Part 2: Chapter 1, Stages 1 & 2
We begin Killzone: Liberation proper, immediately thrown into the action with little time to prepare. It's par for the course for a PSP game, really, as they don't have the same amount of resources to set up things with big sweeping cutscenes like the other Killzone games do. The majority of the cutscenes are done in-engine, though Guerrilla takes the care to make sure that Liberation is as close to a fully voiced, story-driven experience as its console cousins.
Liberation is the shortest of all the Killzone games, clocking in at between 2 to 3 hours total, including storyline DLC missions. There's five chapters, though only four of them shipped with the game. Guerrilla added the fifth chapter as free DLC to serve as a proper ending for the game and to tie it directly to the upcoming Killzone 2. Though I'll discuss how and why Chapter 5 came into being once we get to it. In terms of pacing, each chapter has four stages which usually take about 5 to 10 minutes to complete, in addition to 30 skill-testing minigames which can be played independent of the single player campaign.
The game was very much designed to be a mobile-friendly title, allowing you to sit down and play a couple of missions on say a lunch break, or a bus ride and still make decent headway through the game in a relatively short time period.
Before we begin the game proper, we get a series of title cards designed to both catch you up on what you might have missed if you didn't play (or were lost in a boredom-induced haze for most of) Killzone 1, and to set the stage for what is about to unfold here in Killzone: Liberation.
STAGE 1: COUNTER-ATTACK
We begin the game back in the shoes of our hero and all-around "good soldier", Captain Jan Templar. Though the other members of our original Killzone 1 quartet will appear in the game (after a fashion), Jan is the only one who is still a playable character, at least in the straight single player mode.
Our over-all objective for this mission is fairly simple: Metrac's forces have cornered a trio of ISA VIPs in the southern Vektan city of Rayhoven. And it's up to Templar and his platoon to fight their way into the captured ISA base and free them before Metrac and Cobar can torture vital intel out of them, or simply execute them.
The three VIPs we're after are ISA General Dwight Stratson, nuclear munitions expert Dr. Evelyn Batton, and Vektan Defense Minister Heff Milcher.
Why Metrac considers them such valuable hostages is something we won't be learning until much later.
Templar is joined directly for this mission by ISA Colonial Intelligence Col. Gregor Hakha, the half-Helghast soldier who helped him rout Generals Lente and Adams two months ago.
...If you're playing co-op that is; more on that in a little bit.
Also joining us, in spirit, is Shadow Marshall Luger, the ISA Black Ops agent who also helped Jan defeat Lente and Adams' conspiracy in northern Vekta.
Like she says in-game, Luger is going to be our eye in the sky mission control for the majority of Liberation. Our mission objectives and mission-critical updates will be relayed directly to us by Luger. If Killzone: Liberation is the series' take on Metal Gear: Solid, then Luger is going to be our Roy Campbell for the game.
The primary objective of the first stage of Chapter 1 will be to meet up with Rico, who's gone on ahead of us to do what he does best: murder Helghast and swear an ungodly amount.
Liberation also does a curtailed version of the "history of 20th century wars" thing that Killzone 1 also did. Our first stage is very reminiscent of the first stage of Killzone 1, which was the trenches of World War I Europe.
Now before you start going OH GOD EVERYTHING'S SHITTY AND BROWN AGAIN!, just hear us out, the game's colour pallet does even out quite a bit once we clear the first few stages.
Though I will admit, the game is not putting its best foot forward by so forcefully reminding you of the shittier parts of Killzone 1, but take my word for it please, THIS IS A GOOD KILLZONE GAME!
Cutscenes in Liberation are done in-engine using the same models that appear in-game, so they're all low-detail and have very limited articulation. The saving grace of things is that cutscenes in Liberation and usually short and to the point.
Though for a PSP game, the in-engine cutscenes don't look that bad. It's not Crisis Core or Birth By Sleep-level stuff, but it's not trying to be.
So at the end of the first stage we reunite with Rico, and just like that, in a very loose sense, the band is back together again.
