yu and his new friends, Yosuke (another city boy who moved to country and is the son of the manager of Junes. The Wal Mart-like superstore that is ruining the local businesses) and Chie (The Martial-Arts-Movie-loving Tom Boy who eats like Ron Swanson), when 1 of Yosuke’s fellow employees (a girl he likes) is later murdered after appearing on TV and then on the Midnight channel as well.  The connection between the fellow employee and the announcer?  The Employee found the announcer’s body, has appeared on TV, and then appeared on the midnight channel.  Our heroes eventually find out that they can enter the TV, which leads to a strange world full of fog, is inhabited by shadowy monsters called Shadows, and also contains a bear-mascot looking character called Teddie, who helps them leave when the very idea of entering this TV world was too much too soon.  However, this didn’t stop them from coming back to have another look, and they end up acquiring what are known as Personas (guardian forces/fighters/aeons created when human beings accept their true, hidden selves, and embrace them fearlessly).  As the main character, Yu’s case is special because he can have multiple personas, while the rest have 1 persona that evolves when they develop or overcome something in their lives.  With these Personas, our main characters find out that they can actually rescue people who appear on the midnight channel, many of whom become part of your team, including Yukiko (The classic Japanese beauty with a silly sense of humour, and Chie’s best friend), Kanji (The Billy Idol/Spike-from-Buffy inspired rebel who likes knitting, sewing and beating up the biker gangs who wake up his mother at night), Rise (A former J-Pop singer/TV Idol/Model who leaves the business to live a quiet life in Inaba), Teddie (Who switches role from guide to fighter later on), and lastly, Naoto (The androgynous teenage detective who came to Inaba to help the local police in the murder case).

Now onto a very good reason to play this incredibly long game twice (1 play through takes a minimum of 65-70 hours).  It’s the social links.  Persona 4 is not only a Japanese RPG, it is also a slice-of-life dating simulator (similar to its predecessor Persona 3).  When you are not fighting shadows and bosses in the TV after school or on holidays, you are living your life as a High School student.  Throughout the days, you will have an opportunity to make friends, develop those friendships and even have a girlfriend (But try not to have more than 1, or the others will find out).  By developing these social links, several things happen.  The main feature is that when these social links level up (1 to 10), they can help you create stronger Personas, and social links with party members actually strengthen those members by providing unique abilities that can’t be acquired by levelling up, as well as other helpful abilities, like withstanding fatal attacks and helping up party members who have been stunned or knocked down.  The other main feature, especially when it comes to going out with your friends/party members, it provides possibly 1 of the best platforms for character development I have ever seen in a video game!  Don’t be fooled by the first month of the game (the story takes place during a year of school), these characters are absolutely fantastic, and by the time you get to the end, you feel like you know them like real people…which is pretty impressive.  But now onto the “play through twice” reason; Some social links can only be started when your main character has acquired high levels of certain qualities, such as Courage, Knowledge, Expression, Understanding and Diligence.  Some social links build these skills up, while doing well at school, going to certain restaurants and part time jobs also do this.  But building these skills up also take away time that could be spent developing social links, so this is where the 2nd play through is almost necessary.  So, my advice?  Build up your skills and some social links (mostly your team) in the first play through, and then in the second you’ll be able to build more links, and therefore acquire more stories and more character development…also, Persona 4 on the PS2 has 3 endings.  Persona 4 Golden has 7…and some social links provide 2 choices, so if you chose 1 in 1 play through and finished it, then choose another.

Now onto the building blocks.  What about the graphics?  The team behind the Persona games chose a more minimalist approach in terms of its presentation.  The 3D Models of our characters definitely have the likeness of the illustrations that they’re based on, and the use of certain animations, poses and emoticons help present a manga-style of storytelling, but it’s the illustrations of the characters themselves, appearing with their dialogue, that people remember best when they play this game.  It allows you to know who’s talking and the type of facial expression they might have when they say it (something that may not get across as easily in other games).  In the process, they were able to put a ton of stuff into the game without using up too much data for the graphics (while also remaining graphically pleasing, even today). Art-wise, I absolutely adore this game, and Shigenori Soejima is 1 of my all-time favourite illustrators.  To the point of having the art book for this game as among my treasured earthly possessions.  The design work, presentation and character designs are fantastic and we’re provided with an instantly recognisable bunch of characters.  Also the occasional use of photographs in the backgrounds add a nice touch.  While there are anime cutscenes in the PS2 version, there are many more in Persona 4 Golden, and this is all without reminding you that this was also remade as an anime TV Show.

