Being a big Assassin’s Creed fan, I was disappointed when it was announced that Liberation was going to be a Vita exclusive. It sounded interesting, with its new protagonist and disguise system, but I didn’t want to buy a Vita just to play it. So I was pleased to hear that Liberation was going to be remade for the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.

The game follows Aveline de Grandpré, a young woman living in 18th century New Orleans, a few years into her career as an Assassin. Her father is a well-off French merchant, her mother a former slave. Aveline’s mixed heritage puts her in an odd position within society, allowing her to blend in amongst slaves and noblewomen alike. Using this to her advantage, Aveline embarks on a mission to free as many slaves as possible, as well as uncover a Templar plot.

She’s an endearing protagonist, intelligent and humorous. The fact that she begins the game a fully-trained Assassin is also good news, as the player isn’t subjected to long, dull tutorials. However, the game does feel rather short, with some later sequences containing only a couple of missions. Considering the game costs half as much as a “full” Assassin’s Creed game, this isn’t surprising, but it’s still underwhelming.

One of the most frustrating things about the game’s short length is that there are many parts of the story that are begging to be expanded upon. For example, Aveline’s relationship with her mentor Agaté becomes increasingly strained over the course of the game, but the significance of this is undermined by how little the player sees of their original relationship. The in-game database mentions that he saved her life when she was young, and it seems odd that this wasn’t even given a simple cutscene, especially given that the game opens with a flashback to her childhood.

Liberation mostly takes place within New Orleans and its nearby Bayou. The city is home to most of the shops where Aveline can purchase weapons and clothing from. There are also “dressing chambers” scattered around the city, which Aveline can purchase and use to change her persona (more on that later). The Bayou is more sparsely populated than the city, and can be explored through the tree-tops or with a canoe. It is home to hostile wildlife, which can be fought off through quicktime events. Throughout the world’s maps there are various treasure chests, collectibles, and side missions available for the player. Looking for these usually rewards the player with new shops or special outfits to purchase.

In terms of gameplay, Liberation plays much like the main games of the franchise. It provides all the running, climbing, and stabbing that players have come to expect from the series. Oddly some of the controls and mechanics differ from Black Flag, which was released a mere three months ago. The blow-pipe (a weapon the Vita Liberation introduced to the franchise), for instance, is controlled completely differently, which was jarring after only having just played Black Flag.

Eagle Vision, the ability Assassins use to highlight enemies, allies, and subjects of interest, has also been reduced in power. In Black Flag, players could use it to spot potential hiding places such as bushes. In Liberation, this function is gone. This made some of the night-time Bayou missions more frustrating, as it was difficult to differentiate between hiding spots and scenery.

Liberation’s biggest innovation is its persona system, in which the player can switch between three identities – Assassin, Lady, and Slave – by changing clothes. The Assassin persona is the best of the three, giving Aveline access to the full range of weapons, as well as a full health bar. It also allows her to climb and free-run. The downside is that guards notice her more quickly, making stealth in some areas much more difficult. The Lady person cannot climb or free-run, and has less weaponry and health. However, she can easily bypass guards by bribing and charming them, and she is rarely treated with suspicion. The Slave persona is as agile as the Assassin, but again with less health. Climbing in the Slave persona also accumulates notoriety more quickly, and it doesn’t take long for the city to be plastered in wanted posters. Like the Lady, the Slave persona is better suited to stealth, and has access to fewer weapons.

The addition, these personas do add some variety to gameplay, allowing the player to implement different degrees of stealth. Unfortunately, the game tends to force you into specific personas for most of the missions. It would have been more interesting had more of the missions allowed the player to take alternate paths depending on what persona they were in, and would have added to the game’s replay value.

The graphics of Liberation are good, but not great. Again, the game suffers from being released post-Black Flag, as it is visually a step backwards. This is particularly evident in cutscenes, where characters’ faces sometimes looked strangely blank. The game also fails to fully escape its handheld roots as important information is often provided through text boxes rather than dialogue and animation. Early in the game it is also evident that an escort mission from the original was choppily removed. I also experienced some minor glitches, such as markers failing to appear on the map, and animals attacking Aveline mid-mission. Nothing major, but frustrating nonetheless.

Overall, Liberation HD is an enjoyable, if flawed experience. The protagonist and persona system are interesting, and many of the gameplay elements players enjoy from the main series are still present. However, the game doesn’t live up to its potential, and I’d only recommend it to people who want to see more of the Assassin’s Creed universe while they wait for the next game’s announcement.

Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD is available via Steam, the Playstation Network, and Xbox Live Arcade. This review is based on the Xbox 360 version.

The upcoming 25th anniversary edition of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast includes a couple of first looks at next year’s live-action adaptation.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been a quarter of a century since the animated Beauty and the Beast hit movie theaters. To celebrate the occasion Disney is putting out an anniversary edition, and its special features section includes a treat: Our first look at Cogsworth and Lumière in the live-action installment, as well as a glimpse of a scene within Gaston’s tavern.

As confirmed by producer Jack Morrissey on Facebook, this photo of Cogsworth (played by Ian McKellen) and Lumière (Ewan McGregor) is concept art, but it gives us a sense of the style that director Bill Condon is shooting for:

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The upcoming 25th anniversary edition of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast includes a couple of first looks at next year’s live-action adaptation.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been a quarter of a century since the animated Beauty and the Beast hit movie theaters. To celebrate the occasion Disney is putting out an anniversary edition, and its special features section includes a treat: Our first look at Cogsworth and Lumière in the live-action installment, as well as a glimpse of a scene within Gaston’s tavern.

