Please Rate This Review: Killzone Liberation
HIGH: Expecting little from it but receiving a lot.
LOW: Can be really punishing at times
WTF: Some seriously bad cheating goes on online.
Without meaning to sound cynical, games which often appear on the handhelds under the same franchise as on consoles are often "simplified" or "watered down" and are sold by the hype surrounding their older brothers rather than on their own merit. The most obvious example which comes to my mind recently is Spore, a long awaited title only released on the PC and DS, soon to make an outing on Wii. Aside from it being a disappointing game on the PC, it was even worse on the DS with only the vague premise being kept with everything else replaced by a cheap, childish aesthetic. This is such a regular occurrence within gaming, when a younger brother of a “AAA” title is announced a collective moan can be heard so loud that it is bested by the complaints about lazy movie tie-ins. When Killzone was released on Playstation 2, the resulting offspring which followed a few years later - Killzone Liberation on the PSP - was also met by the same cynicism, yet it seems that Killzone Liberation is a lot more than a lazy cash-in*.
Before you even start liberation it is immediately apparent that Guerilla have changed the fundamentals of the game by placing it in third person, rather than first person view. It is no secret that the PSP's lack of a second control stick makes playing first person shooters painfully difficult, an experience that leaves the majority of gamers wanting - so Guerilla can be forgiven for this early deviation. The birds-eye camera we are treated to in Liberation is reminiscent to that of Commando and the game plays much more like it the pant-wettingly difficult PC title than Killzone on the Playstation 2. The story of Liberation picks up where Killzone left off and we follow the majority of the original characters as the game progresses battling with a selection of firearms that shooter veterans will be familiar with. However, Liberation's story is a bit on the 'lite' side and you'll be forgiven for not paying attention to it, instead you'll be focusing on the intense tactical shooter action which will have you pressing the 'restart' button more times than you'll care to admit.
Earlier I said that Liberation was reminiscent to Commando, the way that you have to carefully plan each situation, make sure you have the right equipment and time your attacks just right, if you choose to ignore this you and Liberation won't get along. This is not a run and gun game, in fact in some situations it punishes you with its clunky strafe system in order to stop you simply circling the Helgast with your finger on the trigger. Strafing works by pressing the L button which fixes you facing in one direction, so the left and right buttons then act to strafe you left and right. In practice this sounds simple although you have to be facing the enemy you want to shoot before strafing, failure to do so often ends up with you facing the wrong way and receiving buckshot to the spine! Strafing aside though, Guerilla have really played to the PSPs strengths when making Liberation; navigating Templar through the games levels, ducking and diving between cover and occasionally popping up to shoot the Helghast feels natural and satisfying. In fact almost everything about playing Killzone Liberation feels right, the graphics are crisp and the level design well thought out; The sounds are clear and make full use of the PSPs stereo, you'll often hear Helgast yelling commands or alerting others to your presence.
A common criticism is that the game is too short, one which is mostly true. In addition to campaign which lasts for around 5+ hours depending on difficulty and your experience, Liberation sports a challenge mode which, on successful completion, rewards you with upgrades for the main game. Also you get an Ad Hoc and Online multiplayer (if you download the update which also provides you with one extra mission for the main game too) in addition to the option to play the main game in co-op mode. I think the complaints about longevity are more based on the “its so good we don't want it to end” feeling rather than getting short changed, despite its short single player mode and sometimes clunky controls. Killzone Liberation represents a significant step in PSP gaming, a game built especially for the console, one which any gamer would enjoy rather than the tide of “it's good for the PSP” titles which fill our shelves. The story itself will leave most players wanting/needing more, however if you are Killzone veteran the will be something in it for you. Most importantly, Liberation isn't a lazy port cashing in on another game's success, it's a really good game, one which every PSP owner should consider playing.
*Although considering that Killzone on the PS2 wasn't that well received produces problems here.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via a game rental site reviewed on the PSP. Approximately 9 hours of play were devoted to single-player and around 2 hours on multiplayer (this was cut short from the copious amounts of hackers - auto grenade launchers get tedious).
Parents: Moderately violent for a shooter of its type although some of the content is of the mature variety, not to mention the steep learning curve.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: The game has subtitles although because of the top-down view you'll often find off screen fire hard to notice without audio cues.