The music is done by Shoji Meguro, who has also done the soundtracks for most other Atlus games, including every Persona game, Trauma Center, Catherine and Digital Devil Saga.  His music is almost instantly recognisable, as he enjoys incorporating rock with electronica, orchestral, jazz and hip-hop (that’s another thing, his hip-hop lyrics are hilariously incoherent.  Persona 3 even has 1 about a burnt lasagne).  His sound has become a trademark for the Persona games (and any other by Atlus in this case)

Gameplay-wise, Persona 4 is possibly my favourite turn-based RPG other than Final Fantasy X (Kingdom Hearts 2 is my favourite action RPG).  There is no character who is truly expendable on your team (unless you plan to use Kanji and Chie like Mages and Yukiko like a Warrior), the dungeon crawls can be difficult (depending on your levels, your grinding amount and your knowledge of strategy and your personas), but as time goes on, it becomes easier to stay in the dungeons for longer…Especially if you have Goho-H or Teddie in your team (and you haven’t deleted his dungeon escaping ability).

The english voice acting is really good in this game, and I was surprised in Golden to find that they changed Chie’s voice actress.  I wasn’t sure how to react, but in time you get used to the difference.

The story…wow…It’s 1 of my favourite stories in video game history…so much depth…so much development…so many themes, including community over convenience (Wal-Mart vs small town business), secrets, the power of the TV, the desire to ” know people” that you don’t know, big brother, and humanity’s desire, just name a few…so many possibilities…a slow but satisfying unveiling…A fun, murder-mystery game with a team that would be called the Scooby Gang if some other writer didn’t take that description.  Excellent characters all around to go along with this (including Yu, no pun intended), amazing character development with a lot of excellent life lessons in the mix.  The humour in Persona 4 is fantastic!  Even during 2nd and 3rd play throughs, I’m still laughing at the dialogue, situations and how it all bounces off different characters.  But at the same time, this game has a lot of heart.  During the times when they’re at their lowest, you can feel it, and that’s something to be pretty proud of if you wrote it.

Is there anything I don’t like about this game?  Possibly, but because I understand the context, it doesn’t really bother me too much.  Here’s the main instance…the personas themselves.  The Personas are named after or based on Gods, Demons, Angels, and Deities from different religions, and, believe it or not, from some popular fiction (like Alice in Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland).  Some might take offence to how important figures from their faith or religion are depicted or presented in this game, especially when it comes to Atlus deciding which Personas should be more powerful than others.  But it’s all based on the overall Japanese perspective of religion.  That despite many being labelled as Shinto Buddhist, most of Japan is technically atheist.  But it doesn’t stop them from occasionally believing in ghosts, celebrating holidays and festivals from different religions, praying at shrines on new years day, celebrating Christmas as a day/night for dating and KFC, being born Shinto, marrying Christian, dying Buddhist (Buddhist funerals) and believing that Racoon Dogs and Foxes can shape-shift and appear human.  They borrow what they want from most other religions, but many don’t ground themselves in any particular 1.  As long as the choices lead to personal and social peace that fits within on their moral code, they don’t mind what you believe in.  With this perspective in mind, it lessens any offence that even I might have in this area, as the game chooses to be within itself a game and not necessarily based in its entirety on the real world (Keep in mind, this game was made in 2008 and is set in 2011/12, they couldn’t predict that analogue TVs would be completely gone in Japan by then)…Also, I don’t care for tarot cards, but they’re used to define each Persona and social link.

Would I recomme – – Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes…Folks, this is possibly my all-time favourite video game, if not, it’s a permanent staple in my top 3.  I say this as someone who has played the best of Final Fantasy, Metal Gear, Grand Theft Auto, Tekken and The Elder Scrolls (Morrowind excluded).  Persona 3 remains a very important game in my collection, and it was revolutionary to me when I played it at first.  But Persona 4 took everything that made ‘3 great, and created, quite literally a masterpiece in Role-Playing Video Games.  Overall, the Nintendo 3DS does have better games than the Playstation Vita (Exclusives-wise), but Persona 4 Golden is, for me, enough to be that 1 game that made you buy a Vita, and is 1 of the best exclusives ever made (Until Atlus decides to translate it into a PS3/PS4 edition).