And true to form for Rico, the first line, nay, the first word he utters in Liberation is a curse word. Welcome back to the fight, Corporal Velasquez.
STAGE 2: RETREAT
Templar promptly conscripts Rico to aide him in his new mission, and Rico is more than happy to join him, as after the events of Killzone 1, Rico has come to worship the ground Templar walks on as a fellow soldier.
A lot of people on Vekta have, actually, as the ISA has used his triumph over Lente and Adams as a massive PR cudgel, to the point where the general populace has come to regard Templar as the "ultimate ISA soldier", according to the Killzone: Liberation manual.
Another thing you will notice in short order when playing co-op is that Hakha will disappear in cutscenes and reappear once gameplay resumes. That means that, canonically, Jan will be doing everything in this game by himself, and Hakha's involvement in the plot of the Killzone franchise officially ends with Killzone 1.
Playing co-op is the only way to get Hakha to appear in the single player campaign. You can unlock Hakha for multiplayer by beating the game (including the Chapter 5 DLC) on any difficulty in co-op mode.
Though, this being Killzone, we can't go that long without Rico fucking something up in some way...
So Stage 2 of Chapter 1 ends with Rico and Templar being separated once more by a conveniently closing floogate.
You said it, Rico.
This is ultimately a blessing in disguise for the player, however, because it puts to end the defacto escort mission we've been under for this stage with regard to Rico, which I'll cover momentarily.
So now Rico's gonna go off on his own and look for a place to rendezvous with Templar further down the enemy lines, leaving Templar
In Killzone 2 and Killzone 3, the term "Hig" becomes widely used as a racial slur / military slang designation for Helghast soldiers, such as the terms "Kraut", "Ivan", and "Charlie" were used by US Army soldiers to describe German, Soviet, and Vietcong soldiers. We touch on its use in the Killzone 2 videos, but it has its origins here in Liberation, of all places.
The ISA tactical abbreviation for Helghast army units is HGH, for Helghast, obviously. The inset map which lines the reverse of Liberation's hardcopy cover uses the abbreviation in reference to Helghast troop movements. ISA soldiers subsequently adopted the term as an acronym and phoneticized it into the word "Hig", which they then used as a slur/descriptor for Helghast soldiers in general.
So that's where it comes from. It's still probably racist though.
Killzone: Liberation plays as a top-down shooter similar to the original PlayStation 1 Metal Gear: Solid.
For the purposes of this LP, Sally and I are playing Liberation in co-op mode. As I said before, playing co-op is the only way to to get Hakha to appear in the game. Co-op games can be hosted over the Internet via the PSP's Ad Hoc Wifi mode. Both players will need a copy of the game either in digital or physical format, and will need a copy of the DLC (if one has it and the other doesn't, the games won't connect). One player will act as the Host for the game, sharing their saved game file with the guest, while the second player will act as the co-op partner.
The host of the game will play as Templar, while the guest player will play as Hakha. Blind Sally hosted our playthrough for the LP on his PSP Go, so he is Templar, I recorded the game off my PSP 3000, so that's why the camera is following me as Hakha.
Also, Blind Sally has a PSP Go.
The name "Ouroboros", which will be appearing throughout the game, is Sally's local PSP nickname. My nickname is blank because I'd recently formatted my PSP to put custom firmware on it , otherwise it would normally be "Sparrow".
This probably isn't one of the best screens to be using to show stuff off, but it's not the action on screen I want to highlight, it's the UI portions.
On the bottom of the screen you've got your basic information bar. From left to right, you have: your available syringes, your health bar, current clip ammo, clip:ammo totals, currently equipped weapon, available grenades, and available C4 sticks.
Up at the top of the screen, your co-op partner is highlighted by a green icon over their head which follows them around the level as long as they're on your screen. You will also see both a colour-coded health bar over their head and a numerical representation of their health. It's important you keep an eye on your partner's health, because if they die, you will have to revive them with a syringe, otherwise you run the risk of failing the mission if you both die.
