3/16/2007 11:33:31 PM
Killzone: Liberation PSP Review
By Rich Dixon
If you own a PS2, no doubt you remember "Killzone." If you don't own a PS2, no doubt you still remember the hype that accompanied "Killzone." This was going to be the game that would conquer the world and show us what fools we were for having made such a big deal about "Halo." This was the game that was going to be the shooter that shooter fans dream about on those nights when they dream about the best things ever. This would be the game that would return the PS2 to the very top of the FPS heap.
If you remember that, you also probably remember that "Killzone" didn't live up to the hype. Sure, there were probably a lot of people who really enjoyed the game, but it didn't kill "Halo," it didn't make Bill Gates cry like a little girl, and in the end it joined the ranks of shooters that were never quite what the fanboys imagined they might be.
Now, courtesy of the PSP, we have the second chapter in the "Killzone" narrative, and this time it's a little different. Gone is the first-person perspective; now you're fighting third-person style, which is a design decision that might be suprising if you're a fan of PSP shooters like "Coded Arms" or "Medal of Honor: Heroes," but which comes as something of a relief to those of us who find aiming with the analog thumbstick an exercise in frustration. The game is set within the "Killzone" world, of course, and picks up the story from the end of the PS2 game, and there have been some good third-person games on the PSP already. This isn't the game that will fulfill the original promise of "Killzone"--I don't think even the developers would pretend that they tried for something that grand--but it still holds the potential of being a really good handheld game. How well does it deliver on the promise?
The first thing you'll notice is that the cutscenes are done really well, which is something you should expect of a "Killzone" title. If you're interested in the story of humanity's resistance to Helghast imperialism, you'll be eagerly soaking up these details. Don't get too excited, though, because there's not a lot of story to go around here. After the opening scene you'll find yourself looking more or less directly down at your on-screen character as he navigates a ravaged landscape and confronts a series of tough enemies. This is not a friendly landscape; if you're not taking fire you might still find yourself stumbling into barbed wire, which will damage your health in a fashion which is quite aggravating if, like me, you couldn't tell that you were too close until you were actually hurt. When you see an enemy you target him by pointing yourself in the right direction; the enemy in your sites is presented with a health meter above his head, so you can tell both who you're shooting at and how well it's going. There are enemies everywhere, so luckily you can duck behind features of the landscape, and also lucky is the fact that this landscape is also littered with barrels and boxes containing ammo, health packs, and all the other things you need to replenish supplies and health. Lucky break, that--if you ever fall asleep and wake up inside a game world, you'll know immediately what's going on as soon as you kick a box and find it full of exactly the sort of supply that you need right at that moment.
"Killzone: Liberation" has excellent production values--good graphics and sound work, in addition to the cutscenes already mentioned--and it's been collecting mostly favorable reviews. So why did I hate it so much? Mostly I think it gets down to frustration: I don't like it, and "Killzone: Liberation" supplies it in spades. You die a lot in this game, even if you didn't do anything wrong. Maybe you brushed up against a hazard that you couldn't see, like the barbed wire or a landmine. Or maybe you couldn't target an enemy who had no trouble shooting at you, as happens when you come up against an enemy with a missile launcher. Or maybe you were fighting a dog and couldn't lock onto it at all. No matter, death is your constant companion in this game. Other people--maybe they're better people--might look at this and see a challenge. I see a game that's killing me for no reason, and I have a hard time justifying the idea that I should play this when there are other, better options at my disposal.
So should you get this game? If you're like me, the answer is a big "no"--I couldn't care less about the "Killzone" universe, and I prefer games that allow me to succeed without getting lucky (or just being really, really persistent). I'm also not a big fan of the "Metal Gear Solid"-style top-down perspective; I'd have preferred an over-the-shoulder perspective that might have allowed me to pick out my targets more successfully. If, though, you're looking for a handheld military game that's difficult but not particularly deep or long, this might be the one.
Graphics: 9. The scenes are very good, though I'm getting very tired of today's "the future is brown and gray" color palette in gaming.
Sound: 7. Quality voice work breaks up the explosions.
Gameplay: 5. I found it more annoying than fun.
Story: 6. What's there is well-presented; there's just not much of it.
Replayability: 4. Uggh.
Overall: 7. Not my cup of tea, but it has its strong points.
Killzone: Liberation PSP Review