Overall rating: ***** (Some would rate the graphics a 2 or 3 stars, but the Gameplay, characters, character development, story and humour would each get 6 stars if possible)

Assassin’s Creed 3 and Liberation Video Game Review

This will be a slightly different game review because I’ll be talking about 2 different versions of the same game, as well as a game that is connected to it.  In this case, it will be Assassin’s Creed 3 for the Playstation 3 (and X-Box 360), and both the Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita versions of the series spin-off game known as Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation (or Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD on the PS3).

Both games were released on the same day (Liberation HD came out years later).  Both involve the Assassin’s Creed series taking place during the childhood of the United States of America, and they focus on 2 different aspects of the country’s history.  Much like the entire Assassin’s Creed series, the war between the Assassins and the Templars continues.  The Assassins (or at least the ones in the know) try to hide “The Apple” (an artefact that belonged an ancient race) and any other piece of forbidden knowledge, that basically gives man the power of a God, and the ability to rule the world.  The Templars are interested in finding the apple and this knowledge, and are looking to take over.  This game of Squirrel vs Squirrel is what drives the plots of both stories forward.  But for now, we’ll now discuss each game and break down their characteristics.

ASSASSIN’S CREED 3

AC3 focuses on the American Revolution in the North Eastern USA, which allows you to explore New York, Philadelphia and Boston, along with the surrounding forests, and also provides a conclusion to the Desmond Miles story (An ongoing story throughout the series that shows where the Assassins/Templar war is at in today’s society.  For those who are wondering, we go back to these time periods looking for information about  the apple in the memories of Desmond’s Ancestors.  It’s like Inception, if you have ever seen that film).  The story focuses on a father, Haytham Kenway, and his son, Ratonhnhaké:ton (also known as Connor), both are Desmond’s ancestors.  Kenway is your main character for roughly the first third of the game, and he portrays some similar characteristics that made Ezio the most likeable Assassin in the series.  However, while you thought you were playing an Assassin, you realise that you were actually playing a Templar, and Kenway happens to be seen as a primary antagonist for the rest of the game.  His son, Connor, like Altair in Assassin’s Creed 1, is of mixed race; half British and half  Native American.  Making him an outsider and not seen as 1 who is bias…as long as he knows or thinks he knows the truth.  His goal is to rescue his mother’s tribe and their land  by eliminating the Templar influence on the North Eastern parts of the USA (since they burned down the village) and siding with George Washington in order to fight the english (even though it’s basically english and french fighting english and french, the game points that out), this includes getting answers from his Templar Father, as well as eliminating him and his comrades, including Charles Lee.  Much like how eliminating the Templar Influence has become a similar formula as saving the princess (Super Mario) or the world (Legend Of Zelda), Assassin’s Creed 3 provided the series with a unique story that once again places emphasis on the great grey area that the Assassins/Templar war actually has.  Some of your targets actually had good intentions, even if others were in fact small-minded or terrible people.  Further thickening the series’ world, and making our heroes question their own motives.

The graphics remained at a very high tier, particularly when it came out in 2012 (with Desmond’s story jumping the bandwagon of the 21st December 2012 apocalypse.  A nice touch that may have accidentally dated the game).  The presentation of Baby America was very nicely done, and I particularly like how it looked in winter.  But unfortunately, unlike the Italian Renaissance and even the Middle East during the crusades, American architecture of the day was definitely more about utility rather than beauty (in other words, it’s not eye-candy or awe-inspiring, but people live there and it’s home).

The game’s controls were also a step-up in the series, which now features the ability to captain your own ship on a regular basis, and have tree-climbing/running as an extra means of getting around.  While these new controls can be a bit fiddly at the beginning, you do get used to them.  Along your journey, you can also help individuals.  Some may join your makeshift village, providing you with things to buy, sell and craft other items with.  Others may want to join the fight, and become Assassins that either aid you in battle, or go on missions to other parts of America, where they can bring in extra money and items.  As good as this system is, I still think AC Brotherhood did it best (and it was the first game to introduce it!)

