Killzone: Liberation follows immediately after the events of its PS2 predecessor. Liberation suffers from a poor, linear story but makes up for it with excellent gameplay. The Helghast, led by General Armin Metrac are trying to strengthen their positions on Vekta after their heavy defeat in the events of Killzone. You take control of Jan Templar and you're sent on a rescue mission to save scientists being held hostage, and to stop the ruthless General by navigating through hordes of Helghast soldiers and terrain infested with booby traps.
Killzone: Liberation’s control scheme is nothing like its predecessor. First of all, it’s not even a first person shooter. It’s more like an action dungeon crawler with enemies, traps and goodies. It is quite unique and fun. The controls seem complicated at first, but become soon familiar after dying and learning from your mistakes a few times. Your primary weapon automatically locks onto a target if it is in range. However, you can hold the R button down to make Templar crouch and manually target enemies or explosive barrels. You cannot move when in this position but you become a harder target because you can take cover behind obstacles, shielding you from oncoming fire. Also, when behind cover, you can use the nub to switch between targets and pop out and shoot. The L button allows you to strafe while shooting. You can hold only one primary weapon at a time. They all have the same auto lock-on feature, but some should be used more carefully to avoid killing yourself, like the rocket launcher or explosive crossbow. Sniper rifles are good for picking off enemies from a distance, but are slow because of reload time. You can simply allow your weapon to reload automatically, or tap triangle to do it manually. If an enemy is too close and you doubt you’ll have enough time to reload, it would be wise to melee them to the ground by tapping X. Secondary weapons (grenades) are used similarly but are mostly effective against stubborn enemies that spend a lot of time behind their own cover, like snipers, because grenades can be tossed over crates and barricades. You are limited to the number of frag grenades you can carry so strategy gets involved, especially later on in the game where grenades become reliable at certain points and the game gets tougher. There are also smoke bombs that block the enemy’s view, explosive detonators that can be set as traps, and land mines. However, like the primary weapons, you can only carry one type of explosives at a time.
Scattered throughout the game are supply boxes. They contain primary weapons, explosives and health compartments. You can restock on ammo and grenades or just simply exchange the type of weapon you want to carry. They are usually located at check-points, so when you die you can use them to carefully strategize your next approach. There are medical kits that fully restore your health bar but you cannot carry them, only use them on the spot. Time slows down when navigating through the supply boxes, so decisions should be made quickly if you notice any bullets coming at you in slow motion. Other stuff you will find in these amazing boxes are syringes, which are used on allies, and C4. However, C4 is not used for combat, but instead it is used to open up pathways or complete mission objectives, like destroying anti-aircraft guns. Ammo and health kits can also be collected from fallen Helghast or crates.
The Helghast in this game are a strong bunch, and it’s very easy to die. You can’t just simply rush your way through levels. The diversity in enemy types simply doesn’t allow that. There are a variety of Helghast that specialize in different weapons. Besides the typical Helghast who carry the assault rifles, you have snipers with their distinct long coats, grenade specialists who can be quite annoying because they throw grenades at you from a distance but are equipped with shotguns so you can’t get too close to them either. Do not confuse the ‘grenaders’ with the Helghast that don’t sport helmets (and trust me, you can’t miss their shiny bald heads). They also carry the shotgun, but are more trigger happy. You’re pretty much done with if they get too close to you because they don’t fall to the ground from melee attacks. There are also dogs, or what I like to call ‘Heldogs’, that are quick and usually tackle you to the ground if you don’t respond quickly enough. They can also grab a hold of your arm, which gradually decreases your health, but you can shake them off by rapidly tapping the X button. Throughout the game you will encounter other types of foes, like spidermines, Scouts (stealth missions), Helghast who are equipped with flamethrowers, rocket launchers, and heavy stationary guns.
If that wasn’t challenging enough, levels are set with traps. You’re going to get really familiar with the land mines as they will be your number one cause of death. They are invisible until you approach them, which means it’s going to be too late to respond to them. However, you’ll always remember their locations next try because it’s not fun being sent back to a checkpoint. Some explosive can be disarmed, but it takes about 4 seconds so it would be smart to clear out any lingering enemies in the area before disarming them. Other traps include rotating trip wires, and oil puddles that can be ignited with flamethrowers.
In the game, you will sometimes have an ally to support you in battle (usually Sergeant Rico). They will automatically attack any nearby enemies, but you can also command them. Hit up on the D-pad to open up the command menu. Commands include ordering allies to attack a certain enemy, taking cover, disarming traps, or planting C4. The command feature is not nearly as complicated as it sounds because it's very easy to navigate through. It has set precursors that you can skim through with the left and right directional buttons.
From the isometric point of view, the graphics are acceptable, and the environments feel real. However, in close-ups during dialog scenes you can see how shabby the characters look, and how unsmooth the textures of the environments really are.
The music is really not that impressive. You usually hear a military-themed soundtrack during a mission briefing and after completing one (very rarely during gameplay though). However, the sound effects are very rich. You can almost always tell what an enemy is firing in the distance just by the sound of the gun, and know when a dog is approaching from the barking… and my least favorite, the “clink” sound right before a mine is set off sending you flying like a rag doll. The voice acting is also good, and the Helghast’s one-liners will always put a smile on your face. Being called an “ I.S.A dog” never gets old.
Killzone: Liberation consists of 5 chapters (the fifth chapter is available for download for free online) and each chapter has 4 missions. It's really not that long but feels like it is due to the high rates of death. What’s really cool is that the missions differ from one another, so you’re not going to feel like it’s repetitive. Some missions require you to escort hostages or clear a landing zone, other levels require you to take control of a tank, assault boat, or even fly a jet pack. It’s very easy to get carried away with the tank or boat, but the level’s difficulty will increase and you don’t want your vehicle to get disabled. Good luck trying to finish the level without them; it’s not impossible but is very challenging.
As mentioned, the game really isn’t that long. On my second attempt I finished it in 5 hours, compared to my first 9 hour run. Each level has a set amount of briefcases that contain 1000 Vekta dollars each, and collected currency can be used to unlock weapons to choose from at the start of a mission. Also, there are challenge modes that unlock after completing a chapter. These challenges include time trials, defending a base with an ally, or capturing spidermines. You gain medals depending on how you perform (gold, silver, and bronze medals), which determine the amount of points you receive. Unlike the Vekta dollars, points are used for upgrades, like increasing the amount of grenades and syringes you can hold, or minimize the time it takes to disarm a trap, or plant C4.
I didn’t have the chance to play the online multiplayer in Killzone: Liberation because there is never anyone to match-up with online, so that makes the downloadable maps, multiplayer patch, and unlockable multiplayer characters largely redundant.
Killzone: Liberation is a great game for the PSP. The style is unique and the game is really enjoyable – yes, it can get quite frustrating sometimes, but there is never a dull moment and there’s always something new to do in every level. With an intense and challenging campaign, Killzone: Liberation is an excellent experience that should satisfy anyone who loves a good action game.