Being a PSP game, Liberation's controls are a little clunky and obtuse by default, but once you get the hang of how it plays compared to Killzone 1, things smooth out considerably.
You maneuver your character around the stage using the analog stick. You also aim with this stick by moving Templar or Hakha around in a circle. Pointing them in the general direction of an enemy will auto-lock on to them. Pressing the square button will fire your equipped weapon. Triangle reloads your weapon. X preforms actions at specific points. Holding the L shoulder button will allow you to strafe in a lateral line. Double tapping L will execute a combat roll. Tapping the R shoulder button will duck you behind cover. And Holding R and Square will allow you to shoot from behind cover.
The direction you're aiming is denoted by a laser sight on each character's weapon. Templar's sight laser is yellow, Hakha's is red.
Enemy health is also denoted by a red bar over their heads on the screen, as seen on the extreme left. Only enemies whom you are directly targeting will have their health bars visible and highlighted.
Enemies at the start of the game will only have about a quarter of their health bars filled in, meaning they usually go down in about one or two shots. Bosses and enemies near the end of the game will have more complete or even full health bars.
These grey-green boxes located all across the game are supply crates. When you walk up to them you'll be given an action prompt, denoted by the grey box icon over Hakha's head here.
Pressing X will open up the crate's menu. Just beware though, THIS DOES NOT PAUSE THE GAME, so you're gonna want to make sure things are relatively calm before you explore a crate's content. In single player mode, the action slows down to about 10% speed while you're looking through a crate to give you time to rifle through its contents, whereas in co-op, the game will not slow down at all while you're examining a crate.
Each crate has three options: Weapons, Items, and Explosives. Though it's very rare that a crate will have all three available, usually only presenting a combination of one or two. This crate in particular only has the Items option available.
Under the Items screen, you can see a pair of items used to heal yourself and your co-op partner. Health will heal about 25% of your health per unit, while Syringes are used to revive a fallen co-op partner or guest NPC like Rico.
The Weapons screen will give you a choice of available weapons, telling you what the weapon is, how much ammo it has on it, and who manufactures it. Here we have the choice of equipping the ISA M82 assault rifle, but since we already have it equipped, selecting it merely takes how ever much ammo we can from it into our current ammo supply.
When you actually choose to swap weaponry, your old weapon will usually be deposited into the chest in the new weapon's place, allowing you to swap back to it if you decide you don't like the new one.
Certain enemies will also drop weapons in the field and you can swap out your current weapon for it by using the appropriate action prompt when over the weapon.
Enemies will also drop boxes of universal ammo denoted on screen as grey boxes. I didn't get any screencaps of them, but we pick up our share of them in the video.
Pressing the O or Circle button will bring up your grenade throwing arc, denoted by an arc of yellow dots in front of your character. Pressing Circle again will throw the grenade, while holding Circle will cook the grenade before throwing it like you can in the console Killzones.
Pressing the Square button will cancel you out of grenade mode.
Approaching an enemy directly will give you a melee attack prompt, denoted by the fist icon over the enemy's head. Pressing the Square button on this prompt will knock the enemy to their feet, allowing you to score an easy kill on them with your gun.
Just be careful when you do this, however, because the enemy WILL hit you back if you mess it and knock you flat on your rear instead. When you're knocked down, you will be stunlocked for a few seconds and then need to press the X button again at the Get Up prompt to get back on your feet.
Liberation also has stage hazards which you can take advantage of at times, like these big red flammable barrels.
Shooting at them will cause them to explode, killing or injuring any nearby Helghast in a massive fireball.
Mountable turrets also make a return appearance... from like that one part of Killzone 1 where we had JamieTheD on for.
When you walk up to one, a turret mount prompt should appear over your head. Pressing the X button will let you climb in the turret's gunner's chair and take control over it. The turret is swiveled left and right with the L and R shoulder bumpers. Pressing Square fires the turret, which has infinite ammo, like all turrets in Killzone games. However, the turret also has a temperature limit, and will overheat and seize up if you lay on the Square button too hard.
