Saturday, March 8, 2008

Killzone Liberation review

I was never a fan of Killzone. It was hyped by the gaming media and blogs that when it arrived, it was disappointedly average. But I never truly enjoyed playing FPS games via dual analog anyway, so no harm done. Thankfully Guerrilla Games to design the game around the PSP's more limited hardware by using a completely different gameplay approach. As a result, what we have in Killzone: Liberation is one of the most satisfying tactical-based shooter available on a portable console. Seriously, I have tried a couple of PSP action games, and many that I have to return or resell, no thanks to developers wishing to shoehorn the fixed console experience on a handheld game.

In Killzone Liberation, the most obvious change over its console cousin is the inclusion of the overhead camera. This actually provides the same immersion level provided by FPS titles and third person games like Portable Ops, but at the same time allows for greater flexibility in a game designed around a single analog pad. It is so simple, yet so effective that you have to wonder why on earth didn't games like Portable Ops ship with such a camera mode. The top down perspective also allows for a more tactical approach within the gameplay, though not on the same level as Commandos or SOCOM. One such approach is having the ability to lob grenades over, and another being able to order your team mate around. For example your AI buddy can provide cover support while you busy yourself planting a C4. Multiple pathways also awaits to be unearthed. Controls are well integrated with the only problem being the buttons switching functions depending on the types of weapons equipped or the actions required. Seriously, there can never be too many buttons. Phil Harrison and Peter Molyneux are both so wrong (this is fact).

The difficulty can be harrowing as the intensity is pretty unforgiving especially when the difficulty spikes infinitely during the second half and during boss battles. Well placed checkpoints should keep you from hurling stamping your PSP in frustration. Enemy combatants around that dumb either. They don't just run at you, but hide and duck as well, and occasionally ambushes you into skirmish that will frighten even the most hardened gamer. It isn't Contra 4 but it does provide a significant challenge and will provide at least 5-8 hours (depending on skills) of mission based single player campaign, in addition to multiplayer via ad-hoc and Infrastructure (via a downloadable patch). A fifth campaign is also available via download which should increase the playtime by an additional 1-2 hours.

Visually Killzone: Liberation is one of the most technically impressive title created for a portable console and it shows well. While the colour palette is limited, graphically the game is top tier with its gritty visuals and detailed architecture, though no where near the level exhibited by the upcoming God of War: Chains of Olympus game. Humans are well animated and the rag doll physics of Helghast soldiers being gunned down is downright pleasing. With the environment designed to be as gorgeous as possible, the frame rate never once stuttering even under heavy load of special effects. Sadly the same level of care can not be said for sound effects. Team mates will occasionally quip and Helghast will do their usual Gnome soldier impression. Sound wise, nothing special is offered and the limited voice over is something you have learnt to expect from a game like this anyway.

Despite some flaws, Killzone: Liberation is a well presented game high in production value, even if it is lacking in content and innovation. The 2006 title is now available as a budget and as thus well worth checking out, or at least a rent.

Graphically very impressive
Substantial amount of content
Gameplay tailored around the PSP

Difficulty rockets through the second half
Soundtrack is lacking and voice acting a bit meh


You can import Killzone: Liberation from Play-Asia. Euro gamers are probably far better off with the cheaper Platinum title though.

No comments: