ISA troops are outnumbered and pinned down in trenches by aggressive swarms of orange-eyed Helghast. Deafening gunfire cuts across the smoke-filled battlefield, punctuated by thunderous explosions that kick up showers of dirt. Just as the ISA's resistance is finally broken, a chopper swoops through the sky and manages to land out of sight undamaged. Out steps Templar, armed with a very big gun and an even bigger vendetta against the Helghast scum. Welcome to Killzone: Liberation, soldier.
Given that the Killzone PS3 trailer still manages to make jaws hit floors nearly a full year after debuting at E3, this action packed intro is the least you'd expect from a Killzone game. But to convey a similarly intense, siege-like atmosphere on the less powerful PSP's relatively small screen - the cut-scene is real-time, no less - is some achievement and perfectly sets the tone for everything that follows.
So you can ignore all those crazy rumours about Killzone: Liberation changing from a balls-out shoot 'em up to yet another stodgy stealth 'em up. Developer Guerrilla has had to suffer these kinds of bullshit stories invented by mags and internet sites until it was ready to reveal all about the game, although it's easy to see where the confusion may have arisen. The third-person camera and isometric perspective certainly herald a more considered and tactical style of gameplay, but that's still very different from claims that you spend most of the game hiding in the shadows. As if to reinforce that fact, every level of Liberation is set in blazing daylight.
STAY IN CONTROL
As soon as Templar emerges from the craft and control is handed to you, it becomes apparent how Killzone has been adapted for the handheld. The most immediate difference is, as you'd expect, the controls. Square is now the fire button, and though there isn't a lock-on targeting system a s such, you'll know when Templar is aiming in the general direction of an enemy by the health bar that appears over that Helghast's head. Pressing Square while holding the Right shoulder button (crouch) lets you pop up from behind cover to fire a short burst of bullets before ducking down again. With plenty of cover points conveniently dotted around every level, you'll quickly find that using the fire and crouch buttons in tandem is the most useful tactic available to you.
Elsewhere, X is the action button for whenever an icon appears next to interactive objects such as a breakable crate or a barred door requiring C4 to bust it open; holding Circle allows you to adjust the arc of a grenade; tapping the Left shoulder button twice makes Templar perform a dive roll, which proves especially useful for avoiding homing rockets; holding the Left shoulder button while firing lets you strafe; and holding both shoulder buttons allows you to lock-on to objects such as explosive barrels. All simple, but highly effective controls.
PAUSE FOR THOUGHT
The other big change from Killzone on PS2 is the slower pace and more static screen, even though characters are constantly moving around. There's an almost puzzle-like quality to each set-piece as you try to figure out how to get past a well-defended Helghast post or take out a lone, but craftily positioned sniper - and there are often different ways around the same problem. For instance, the first Helghast you encounter is perched on top of a crate, making it easy for him to pick you off the moment you try to fire from out in the open. Lobbing a grenade at him from behind cover is the easiest answer, but alternatively you could activate a nearby switch that lowers a suspended crate, inside of which is a spider mine that can be lured towards the hapless Helghast, now stuck with nowhere to run.