As confirmed by producer Jack Morrissey on Facebook, this photo of Cogsworth (played by Ian McKellen) and Lumière (Ewan McGregor) is concept art, but it gives us a sense of the style that director Bill Condon is shooting for:

cogsworth-lumiere-live-action-beauty-and-the-beast

While it’s nice to finally see a glimpse of a couple of the characters, a big question remains unanswered: How will these objects look once they have faces on them? (Cogsworth’s face might be hinted at in the center of the clock.)

Also on the Beauty and the Beast 25th Anniversary Edition is a shot from the the “Gaston” musical number. From left to right we see Alexis Loizon as Stanley, Josh Gad as LeFou (just over Gaston’s shoulder), and Luke Evans (with his back to the camera) as Gaston.

live-action-beauty-and-the-beast-gaston

Update: And here’s another look at the movie, courtesy of this person on Twitter — this time we get to see Dan Stevens as human Beast!

human-beast-dan-stevens

We’ll be curious to get our hands on the anniversary edition in September, because we expect we’ll see more from the new movie than the two stills above.

Disney released the first trailer for the live-action Beauty and the Beast in May. It was very much a teaser trailer, as it didn’t provide any looks at the characters — except Belle (Emma Watson), appearing through the glass casing protecting the film’s iconic rose.

In fact, the trailer’s first looks at the various settings (Namely the Beast’s castle) fell in line with the visual style we see in the above concept art.

Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens hit theaters March 17, 2017.

Apple — always one to push the boundaries by simplifying their products as much as possible — is reportedly looking to remove the all-important Home button in next year’s new iPhone.

Apple loves making their products as simple as possible. The iPod was a success because of how clean it looked compared to other MP3 players. With Apple TV, Steve Jobs bragged about how few buttons the device’s remote had.

But since 2007, every new iPhone has had the same number of physical buttons, switches, and ports: A ringer switch, a lock button, volume up/down buttons, a USB port, and a headphone jack.

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Apple — always one to push the boundaries by simplifying their products as much as possible — is reportedly looking to remove the all-important Home button in next year’s new iPhone.

Apple loves making their products as simple as possible. The iPod was a success because of how clean it looked compared to other MP3 players. With Apple TV, Steve Jobs bragged about how few buttons the device’s remote had.

But since 2007, every new iPhone has had the same number of physical buttons, switches, and ports: A ringer switch, a lock button, volume up/down buttons, a USB port, and a headphone jack.

That changes next month, when Apple is expected to announce that the iPhone 7 will be lacking a headphone jack. Instead, users will be listening to music via the Lightning port (which you currently use to charge and sync your iPhone).

And for 2017, Apple will reportedly go one step further by removing the Home button.

Ah, the Home button. It’s always been there for us — it’s our captain for navigating the iPhone. We use it to switch between apps, we use it to get to our Home screen, we use it to summon Siri, and we use it to read our finger print. Back in the “old days,” we used it to force quit apps when they froze on us.

In a new report, Bloomberg says Apple is planning to remove the Home button for the 2017 iPhone, which will presumably be called iPhone 7s. It’s billed as a “major redesign of the iPhone for 2017 that focuses more heavily on the display.”

Previous rumor mill reports have suggested that Apple will ditch the Home button in order to decrease the size of the top top and bottom bezels, thereby making the phone not as tall, or using the freed up space to add more screen.

Here’s a mock up of what that could look like, via TapSmart:

borderlessmockup1

What remains unclear is how users will be able to unlock and navigate their iPhone without the Home button. Reports have suggested that the whole screen will serve as a TouchID surface and a Home button (using the 3D Touch feature Apple launched last year).

Interestingly, next month’s release of iOS 10 will introduce a new way to unlock your iPhone: You’ll have to press down on the Home button to activate an unlocking. Previously, all you had to do was rest your finger on the Home button while your lock screen was awake.

Disney is making another live-action movie, and this time it’s James and the Giant Peach, to be developed by Director Sam Mendes.

To refresh your memory, James and the Giant Peach is the terrifying delightful children’s movie directed by Henry Selick and based off of the Roald Dahl story. It features nightmare-inducing adorable stop-motion animated bugs that helped James float away from his mean aunts in a — you guessed it — giant peach.

The original film was an interesting mix of live-action characters in the beginning and at the end, with stop-motion animated sequences throughout the middle.

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Disney is making another live-action movie, and this time it’s James and the Giant Peach, to be developed by Director Sam Mendes.

To refresh your memory, James and the Giant Peach is the terrifying delightful children’s movie directed by Henry Selick and based off of the Roald Dahl story. It features nightmare-inducing adorable stop-motion animated bugs that helped James float away from his mean aunts in a — you guessed it — giant peach.

The original film was an interesting mix of live-action characters in the beginning and at the end, with stop-motion animated sequences throughout the middle.

Now, according to Deadline, Disney is developing an all-live-action remake of the film. Nick Hornby will write the script, while Joe Roth is in negotiations to sign on as a producer.

If Mendes’ name sounds familiar, it’s because he directed the last two James Bond features, both Skyfall and Spectre, as well as 1999’s American Beauty.

You can check out the trailer for the horrifying original film below:

As of late, Disney has been announcing live-action versions of its properties left and right, including The Nutcracker (which has a huge cast of well-known actors), The Little Mermaid (with Lin-Manuel Miranda attached to help write the music), Beauty and the Beast (starring Emma Watson), and Cruella (starring Emma Stone), among others.

With the amount of remakes — especially in the live-action department — it’s no wonder James and the giant Peach is the latest to be announced.

Do you want to see a live-action ‘James and the Giant Peach’ movie?