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Jeremy Jastrzab
09 Nov, 2006

Killzone: Liberation Review

PSP Review | You're not going to be liberated.
Killzone was originally released on the PS2 in late-2004 as an attempt to upstage Halo as the premier FPS of consoles. It didn’t quite hit the mark, but did manage to hook in a strong following along the way. Sony is obviously looking to push its series, as it had a spectacularly controversial showing at E3. But while we wait and see whether or not that E3 trailer has any substance, Sony has released Killzone: Liberation for the PSP. It picks up pretty much where the first title leaves off, and provides your typically bombastic war story, as the tale of ISA vs. Helghast battle continues.

Killzone: Liberation attempts to revive a style of gameplay that hasn’t been around for a very long time. Initially, we were led to believe that Killzone would be converted to portable form in a similar fashion to Metal Gear a.l.a. Metal Gear Acid. And although the game is played at a similar perspective, there are no turns and no cards to be found. Rather than attempting a first-person or a third-person game on a system with one analogue stick, the developers have instead employed an isometric perspective, not dissimilar to that found in MGA or in hack-and-slash titles like Untold Legends. At the same time, it keeps everything in real-time.

From the perspective you're given, you will get a decent view of the field in front of you and you have full control over Templar, who returns from the previous game. You move with the analogue nub, the R button ducks and the L button is a strafe/lock. The X button is context-sensitive, the Square button fires your weapon, Triangle reloads, Circle throws grenades while double-tapping L will cause Templar to roll. When you first start the game, you are given quite a few details on how the system works. The gist is that you’ll advance behind barriers and use a bit of duck-and-cover action.

Looks like it has potential...

Looks like it has potential...
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This means you can often leap behind a barrier/rock/trench for protection and press R to duck down. Move the analogue nub in the direction of an enemy and your laser reticule ought to lock-on. From there, you can use the cover to pick off the enemies and advance. You can and will lock on primarily when you’re pointing at the enemy, and there is a lot of automation. Still, it’s no easy task as the enemies take quite a bit before going down, especially on higher difficulty levels. You have grenades to help you out mind, with Circle bringing up a very handy, intuitive throwing arc. Press it again and you'll toss the grenade.

While your primary objective is advancing across the map, there are a fair variety of actions that you need to take, such as having command over a subordinate. When you are accompanied, you press up on the D-pad and time slows down. The screen shows exactly where you can command your buddy and you can either ask them to attack, follow or complete tasks. Some of the tasks that you’ll come across include blowing up barriers with C4 or escorting freed hostages. Anytime that you find a need for a context sensitive action, you will generally be motioned with an icon flashing above Templar. Overall, the interface is slick and functional.

You need to make heavy use of your environment and everything at your disposal if you’re going to be successful. Environmental aids come primarily in the form of exploding barrels, or you can even trap enemies with mines and whatnot. Each chapter in the game will come with one level that lets you ride a vehicle, though these can feel tacked on. Still, they can take a lot of damage and can move you about quickly. Throughout each level, there are a number of supply crates scattered around and you can restock on whatever is in them. Usually, you’ll stock up on grenades or C4 and nourish your health but you can switch weapons that are stocked as well. Unfortunately, you can only hold one weapon at a time and frankly, it’s severely limiting. There are at least ten to wield, though. Weapons can be unlocked as you find cases of money that are scattered throughout any given level. As you unlock weapons, more will become available for choice before you start the level.

... Until you start getting bullied.

... Until you start getting bullied.
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The main campaign spans four chapters, each with four levels, making a total of sixteen stages. The whole story will probably take you around five hours to complete. There really isn’t anything particularly good about it, and it’s extremely linear. Outside of the campaign, you have the challenge games. This is a set of seven mini-games that include targeting, defending, and a game that gets you to capture the “spiders”. A more challenging set is unlocked with the completion of each chapter, and with good performances you’ll unlock medals. These medals add skill points, which unlock abilities in the campaign, such as being able to carry more grenades. The issue with these games is that they’re set in the exact same locales as the main game and they become repetitive quickly, with each set you unlock essentially based on the same mini-game.

There is also an extensive multiplayer mode, as well as the option to play through the campaign in co-op. The multiplayer contains some of your standard modes, including Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Assault and Capture the Flag, but the main draw is that you can't play this in your typical run-and-gun manner. You really need to make use of sneaking, trapping and outmanoeuvring your opponents, making use of every barrel and barrier that you can find. It can be played across LAN both competitively and co-operatively, and if you really want to, you can allow a buddy to download a demo off your copy through game share. Again, they’re played in the exact same locales as seen in the campaign, so it wears thin quite quickly.

Killzone: Liberation brings some nice ideas to the table but they unfortunately fall over themselves. The PSP analogue nub is NOT an analogue stick and so far, only a few developers have truly understood the sensitivity issues that come with the nub. As a result, the Killzone: Liberation control is far too twitchy, and the lock-on is simply not substantial enough. You do have a lock-on/strafe button, but the aiming often feels random. Furthermore, even if you feel as if you've pulled the nub slightly, it can result in Templar veering his aim in the opposite direction. Put simply, the controls are too twitchy and the auto lock-on will behave too randomly at times. The game is reasonably well designed in terms of the general environment, but there are a number of balance issues. The game becomes too much to handle because you become severely outnumbered or outgunned from all directions. Once the game gets to this point (roughly halfway through), it starts becoming a chore on any difficulty level.

