Back in 2004, the sci-fi FPS Killzone was poised to steal some thunder from Microsoft's Halo and siphon it into Sony's stables. While Killzone was certainly fun, it had yet to reach its full potential. A couple of years later, the long-awaited sequel is finally here – Killzone: Liberation. Usually when I think of sequels, I think of game series like Grand Theft Auto, where Rockstar literally remakes the same best-selling title over and over again, with a minor twist each time. Guess the old adage of, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," really means something with Rockstar.
Thankfully, the folks at Guerrilla think differently and took just about everything from Killzone, tossed it out the window, and started over from scratch. Liberation has been completely redesigned for the PSP, and the only similarities you'll notice are the main character, the roughneck language, and a continued storyline.
For those who have been in a coma or are unfamiliar with the Killzone storyline, humanity has, for one reason or another, taken to space occupation in the distant future. A militant group, the ISA, breaks off from normal society and forms its own government on a planet called Helghan. The planet transforms the people into a new race called the Helghast. The Helghast invade the ISA-occupied planet called Vekta, and it is your job to fight them off.
Liberation's plot takes place two months after the conclusion of Killzone, when the Helghast are trying to capture and control the small islands in Southern Vekta. A new Helghast leader General Metrac has ordered the capture of ISA VIPs to aid in negotiations for the withdrawal of ISA forces from the region. The player takes on the role of the returning hero Templar, a hardened military veteran, with orders to assist the ISA troops and to locate and free the VIP hostages from behind enemy lines.
Liberation has taken on a new layout, and at first glance, the game may appear to be some kind of Untold Legends knock-off. With that said, however, this title is very much a shooter, and a difficult one at that. I have honestly not wanted to smash a perfectly functional game system on the floor since the days of Metal Slug for the Neo Geo Pocket Color. You will die in Liberation, and you will die a lot!
Liberation's battlefields are set up to be more of a tactical experience, involving subtle strategy and preparation. Because the player's view of the battlefield is so large due to the new third-person perspective, he is able to make a plan of attack even before an enemy is within shooting distance. Strategy is also used in certain missions where the player takes control of ISA troops by use of a command menu. The command menu can be used to order the soldier to take a certain position, attack certain targets, or to just escort Templar. All of the strategy and planning in the world will not be enough, as you will find yourself replaying the same area over and over until you finally perfect your plan of attack using the environment to your advantage.
The game features several game modes, but most of the focus has gone into the campaign mode, which is split into chapters and missions and is playable via single-player and co-op. When starting a new campaign, Templar is armed solely with a basic machine gun, but this should be more than enough to take care of any baddies that you may run into at this point. Other weapons, like the automatic shotgun, sniper rifle, and weapon upgrades are acquired by collecting Vektan dollars found in crates throughout each mission.
You can also expand your arsenal by finding supply crates which can contain ammunition, weapons, health packs and syringes, C4, and smoke or frag grenades. Health packs are used to refill Templar's health, syringes are used to refill the health of the ISA militants, and C4 is used to blow up marked objects, enabling Templar to explore new areas. Grenades … well, you know what grenades do. Mission objectives range from search and rescue, to the total annihilation of Helghast scum. These supply crates have been placed strategically throughout each battlefield, and finding them is easy as the game generally runs a pretty straight course. Missions vary in difficulty, and objectives range anywhere from basic search and rescue, to the total annihilation of the Helghast scum.
Controlling Templar is pretty simple and quickly mastered after a few minutes in the tutorial mode. The analog stick is used to maneuver Templar around the battlefield, while the four face buttons are used to activate objects, such as fire, reload, and throw grenades. The right shoulder button is used for crouching, which enables better shooting accuracy but also makes Templar an easy target for enemy gunfire. The left shoulder button is used to lock Templar's view toward a certain target, and it's also used for strafing; these abilities are great for hitting moving targets and avoiding enemy fire. The directional pad is used to activate and navigate the command menu for use with AI counterparts.
The graphics and sound in Killzone Liberation are next to none when it comes to environment, character design, and the realism of gunfire and grenade explosions. The only downfall to the amount of realism dumped into the game's graphics is the abundant use of natural colors like browns, grays, and greens. This does give the impression of fighting in a dirty war in a barren land, but it also can be a bit confusing when trying to find things like a weapon clip lying on the ground or an approachable path to reach your next objective.
Perhaps the most exciting feature available in the game will be the massive multiplayer options and game modes. Both ad-hoc and infrastructure modes are available; however, infrastructure will be a feature that is downloaded and will not be supported directly out of the box. Different multiplayer modes will include a co-op campaign and combat zone, which is a one- to six-player game on specific multiplayer maps.
I've been waiting for months to play Killzone: Liberation, and after sitting down with a finalized version, I'd say that this is a must-own title that is definitely worth playing. Everything is great, and I really cannot think of anything I would change in what could be this year's greatest handheld game.
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