As a reviewer, you sometimes feel ashamed of the so-called honesty of other sites and magazines. I’m sure you all remember Driv3r, which wasn’t bad, but contained far too many flaws to be called great. Sane people would then give it average scores, but no, ratings below 55% were rife, very credible indeed… Now history is repeating itself with Killzone. Several of the bigger sites on the internet have bashed the game (scores between 60%-70%), because of the hype that came with this title. As it turned out, they didn’t even recieve a gold copy, but reviewed a pre-release version instead. Their biggest problem was the fact that Killzone had been labled as a Halo 2-killer. Weird, because I don’t recall Guerrilla ever saying those words. Let me tell it to you straight: Killzone is NOT a Halo 2-killer, but it is a very nice FPS. And yes, I did recieve a final version reviewcopy.
Ok, enough criticizing for one day, time to do what has to be done: reviewing Killzone.
From the word go you are overwhelmed by an amazing introsequence. The leader of the Helghast (the bad guys) is adressing a gigantic invasion force. His propaganda is readying them for the coming attack on the planet Vecta. And you guessed it: as Captain Jan Templar, leader of a platoon of ISA-troops, you’ll send the entire armada back to were they came from. Later on you’ll also be able to control the female sniper Luger, the brute heavy weapons guy Rico of the half man, half Helghast spy Hakha.
Your mission starts in the trenches. During a short level (a tutorial in fact) you need to try to hold off the Helghast infantry for as long as you can (they kind of look like SS-troops with gasmasks come to think of it). You’ll notice the very intuitive controls, a good start for a console shooter! After battling in the trenches, you’ll wind up in a large city, or what’s left of it.
I couldn’t refrain myself from simply staring at the environments, they just look amazing, richly detailed and very varied. The bombed buildings and gloomy graphics really immerse the player in the dirty war against the Helghast. There aren’t many games that manage to show such stylish life-like levels, but Killzone does it in an exemplary way. The models of fellow soldiers, enemies and vehicles are also nicely polished but the incredible curscenes top it all off. Killzone’s detailed world comes at a hefty price though. The PlayStation 2 is getting older and the framerate can get noticeably choppy sometimes, especially during large-scale firefights. It stays playable, but you can’t call it very fluent. Furthermore you’ll notice occasional bugs and glitches. For example, sometimes it takes a while before a face gets its high-detail texture and in very open environments, there can be some pop-up. Nevertheless Killzone remains a graphical achievement, with its unique graphic style.
Another one of the game’s strongpoints is the vast and deadly arsenal. Both the Helghast and the ISA have their own weapons, with some large differences between them. There are multiple pistols, assault rifles and heavy machine guns to choose from, next to the more powerful rocket launcher and grenade gun. On top of it, most guns offer a secundary fire mode, to cause even more mayhem. All weapons are modelled nicely and look like futuristic versions of present day arms. The sniper rifle even shows you a nice fuzzy orange visor when zoomed in.
Furthermore they also sound great. Killzone certainly has some of the greatest weapon noise I ever heard in a videogame. And not only the weaponsounds excel, there is also the steaming soundtrack, the superb voice acting and the subtle background noises (street fighting, sounds from swamps,…). The sound takes you even deeper into Killzone’s world, especially if you are so lucky to own a surround system.
The realistic feel and compelling storytelling bring some problems though. For starters, almost everything is scripted, which makes the game very linear. Most of the time there is only one, clearly lined-out, path to your objectives, densely populated with enemies of course. Because most levels are pretty open, I think it’s a pity that you can’t use any vehicles. Some cool vehicular-combat Halo 2-style wouldn’t have hurt, but as it is Killzone remains a rock-solid game-experience. The AI is also noteworthy. Your teammembers give you cover fire and rarely obstruct your field of vision. The opposition can be a tough nut to crack, they always attack in groups and give support to each other. They also yell nice oneliners, such as “Reloading”, “Flank Left” of “Take him out!” and regularly throw grenades at you. The only thing I can remark is that the AI is pretty defensive. They head for cover and shoot at you from there, but don’t often go hunting for you. Not very brave, but hey, if a dangerously looking mean fighting machine such as myself would come running at you, I bet you’d be scared too 😀
Surely any self-respecting wouldn’t be complete without a fully functional multiplayer mode, now would it? In Killzone it’s called “Battlefields” and you can play in split-screen or online. You have the plain Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes, but the game offers some less frequent types too, such as Domination (keep the strategic points under your control as long as possible), Assault (1 team defends a base, the other attacks it) and Defend & Destroy (the first team defends some objects, the others try to destroy them). New to Killzone, as far I know, is Supply Drop. Each SD-level contains a central supply point and both teams need to try to grab as many supplies as possible. You earn 5 points for claiming one, but if someone steals it, you lose 5 points. On top of that your teams earn 15 points for every 15 seconds you have a supply in your possession. The teams with the highest score at the end wins, naturally. The multiplayer lengthens the already nice singleplayer lifetime (+-20 hours) even more, because playing the game with others is quite a bit of fun. Halo 2 still reigns supreme here (and it remains the best consoleshooter by far, no doubt about that), but we’ve seen far worse than Killzone’s MP.
Killzone is simply put the best first person shooter, available on PS2. It has several major advantages, such as the compelling story, the fantastic sound and music, the übercool weapons, the nice graphics and the sparkling multiplayer. Halo 2 is a better consoleshooter, yes, but everyone who gives Killzone a chance won’t be disappointed.