The turret's temperature gauge can be seen in the lower right hand part of the screen.
Another recurring element of Killzone: Liberation is its C4 mechanic.
Occasionally, you will come across a wall or obstacle that needs to be cleared with explosive force. The game will usually prompt you with a voiced reminder, and you will need to find a stick of C4 from a nearby crate or use one of the ones you have in your inventory already. C4 points are denoted by a rotating yellow circle on the ground, which you then need to walk up to and press the X button when the prompt appears.
Your character will then take a few seconds to set the charges, and then will have a few seconds to rush to a safe distance, usually only a couple of meters, before the charges automatically detonate.
The result is a now clear path. If you have an NPC like Rico in your squad at the time, they will step up and set the C4 charges for you if you hang back for a moment or two. This is a good mechanic for conserving your own supply of C4 for later stages.
And speaking of Cpl. Shitlord, he is our AI-controlled NPC squadmate for the second stage of the level. Any NPC squadmate will be denoted by the green health bar hovering over their heads. Some NPCs, like Rico, will supplement your firepower, others meanwhile, like Evelyn will tend to be a detriment you have to babysit to make sure they don't die, because if they do you fail the mission and have to start over again from the nearest checkpoint.
At the end of each stage you get a handy summary screen like the ones from the original Killzone, only bereft of Joris De Man's back-patting victory theme, which I have handily edited back into the videos. So you're welcome.
Our returning champions...
This will be the last time we see and hear all four members of our original squad from Killzone 1 together in the same game.
Captain Jan Templar returns as our main hero, now voiced by Nigel Whitmey, who takes over from Kal Webber from Killzone 1. Whitmey has a decently long list of bit parts in movies, TV shows, miniseries, and video games to his name such as Saving Private Ryan, Doctor Who, 24: Live Another Day, The 10th Kingdom, Crysis 3, FarCry 3, Alien: Isolation, and--most ironically--Killzone 2, where he is not voicing Jan Templar. Like Kal Weber before him and Qarie Marshall after him, this is Whitmey's first and last time vocing Templar in the Killzone franchise. In the Chapter 5 DLC for Killzone: Liberation, Templar is yet again voiced by a new, this time uncredited voice actor as well.
There isn't much new to say about Templar for this part of Liberation as a character, at least, other than he's just doing the only thing he knows what to do at this point: be a soldier. Jan is not the kind of guy who retires and takes a promotion or a desk job with the mission half completed. He hops right back into the trenches (literally, in this case) to see the mission completed 100% and the Helghast driven off of Vekta forever. Sure, he takes that promotion in Killzone 2, but only because it allows him to continue playing the role of Captain Hero in a much more expanded capacity.
Colonel Gregor Hakha joins Templar as our co-op character, appearing only in gameplay when Jan is alone with his thoughts on the battlefield, and then disappearing again once he is forced to interact with other live human beings. It is our tongue-in-cheek theory then that the Hakha who appears in Liberation is actually a PTSD hallucination Templar is having which accompanies him throughout the battlefield. The "real" Hakha is probably off somewhere coordinating additional Colonial Intelligence ops, or still being debriefed by EarthGov and the ISA after that extended deep cover mission we essentially extracted him from in Killzone 1. Hakha never appears again in a Killzone game after this point, though he is namechecked and referenced on and off in other games. Hakha is voiced by Robbie Stevens in Liberation (the same actor who voices the Helghast grunts ), taking over for Sean Pertwee. Pertwee will be returning to the series in another role in Killzone 2, however.
Fish Noise posted:
Now incorporate the co-op leashing and Hakha's only line being "HELP ME" into your PTSD hallucination analysis.
