"Killzone: Liberation is the epitome of what the PSP is capable of, and is the best portable action game in years."

Gameplay: 10
Graphics: 10
Sound: 8
Value: 8
Tilt: 8

Overall: 9.5

The Good: Amazing visuals with awesome level design and visual effects; great music and sound effects; addictive gameplay; tons of interesting weapons; ragdoll physics; single player game is co-op so you can play through with a friend; tons of challenging bonus games and many unlockable rewards keep you playing after you finish the game; vehicles are a blast to drive; almost non-existent load times for huge levels; and a constantly smooth framerate.

The Bad: Occasionally frustrating due to difficulty; occasional tearing is a minor issue but is sometimes noticeable in certain levels; you are limited to only one weapon at a time with no sidearm; campaign isn't very long; no infrastructure mode... yet.

If you've never heard of Killzone before, you'd be surprised to know that the franchise began as a first person shooter for the PlayStation 2. Killzone's ultimate "objective" was to provide PlayStation 2 owners with a first person shooter equivalent to Halo. Killzone was not entirely well received, garnering mixed reactions from reviewers and players alike. Those who have played Killzone of the PlayStation 2 may have the initial reaction to simply ignore this second outing on the PSP, but that would be a terrible mistake to do so if you have even the most minor interest in action games.

Due to first person shooters being highly criticised on the PSP, and even making people question whether or not the PSP would be capable of providing a first person shooter that was frustrating to control, or simply a bad game, Guerrilla decided to take Killzone into unknown territory. The first person perspective was abandoned and the overhead bird's-eye view was put in place. Thus, Killzone: Liberation is born, the best PSP action game to date.

The reason why Killzone: Liberation is such an amazing game is simply because it's one of the first PSP games that doesn't feel like a sloppy and shameless port of a console game or franchise. When the PSP was launched in March 2005 most of the games were lackluster ports or inferior versions of PlayStation 2 titles. However there were some great offerings such as Lumines and Wipeout Pure, but since then there hasn't really been anything "original" on the PSP, and game releases were not entirely high. For a long time gamers who eagerly went out and bought a PSP at launch were left in the dust wondering when the next "killer-ap" would come for the system. Many gamers were left playing Lumines for months, watching UMD movies or even found themselves playing other systems while their PSP gathered dust on the shelf. Let me tell you, Killzone: Liberation is the "killer-ap" you've been waiting for on your PSP.

The basic elements that make up Killzone: Liberation is controlling your character from an overhead side view, where you take shelter behind objects, and return fire to your enemies. Don't worry though, the camera isn't completely above you, it's simply a raised camera that gives you sort of a "side view" from the top. The camera is also highly intelligent, you will never find yourself frustrated with the camera, and it will never get stuck. The camera will also intelligently move towards the area where enemies are so you will never find yourself taking fire from enemies you can't see. Basic console shooter elements are also wonderfully implemented into this new perspective, such as being able to carry grenades and tossing them while using your gun at the same time. The only real downside to the weapons system in Killzone is how limiting it can be at times. You can only carry one gun and one type of grenade at a time. For example, you have to choose whether or not you wish to carry frag grenades, pressure mines, or smoke grenades. As for guns you can only carry one gun at a time, which really makes the game realistic but it would of been nice to at least have a standard side-arm of sorts, although it is not entirely necessary. This system is also part of what makes Killzone unique and challenging. The only time you will really ever feel like you wish you could carry more than one weapon is at times when you are using the rocket launcher, and do not wish to waste precious ammunition on ground soldiers, where it would prove to be more useful against a machine gun or a tank. However, instances like this are rare, and the only real benefit of carrying more than one weapon would be to be able to use some of the other weapons more often.

There are many different types of weapons in Killzone: Liberation and many of them will be familiar to anyone who has played Killzone for the PlayStation 2. Some of the weapons are also extremely cool but can unfortunately only be used in certain levels. Weapons like the basic rifles will be in overabundance, however more unique weapons like the mini-gun and the jet pack will only be usable in very few circumstances, but when you actually do get to use them it's hella fun.

The weapons system is intelligently implemented though, you will rarely find yourself in a bad situation if you chose the "wrong" weapon, and in each mission, granted that you have found enough vektan dollars, you can choose which weapon you would like to start the mission with. New weapons are found in weapon crates which are scattered throughout the levels in ideal locations, and you can even check your map to see where they are. These weapon crates will usually contain the ideal weapon for the situation and will also contain things like med kits and frag grenades so you can resupply your wares. This makes the player play intelligently though, since things like frag grenades and med kits are not in limitless supply you will have to make smart decisions when you are using these items.

If gunplay isn't enough to intrigue you, the vehicles are a great addition. During the campaign you can drive a tank and you can also drive a hovercraft, both of which are a blast to play. They control wonderfully and come readily equipped with a machine gun and a rocket launcher. The only downside to the vehicle sequences is that they don't last long enough (due to how quickly you allow your vehicle to take damage) and there simply aren't enough opportunities to use them, but when you do get to drive them its tons of fun.

In addition to vehicles there are also many missions where you can have a teammate follow you around and provide assistance. These teammates intelligently follow you around and can even be given simple, yet useful commands. Opening the command menu will put the game into slow motion, you are still vulnerable but it allows you time to think about what you want to order your comrade to do. Things such as choosing where to take cover, which enemy to attack are some of the things you can order them to do. The same slow motion time also applies to when you are looking through ammo crates for items, so the game never actually stops. Interestingly enough, whether you are escorting a civilian (VIP) during a rescue mission, or simply shooting up baddies with an allied teammate when your enemies die you can heal them in a similar manner that you heal yourself. Initially you will be able to carry up to two syringes that you can use on your allies when they die. When an ally is gunned down, they will say something like "Ugh, I need help" and fall down. A 20 second timer will commence, and it is up to you to run over and revive them before the timer runs out. Fortunately this won't happen very often because you can heal them when their health is low before they actually "die".