The gameplay itself, side-missions and so on, provides the gamer with many hours of things to do.  But at the same time, it feels like the map is too vast and the amount of things to do can be exhausting, to the point that it feels a bit cluttered and not very useful.

The characters in Assassin’s Creed 3 were pretty good when the game focused on Haytham.  I wouldn’t have minded if the game was all about him.  But unfortunately it wasn’t.  It was already advertised heavily that our main character is Connor, who, for an Assassin, is very focused and single-minded.  To say the least, he’s a boring person.  Not a hair of humour on this man’s head, unless his goal to save his mother’s people and create an America like the 1 on paper falls under the humour equals humanity label.  He’s a good guy, with good intention.  But oh my…he needs to learn how to crack a joke.  But I guess we need a variety of Assassins like a variety of different people.

The music was great, but not quite as memorable as other instalments.

ASSASSIN’S CREED 3: LIBERATION

Liberation focuses on New Orleans, Louisiana, as well as the Bayou and Mexico near the end of the French & Indian War.  Our hero is the first female Assassin in the series, Aveline de Grandpré, a half French and half African woman who is seen as an aristocrat in public, but also disguises herself as a slave (since she takes more after her mother) and is obviously an Assassin.  This is the first Assassin’s Creed game I’ve played that doesn’t have Desmond Miles in it.  However, there is a ‘bigger picture’ storyline aspect in which it is clear that some scenes have been edited by the Templars, taking out any reference to their involvement in terrible acts.  Uncut versions of these scenes can be restored by killing off a NPC within a certain area called Citizen E, who appears 6 times as a bug, sometimes in the story, other times you have to find him after you reach a certain part of the story.  Killing every citizen E reveals the true ending of the game.

Compared to Assassin’s Creed 3, Liberation did a much better job in the Story and Character department, and it also had a lighter tone with a more whimsical soundtrack.  Aveline has since become 1 of my favourite Assassins in the series, and she’s definitely up there with Ezio.  Unlike Connor, Aveline is witty, sarcastic, bright, pretty, and can play a good harpsichord.  She cares for the poor and the slaves while also using her social status (aristocrat), and looks (aristocrat and slave) to her advantage through various disguises.  As for the side characters?  I love Elise and Roussillon, the 2 french smugglers who work in the Bayou.  Fantastic chemistry, sarcasm and humour for those 2 characters, and they bounce off Aveline as well.  I hope to see more of them somehow.

COMPARING 3 & LIBERATION

AC3 overall has much better and smoother controls, a bigger environment to explore, and better graphics, which come from it being a bigger game.  There is also more to do, even if it’s filler.

Liberation has a much better and more interesting main protagonist, more interesting backdrop, more interesting supporting characters, better music and, for me, a better story.

COMPARING VITA LIBERATION and LIBERATION HD

Liberation on the Vita looks fantastic.  The gameplay is also fuller in some missions than HD.  It also features gameplay elements that fully utilise the Vita’s range.  However, the control were you have to shine the back of your Vita with a bright light can be very irritating if you’re playing the game on a cloudy day.

Liberation on the PS3 (HD) looks okay, considering the game is about 2GB in size.  It might look better than Assassin’s Creed 1, but maybe not Assassin’s Creed 2 and definitely not Brotherhood.  It can also be a bit buggy, more-so than the Vita version.  The controls are adjusted to be more familiar for PS3 users, however the Vita mini-games have been taken out.  Compared the the Vita version, the game is also a lot easier (with the exception of ‘boss battles’, which are harder).  Some missions have been cut down significantly, while others have been lengthened, creating a slightly different gaming experience.  Some cut-scenes also use very different cinematography, sometimes looking better, other times worse.

If you don’t have a Playstation Vita or don’t want a Vita, but like the AC Series, then obviously get Liberation HD, even if I don’t think it does the gameplay experience as much justice.  If you have both, I would suggest the Vita for the better quality game, but Liberation HD if you just want to stick to more familiar controls or just want the story without the challenge.  Either 1 is fine.

OVERALL:

Assassin’s Creed 3: ****1/4 out of 5 (***3/4 for the story, ***1/2 for characters)

Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation: ***1/2 out of 5 (****1/2 for the story, ****3/4 for characters)

Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD: ***1/4 out of 5 (Again ****1/2 story, ****3/4 characters)