Killzone: Liberation User Review
The viewpoint that has been adopted for this outing offers a good handle for the action, rarely letting you down in spite of some multi-levelled environmental design. It is aided by a sensible control scheme that doesn’t overburden the player with button combinations to perform simple tasks like some other PSP games. Somehow, even with this, all of the functions typical of a third person shooter are mapped, though response times between button presses and the resulting action often leaves much to be desired, particularly when engaging in melee strikes or tossing grenades. Another minor flaw lies in the targeting, which can be rather haphazard thanks, in part, to the hardware, but also to the somewhat finicky response of the left shoulder button when it is used in regards to this function.
Due to the change in platform and gameplay style, Killzone: Liberation is, understandably, a much slower game than its fellows in the series, rarely pitting you against more than three adversaries at any given time with the game also making allowances to make things easier. One such is that bullets travel rather slowly, their progress across the screen indicated by a tracer-like effect. This gives you ample time to respond when they are incoming, but also forces you to ensure that you are in a good position before opening fire as the same limitation is placed upon you. Another is the semi-automatic targeting mechanic, but as already mentioned, this could have used some further refinement. Surprisingly, enemy AI is quite good as they often move about to stay safe as well as picking their shots. Tactical diversity is also present within their rules as heavier enemy types armed with shotguns will try to rush you, absorbing damage as they approach, while riflemen will hang back and spider grenades attacking indiscriminately upon being activated. The number of different enemy types is commendable, as is their intelligent placement which serves to make this game more difficult as the game progresses without always relying on new and stronger adversaries.
Liberation also sets the scene for the inclusion of bosses and jetpacks in Killzone 2 and 3 respectively by incorporating both of these aspects. The latter allows for greater tactical diversity and some rather basic platforming in its short segment to create an entirely new form of gameplay in the series, while the former is largely unimpressive and uninspired. Don’t get me wrong, these bosses do present a hefty challenge, with some of them being multi-levelled, but only one of them really stands out as you are pitted against a mobile tank with your aim being to disable its weapons systems. It further diversifies the type of action, but adds little in the grand scheme of things.
As in the other games, you are sometimes backed up squad mates (here limited to only one at a time), this entry granting you the ability to order them about in a limited capacity. They can be directed to attack a particular enemy, hold a particular position, or to activate an interactive environmental element (usually an elevator). It’s a nice inclusion, to be sure, but feels rather superfluous as there is rarely call for it to be used as your squad mates are quite capable of taking care of themselves. Given that Killzone: Liberation is a fairly short, sharp experiences, these different gameplay elements are enough to keep it feeling fresh throughout the duration of the campaign. If you feel so obliged, completing a chapter unlocks the challenge games for it, most of which charge you with completing objectives in as short a span of time as possible, rewarding you with different perks that can be loaded before embarking on a new mission. These are worthwhile as they can make the game easier, but are certainly not necessary. There is also a multiplayer suite, but I did not look into this.
Framing the four chapters of action is a cursory narrative set a short while following the events of the first game, when Jan Templar and his ragtag squad succeeded in restoring the planetary defence systems to repel the Helghast invasion fleet. Since then, the Helghast already on the surface of Vekta have been amassing their forces in the south under the banner of Colonel Metrac. When the ISA outpost at Rayhoven, a weapons facility, is attacked Templar is called in once again for the important mission of evacuating the VIPs stationed there, as well as keeping Rayhoven’s weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of the Helghast. This sets the wheels in motion for another save-the-world story that feels hollow and convoluted due to the poor storytelling. Almost all information is provided to the player in a block of text prior to the beginning of each mission, meaning that you never feel engaged with the characters or the events transpiring around them. Perhaps most heinously of all is that it begins the trend continued in more recent games of simply stopping, rather than coming to a real conclusion.
Of course, the shortcomings of all of this are made all the more prominent by the lacking technical aspects, particularly in the rare cutscenes. Killzone 2, in particular, was a tour de force of graphical capability and aural presentation that served to give the series a name for having incredible production values, but Liberation is far from this lofty standard. Character detail leaves much to be desired while the animation is stiff and unwieldy. On top of this, no attempt has even been made to lip-sync the characters (they don’t even seem to have lips) making this more reminiscent of a PSX game than any system more recent.
Things are a bit different in-game with the environmental backdrops subscribing to a higher standard in general. Special merit must be given to the Helghast designs, all of which are immediately identifiable from their cohorts meaning that you can alter your tactics for each enemy type at a glance. This should be blamed on design, rather than technical prowess. All things considered, in spite of some well-done particle effects and a couple of other laudable technical elements, the graphics are startlingly poor; a fact not aided by the bland design ethics throughout.
Slightly more noteworthy is the sound which is well orchestrated. Weapons feature sufficient punch, while the score is appropriately militaristic. The cries and calls of the Helghast and ISA alike are well done, but it feels as though something is missing from the ambience that would otherwise elevate it to another level. Most of the voice cast from the original game returns, so if you’ve played that you should know what to expect. For those that haven’t, the voice acting is entirely competent but can’t save the game from wallowing in mediocrity, certainly receiving no favours from the script.
When everything is weighed and measured, Killzone: Liberation feels more like a corporate decision than anything else. It’s an unnecessary (and poor) attempt to expand on the lore of a game that didn’t do much to draw players to it in the first instance. It is also a vastly different style of game from its predecessor generating a lack of unity that serves to further set it apart from its birthplace and it’s clearly intended as little more than another feather in the cap of the PSP, capitalising on the popularity of the Killzone title. The game isn’t entirely without merit but it certainly shouldn’t be viewed as a standard bearer.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.