The PlayStation 2 original was dubbed the 'Halo-Killer' prior to its release; this claim proved to be tremendously false. It's good then that Killzone: Liberation comes with little or no hype surrounding its release, because people will be blown away by just how good Liberation really is.
Ditching the first-person genre in favour of an almost Metal Gear camera system, the changes for the better are apparent from the get-go. Liberation is a sort of redux for the franchise to make amends for its ultimately unfullfilling PS2 counterpart. The game feels like a rework of the first, which isn't a bad thing as it had an interesting story and excellent character and universe design – the game was just poorly made.
Liberation is coated in somewhat of an arcade-like feel, which helps in making the portable actioner all the more accessible. You're even classically graded at the end of each mission! You'll find yourself smashing crates which conveniently house ammunition, and using supply depots which act as vending machines for health, ammo, and explosives. Sometimes, these will house mission objective-specific items. For example, early in the game you are required to destroy a barrier which is in the way of you and your allies' battlefield exit - in the depot there's a supply of annihilative C4. Using these items is as simple as walking up to the point where it is required, which is indicated by a small hovering logo, and hitting X to perform the special action, whether it be setting C4 charges or disarming traps.
Attacking enemies is as simple as aiming the PSP's nub in the desired direction and holding the square button; to reload just hit the triangle button. But the plethora of guns aren't the only weapons you'll be using to hail fiery carnage upon your enemy. Grenades are easy to use and are understandably very effective. Hitting O brings up a dotted parabolic curve from your character's hand to the location of impact, which is adjustable. Turrets, though few and far between, are manable, and will mow down your enemy like a ginsu knife through butter. Best of all is that enemies don't simply fall when they're killed; rag-doll physics allow for some brutal corpse bouncing around the map.
The game houses a few nifty features: you can crouch down behind cover, which is in the form of indestructable crates, and pop your gun over the top to shoot pseudo-blindly at your enemy. And no action game is complete without exploding barrels - they're here, and they're great! But the greatest feature of the game is the ability to command the allies you gain throughout your missions. Hit the command button and time will slow to a crawl; by using the d-pad you can assign an ally to specially marked positions in the viewable area - tell them to stay put, attack or to follow you - at which point time will return to its standard pace. Supressing fire is an incredibly useful tactic that the real-life military employs (if movies and previous games are anything to go by), and here, for the first time in a game, it actually feels that useful (and looks stunningly stylish to boot). Get under cover, command your ally to advance, fire lead into the general direction of the hiding enemy, and your ally has flanked them and brought them out their cover, and into the sights of your vehement carbine.
But fear not if your stratagems fail you! Should you die you'll be sent back to the latest auto-save point, so say good-bye to aggravating saving and reloading, and even worse, restarting levels when you're seconds away from completing it.
If you decide to get this game please take the following advice - do not play the game through the PSP's speakers. Though they do an admirable job, you're going to need a decent set of headphones - or if you want, a speaker-set - to fully appreciate the visceral depth of the audio. Hands-down, it's the best on the PSP. Graphically, the game does a fine job too. Gritty battlefields are entirely realised with an eloquent attention to detail.
If there are any shortcomings they lie in the nature of the game – it's very linear. Plowing through the game in a few days is entirely achievable; in fact, a seasoned veteran will take around six to seven hours to finish the game. If you're a completist it will take a few more to get all the pick-ups which provide money which can be exchanged for a more powerful arsenal – a vital asset to a campaign of war.
If Killzone Liberation is anything to go by, then Guerrilla Games have learned from their mistakes and will hopefully put 110% into the PlayStation 3 iteration of the series. Enjoyable, entertaining and engrossing, Killzone: Liberation is a must-have title for the PSP.
Note: Online multiplayer aspects of the game could not be fully reviewed as at the time of publishing this review as the game had not hit the mass-market.