Aki is stuffed.

Aki is stuffed.
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Enemies will overpower simply through their strength in numbers and your inability to respond. They have too many angles to get you on, and have little trouble flanking you, especially when you're reloading. Then there are times when you are pinned in the middle and there's enemy fire coming from three directions. The game simply isn't able to handle such situations. Not to mention, enemies always seem to know where you are and when you're reloading. It isn’t just the enemies, as in the second half of the game you’ll be left in many situations where you’ll have no ammo. At least being able to hold two weapons would have alleviated this easily. There are only a handful of bosses but they’re real handfuls as they are. The problem with these issues is that they suck a lot of the appeal out of the game and towards the end make the game unpleasant and even infuriating. The final issue with the game is that it uses up all its tricks by the end of the first chapter. There's very little new or endearing revealed throughout the course of the game, apart from things that are likely to annoy or upset you.

Graphically, the game exudes some very impressive environmental and structural visuals. It manages to retain the art style that made the game fairly distinctive in the first place, and there are some fairly impressive technical effects such as animations and physics. Unfortunately, the frame rate can take some pretty big hits, the character models aren’t as detailed as they could be, and a couple of minor graphical glitches get in the way. At least the load times are decent. Sound-wise, the game was simply on par. It doesn’t really excel in this department but at the same time, doesn’t do poorly. Everything sounds as it should, from rockets launching to boxes breaking, but it simply doesn’t leave an impression. Some more “oomph” would've been nice.

While Killzone: Liberation brings a bunch of neat and interesting ideas to the table, it required a bit more work to be truly great. The balances aren’t quite right and while the game is tailored for the PSP, it seems that developers don’t quite have a hold on some issues. While you need to use all the skill at your disposal to truly complete the game, it simply lacks that connection with the gamer that makes it endearing, instead becoming a bit of a chore. Killzone: Liberation is a decent effort, but it needed a little bit more development time, precision and engaging material. When a game that doesn’t last more than five hours gets boring, you know there's something wrong.
The Score
Killzone: Liberation is conceptually solid, interesting and potentially enjoyable, but let down by poor execution and a sense of disconnection. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Killzone: Liberation Content

Infrastructure mode added to Killzone
31 May, 2007 Yeah, the game that came out last year.
Killzone Liberation demo released
06 Jan, 2007 Only a couple of months late.
E3 2006: PSP gets Killed in the Zone
09 May, 2006 Sony's original 'Halo Killer' comes to PSP - screens inside.
11 Comments
7 years ago
This game reminded me of Metal Gear Solid, it was good game but kinda repititive. Same could be said for metal gear solid. I did play it for 15 mins so cant say much.
7 years ago
I'm glad I didn't rush out and order this yet. Pity, this was actually looking like it could have been quite fun.

Hrmm.. does anyone know if there's a demo floating around anywhere?
7 years ago
Havent seen a demo, dont think they released one.
7 years ago
I've read that there's a demo somewhere.

I tried this game on release day at work. IMO it's pretty fun, although the controls require some getting used to.
7 years ago
Well now that there's contention over whether there is a demo or not, and I'm home from work, I suppose I should actually do some searching for myself.
7 years ago
Karai Pantsu wrote
Well now that there's contention over whether there is a demo or not, and I'm home from work, I suppose I should actually do some searching for myself.
Well there is, but its on a UMD.
7 years ago
Yeah, and it looks like thats the only way to get it too. Bugger.
Ah well, maybe I'll pick it up if I find it cheap then icon_smile.gif
7 years ago
Karai Pantsu wrote
Yeah, and it looks like thats the only way to get it too. Bugger.
Ah well, maybe I'll pick it up if I find it cheap then icon_smile.gif
If you played metal gear solid, you're not missing much.
7 years ago
If you mean the PSX game, then I have played it and would very much like to hear the similarities (because it doesn't sound all that similar from the review)
If you mean MGS: AC!D then no, I balked at the whole 'card idea... and price. Although I'm tempted now that it'd be cheaper.
7 years ago
Karai Pantsu wrote
If you mean the PSX game, then I have played it and would very much like to hear the similarities (because it doesn't sound all that similar from the review)
If you mean MGS: AC!D then no, I balked at the whole 'card idea... and price. Although I'm tempted now that it'd be cheaper.
Its not like acid, its like psx one its very similar except the 15 mins i played little stealth involved and more running and gunning people. Basically its like metal gear solid (psx) on alert mode, you run shoot and try to dodge bullets.
7 years ago
I disagree with Jeremy's take on this game - I haven't played a game like this that made me want to go back and play more for ages - Killzone Liberation did that (and makes me want to go back to the original on PS2 as well, but I feel like this one was smoother).

But that's why the world is filled with a thousand and one reviewers and why we all have our own personality. icon_smile.gif
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