Archive for May, 2007

Review: Killzone:Liberation (PSP)

May 30, 2007

Liberation (PSP)
Welcome to my first game review. Just to give a little perspective to my review – my favourite types of games are arcade driving games and first-person shooters. [I am not an uber-gamer]

People raved about KillZone when it first appeared on the PSP and, like the meek sheep that I am, I blindly stuck it on my list for Santa for Christmas. 5 months on, and I have only just gotten around to actually playing it (oops!).

Let me just say, this game is frighteningly addictive. The first time I sat down and played it properly, I wasted 5 hours on it. Last night, another 3 hours flew by. Exceptional!

I’ll not bore you with the elaborate back-story of the game. Instead, here’s a summary: You have a little soldier blokey, tool him up with weapons, and manoeuvre him around a series of 3rd person viewed scrolling environments to do some nonsense missions. Shoot, throw grenades, blow shit up. If the scenario is not familiar to you, welcome to planet Earth!

Liberation (PSP)

My first hurdle was having to control my psycho-soldier with the PSP’s analog stick. I have zero coordination in my left thumb and tend to prefer stabbing the directional keys in PSP games rather than being ultra precise with the stick. This was a major trauma for me and probably the reason why I left the game alone for so long after a brief initial try on Christmas Day. It was my loss – it really is worth sticking with it (no pun intended) and getting used to the analog PSP stick.

I have a mental block when it comes to reading instructions. In fact, I just ignore their existence altogether unless I’m absolutely stuck-for-four-hours kinda stuck and going mad. So it was nice that the game pops up little instructions whenever there are new things to learn. Very handy for people like me who simply can’t be arsed to wade through manuals.

So – back to the action – there are these bad dudes with glowing eyes who you’ll need to kill. Their eyes change colour depending one whether or not they know you’re there – they’ll be glowing red when they find you. This really doesn’t matter at all because these guys are just plain mean. You won’t need to see their glowing red eyes to know they’ve spotted you – the barrage of gunfire heading your way will be ample warning!

I dutifully went about mastering the control system and dying a million times getting the hang of taking these guys out. You can aim with the analog PSP stick as well as move with it, and my clumsy thumb seemed to make it incredibly difficult to line up a shot on the enemy until a few hours of practise.

Health and ammo are conveniently stashed in breakable crates, but there are some chest locker things which contain mega-health, different weapons and explosives (grenades, C4, etc). I found the menu system to select and grab these items a bit confusing at first, only really understanding what the hell I was doing about 4 hours into the game. To begin with, this aspect isn’t that important, but you’ll need to master it for the levels later on.

The game isn’t a wide-open type of environment like Grand Theft Auto. It’s very, very linear – you’ll be forced along set steps to achieve checkpoints. I quite liked not having to think too much about it or coping with anything too mentally taxing (draw your own conclusions…). So it was fun to figure out how to tackle the (relatively small-scale) staged scenarios.

After a couple of levels, the designers decided to introduce some nightmarish additional elements. Little robotic spider things that chase you – when they get close they blow up and (invariably) kill you. These little critters scuttle straight at you – and can climb over obstacles, so you eventually run out of room if you try to run away. The worst thing is, you can hear these evil suckers a mile off, so if you’re in the middle of a gun battle you need to keep alert and be ready to take out any marauding spiders as quickly as you can. You can kill them by shooting them, but the automatic weapons aren’t stunningly effective against them – better to use the sniper rifle and kill them with one or two shots.

There are also minefields and nasty rotating laser trip wires – I found these elements to be just plain annoying rather than adding to the challenge. Perhaps they were just added to vary the gameplay a bit, I don’t know. Accidentally blundering over a partially hidden mine and being blown up isn’t a whole lot of fun for me.

The enemy soldiers seem to take quite a bit to actually kill. With some of them, you need to knock them down 3 times before they eventually die. And the ones armed with rocket launchers are horrendous to take out. The rockets are heat-seekers and very, very deadly. So far, my tactics consist of crazy do-or-die kamikaze missions with frag grenades (you can only carry two at a time) hoping to take out the rocket launcher guy before he gets a chance to blow me to smithereens (yet again). He’s generally flanked by a couple of goons armed to the teeth, so this tactic generally involves losing a fair bit of health. But it’s the only way I can figure out that seems to work!

I’m not sure if it’s down to my [lack of any gaming skill] whatsoever, but I find the game has hit that sweet spot for me where it’s hard-as-nails to do some levels, and very frustrating, but you still want to give it another go and vary your tactics, try a different weapon, etc. This must be a difficult balance for the developers to pull off, but they certainly seem to have managed it.

The AI is okay – the enemy soldiers sometimes do little forward-rolls to avoid your gunfire, and they hide occasionally too. One on one, you’ll easily beat anyone without a rocket launcher – but things get quite interesting when you’re caught in a crossfire with enemies slowly outflanking you.

So, all in all, highly recommended. With this type of game, it’s the sort of thing I’ll easily play for hours and hours, rather than a quick 20-minute blast. And there seems to be enough variety and content in there to keep me hooked.

Rating: 8/10

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Reviews

May 30, 2007

There are loads of well-written, expertly-crafted games reviews out there. So, it’s time to rebel against this cosy little system and introduce my own series of badly-written, wholly unprofessional game review efforts 🙂

Unlike the well-researched reviews you normally read, my reviews will be bodged together with a complete lack of investigation, effort or skill:

  1. I simply don’t read instruction manuals. This greatly lengthens my gaming sessions (better value for money) but also leads to a teeny-weeny bit of frustration at times.
  2. I’m just a normal guy who likes playing games occasionally. Not an uber-gamer well versed in umpteen control systems with speedy reactions. In fact I have similar reaction times to a month-old corpse. Therefore I completely suck at playing games.
  3. I have (approximately) the same memory capacity as the guy in Memento. This leads to hours of frustration on driving games as I simply cannot memorise tracks. Be warned, I shall rage against any games where my puny memory capabilities are stretched in the slightest.
  4. I can’t remember what my fourth point was… 🙂

So, onwards to my first victim…

A Review of KillZone:Liberation on the PSP