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Killzone: Liberation
Score: 84%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Media: UMD/1
Players: 1 - 6
Genre: Action/ Shooter

Graphics & Sound:
Burdening a game with the label of “Killer” is a huge moniker to live up to and, of course, brings with it a ton of expectations. This was certainly the case for Killzone, which had the dubious honor of being labeled Sony’s “Halo-Killer” almost from the time it was announced. And, while it fell short of expectations, it still managed to gain a nice foothold with gamers because of its atmosphere and multiplayer options. Killzone: Liberation, a pseudo-sequel to the PS2 game, doesn’t have the same burden as its cousin, but still isn’t much more than a good shooter.

Liberation is one of the PSP’s better-looking titles. It doesn’t “force” a console translation like other games have attempted and instead keeps the platform in mind. Unlike the PS2 version, Liberation is played as a top-down, isometric shooter. The dark, brooding atmosphere of the PS2 game carries over to the PSP game, though the multiple shades of gray and brown do get tiresome. In addition, the limited palette makes some areas seem remarkably similar to others. Characters look and animate well, especially when the rag-doll physics begin to kick in, and the design of the Helghast forces still rock.

Sound is about what you’d expect from an action game. There’s plenty of gunfire, explosions and other wartime sounds. Each sounds good, though you’ll need to jack-in your headset to really fully appreciate the sounds. Sorry, but the internal speakers just don’t cut it.

Killzone: Liberation takes place shortly after the original. You’re still fighting the Helghast, only this time your target is a rogue general named Metrac, who is running a series of terror operations in the southern area of the invasion zone. As the Templar, it is your job to track down Metrac and deal with the aftermath of his campaigns. Each campaign is broken up into missions that have you doing everything from conducting rescues to driving tanks and invading enemy strongholds.

Missions are laid out in a linear fashion and generally follow the same basic outline. Levels are in large part built like mazes with very little room for exploration. For the most part, you’re kept on a straightforward track with scripted “action zones” found every few halls. In order to pass these zones, you’ll need to complete certain objectives like clearing mines, holding back an approaching force or finding a particular person. A few areas, such as an early encounter with a tank, are a little more open to different strategies, but it is usually easier just to stick to the path the developers have pre-determined for you.

The linear feel gives Liberation a very restricted feel, to the point that it becomes a bit tedious. Overall, the layouts are objective friendly, though you will usually have to do a little backtracking through areas in order to pick up certain items like explosives. Some of the mission objectives can get a little hectic as well, especially when you need to disarm a bomb while soldiers are trying to shoot you. These situations are made a little easier with the use of a second character, giving the game a tactical shooter feel.

Generally, your A.I.-controlled teammate can manage his own, though there were occasions where I had to stop what I was doing to revive him. I usually found it easier to send him to perform tasks while I did the shooting, though this isn’t always an option. The second character does open up the option of two-player Co-op play.

While Liberation does a good job at offering plenty of action, there isn’t much variety. Once I got into the second campaign, I began to get the feeling that I had seen everything the game had to offer, making for little motivation to keep playing. Still, the experience was enjoyable though I couldn’t see myself immediately jumping back into the game.

Given how linear Killzone: Liberation is, the game shouldn’t take too long to complete if you simply want to run through the story. Regardless of difficulty settings, many areas boil down to simple trial-and-error in how you approach each “action zone”. Playing through the game in Co-op mode should make the gameplay a little easier, though I was never able to try this mode out. I wil update once I am able to try this mode.

Game Mechanics:
Interface is streamlined and easy to use. All of your commands are context sensitive and require pressing a single button. Once you are near an area, all you have to do is hold down the X button and the game takes care of the rest. Some tasks take longer than others do, which is where strategy comes into play. Do I blindly run to disarm a laser fence to get to an area, or do I clear out some resistance? Or, do I order my buddy to run in while I take out troops from a distance?

One of the mechanics I really liked was the lock-on feature. The ability to click and lock-on to a target is always helpful, but can also remove some of the skill involved. Lock-on is used for combat, though the lock won’t stay on a target if you move around too much. You can strafe a bit to the left or right while finding cover, but wild swings in any direction break the lock. It is not a perfect solution, but definitely helps bridge the gap between too easy and too hard.

Commanding your second solider is also very easy. After bringing up the command screen (which is really just the game screen with the camera pulled out a little more), several context-sensitive icons will pop up in various locations. All you need to do is select the icon, hit a button and the solider gets to work.

As far as shooters go, Killzone: Liberation does a good job but doesn’t really do anything special. If you can get past the linear feel and lack of variety in later levels, Liberation is a good shooter – just don’t expect to be floored by the experience.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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