Oh yeah, like Fish Noise points out, PTSD Co-Op Ghost Hakha is tethered to Templar via an invisible leash in-game so he cannot leave him behind for any reason, no doubt symbolizing how Templar is either unable or unwilling to leave the ghosts of his past behind, and the only voiced dialog Hakha has in Liberation are various cries for help when he falls or is near death, symbolizing in Templar's tortured psyche all the cries of anguish of the colleagues he couldn't save, like Sanchez and General Vaughton, echoing through his mind in the hellish throes of battle.
So thanks for that, Fish Noise...
Shadow Marshall Luger (real name unknown) also returns, though she's off the field for the majority of the game, instead fulfilling the role of Mission Control for Jan and Hallucinatory Hakha. Their relationship has stabilized significantly since Killzone 1, now that the shock of Luger being a thing in his life again has worn off of Templar. They're back to being amicable platonic comrades in arms without a hint of romantic awkwardness between them. ...I'm serious, they don't give two shits about each other any more. That said, Luger still values Jan as a friend and ally and will eventually be joining him on the field to supplement his numbers as things turn dire for all involved. Much like Hakha, this is the final outing for Luger and her voice actress Jennifer Taylor Lawrence for the Killzone franchise.
And finally, we also have Sergeant Rico Velasquez back with us. As surly and Helghast-hating as always, Rico would follow Jan straight into the worst of hells with a smile on his face if it meant he could kill Helghast and make Jan proud of him. And he's going to get his chance to do... well... one of those things in Liberation. Again, there's not much to say about Rico at the moment, although as the plot moves on he will be getting some of the heaviest character development of the quartet, setting certain events yet to happen in Killzone 2 up rather obviously. Rico is once again voiced by Tom Clarke Hill in Liberation, and though Rico will be a near-permanent fixture of the squad into Killzones 2 and 3, this is Clarke Hill's last outing as Rico in the series.
A quick note on these weapons, since we've seen them before.
- The Helghast StA-52 LAR is a full-auto light assault rifle specialized for short-to-mid range engagements. Because there is no secondary fire in Liberation, the StA-52 has lost it's underslung Pup shotgun capability.
- The ISA M82-G is the mainstay of the ISA ground assault forces. While it has greater accuracy over the StA-52, it's rate of fire and ammo capacity are lower. It has also lost the underslung grenade launcher from Killzone 1.
- The ISA M194 Fragmentation Grenade is still a grenade.
We're not going to see much in the way of variety of gameplay styles with weaponry until the newer arms start showing up in the coming levels. Be patient. More guns are coming.
The Tyrant is the brand new ISA large machine gun brought in to answer the StA-3 Stova LMG, and is now standard equipment on all ISA heavy forces. Its weight has been decrased and it has lost the underslung rocket launcher of the M224-A1 LMG to improve its portability without sacrificing firepower. Rico will be using this gun as his default weapon throughout his time in Liberation, leaving his trademark M224-A3 HSW from Killzone 1 behind, for better or worse.
C4 Plastic Explosive Block
C4 in Killzone: Liberation is more of a gameplay mechanic than an actual weapon, used to clear out various obstacles from the way of your squad in the game. In Killzone 2, however, C4 is weaponized in multiplayer by both ISA and Helghast Saboteurs.
NOT ACTUALLY EAW-25/4 Chimera Heavy Weapons Platform*
Used by the Helghast as an anti-air superiority weapon, the Chimera AA platorm uses liquid hydrogen circulated through helical channels along the four 25 mm barrels to keep from overheating, allowing the heavy weapons platform to maintain a continuous, high-rate fire without risk of damage to its assembly. They do however have a nasty habit of being commandeered by ISA forces and turned on the ground troops whose job it was to man and maintain them.
* The turrets which are manable in Killzone: Liberation are NOT actually Chimeras, but a different type of turret entirely, which has no article on it on the Killzone Wiki or the in the Liberation manual. Actual Chimeras will be appearing later in-game, however...
And that's it for Chapter 1, Stages 1 & 2 of Killzone: Liberation.
"Rats in the shadows" (Helghast POV)
"Never Surrender!" (ISA POV)