At the end of it all when you think you've seen everything that Killzone: Liberation has to offer there are the boss battles. The boss battles are some of the most intense, challenging, infuriating, yet highly entertaining boss battles I've ever played. Thankfully a rolling dodge move has been provided for you to use so plan on using it a lot during encounters with tanks, giant mechs and crazy men with mini-guns that decide to stand in your way. But what makes these boss fights so memorable is how well they are designed. I initially thought that the level design in Killzone was amazing, but the boss battle designs take it to the extreme. The areas where you duke it out with the bosses are so cleverly design that it creates such a highly original and unique setting that makes every boss a completely different and entertaining encounter. With limited supplies and cover you really have to think about how to defeat the boss, and while you may suffer some frustrating deaths, in the end you will realize that it was your own fault that you did not defeat the boss. Thankfully a smart checkpoint save system was included so you won't find yourself replaying large portions of the game when you do die, and take my word for it you will die quite a bit in this game until you get the hang of things.

Presentation wise Killzone: Liberation is an astounding looking game. The environments are unique and well developed and the weather effects are wonderful. Each level is uniquely designed so that the gameplay never feels boring or repetitive. And the inclusion of rag doll physics is a god send. Lobbing a grenade over to your enemies position and watching them go flying NEVER gets old. Your enemies are also highly intelligent, because unlike many action games your enemies will try and run away from the grenades, however many times they are unsuccessful. You enemies will also use wonderfully provided cover for both them and you, and every enemy encounter will also play out completely differently. The attention to detail in Killzone is mind boggling, as the character models are wonderfully detailed, and many minor effects in the game are great. When you shoot enemies you can see blood flying in a realistic way, and when bullets are hitting against metal objects you can see sparks flying as if it was real. Another wonderful addition to how the overall game plays out is that when your character goes behind a solid object, it will become transparent to allow you to see where your character is, however the way that the game pulls this off looks amazing, without making it look corny and bringing down the experience. Simply put, Killzone is a technically amazing looking game with wonderful graphics, almost non-existent load times and brilliantly designed levels.

The gameplay is Killzone is relatively story-driven and there are quite a few voice acted cut-scenes. These scenes look great and the voice acting is solid and feels natural, rather than forced. The musical score is also wonderful and really helps pick of the pace in heart pounding action sequences. Even the music that plays during the menu screens will get you pumped up and ready for action. However during many areas of the game the music takes back stage and in some cases isn't really there. This is fitting though because of how the game plays having constant music would be distracting.

The gun effects and explosions also sound amazing whether it's being heard through the speakers or through headphones on the PSP. Each gun has a completely unique firing sounds, and even when the bullets hit different materials they make different impact sounds. It's great when your fighting because every gun sounds so unique you can actually tell by the way it sounds which gun is which. This is generally something you can do in many action games but you'd be surprised by how many games there are where telling the difference between weapons isn't as easy as you'd think.

The only real downside to Killzone: Liberation is that it provides such an amazing experience but it comes off as a little short. The campaign is highly entertaining but on the easiest setting isn't relatively long. On harder settings the game lasts much longer, but many players will opt for the easier setting because they may become frustrated by how difficult the harder modes can be. Don't be fooled though, once you get the hang of it this game is far less difficult than many reviews would make it seem. If you play a lot of action games, Killzone will soon become second nature to you, but if you don't you make require a little bit of practice.

And that is where the challenge games come in. To further increase the value of Killzone, there are many challenge games that you can unlock. These challenge games however are not simply there to try and trick you into playing the game longer, but as a way to earn valuable rewards. Such as being able to carry more grenades, acquire increased health for you and your computer controller comrades, and even eventually obtain infinite ammo, so you can go through the levels using your favourite weapons without ever having to put them down. Challenge games include missions such as C4 course, where you try to see how fast you can blow up four targets while dealing with enemies, target practice, and my personal favourite base defense, where you have to defend a location with an ally from a never ending onslaught of Helghast soldiers. The way this works is by earning a bronze, silver or gold in each challenge game you are awarded points, and when you acquire enough of these points you will obtain ability rewards for single player. You can choose up to three of these abilities to use during the single player game. And trust me when I say this, player through the challenge games is both fun and rewarding. There is nothing better than being able to carry five frag grenades instead of two, and playing through the levels with your favourite weapon with unlimited ammunition.

You can even play through Killzone with a friend if they have a PSP and Killzone and this is another extremely entertaining option. Even once you've played through the campaign you will definitely want to play through it again on a higher difficulty or with a friend using many of the rewards and new weapons you have unlocked. The only true short coming of Killzone: Liberation is that it provides such an amazing PSP experience yet fails to provide infrastructure wireless play. There is an ad-hoc mode, but being able to play the game online would be an amazing experience. Fortunately Guerrilla has assured players that an online mode is in the works and will be available for download when it's ready. With online and an apparent fifth single player chapter on the way, Killzone: Liberation is an incredible PSP action game that has a load of entertainment to provide, and a hopefully bright online future in the coming weeks.

If you're looking for a reason to play your PSP again, don't wait any longer Killzone: Liberation is the PSP game you've been waiting for since you purchased your PSP over a year ago. Anyone with a PSP who doesn't at least rent Killzone: Liberation is a madman, do yourself a favour, play this game, and enjoy it.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/07/06

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