Guerilla was bought up by Sony in order to bring their in-progress FPS game Kin exclusively to the Playstation 2. Kin was eventually rechristened Killzone and the early still shots for the game started popping up in magazines and online. The pictures looked fantastic, but it also started up the groundswell of the words “Halo killer” being tossed around both in print magazines and on message boards. In many ways this created a synthetic form of pressure onto Guerilla. They had to make a game that could at least stand on par with Halo and get it out before Halo 2 dropped onto the shelves. What we’ve ended up with is a game both ahead and behind the times; a game that probably could have been a showstopper had it been given more time.
Killzone is not a terrible game and it certainly isn’t as bad as some other reviews are saying. If you fall into the trap of trying to compare this game to Halo this game will obviously get a lower score. The simple fact is that the single and multiplayer modes don’t work as well as even the first Halo game (and that’s not even bringing Halo 2 into the picture). The only way to give Killzone a fair shake is to review it on its own merits and not try to compare it to other games. That’s what I will attempt to do here.
Killzone looks really good, but I have to agree with the major complaint from other places that the framerate drops way too much and never stays constant. When it is just you with no one around the framerate is nice and smooth. Once friendly troops or enemies start showing up or guns begin to fire, things can slow down quite a bit. This affects your aiming quite a bit, but you can adjust for it as long as you accept that the game is going to run slower when you’re in skirmishes.
Taken from an environmental graphic stance, Killzone is top notch. I feel as if I’m in a place that has seen many battles against the enemy with roads blown apart, dust flying all over, etc. I never really noticed any pop-up and there is a bit of texture switching the closer you get to an object, although Halo 2 does that in certain areas as well. You can obviously tell the difference in graphical sharpness of an enemy far away and when they get close to you. When they get close the graphics are that much better, but if you’re scoping them with the sniper rifle from far away, the detail isn’t as tight. You would think this was how Guerilla would solve the framerate drops, but they are still very much a part of this game.
Another thing Guerilla has done well is making you feel as if you are immersed in the game, as if you are actually controlling your character. Recoil for each weapon is different and obviously with the machine guns you have to fire in bursts or miss your enemies totally. The best parts of this section are such things as going up ladders. Your gun disappears and you grab the ladder. As you go up the camera moves as if it was you going up a ladder. Another cool part is when you decide to run (L3 hold). You hold your gun close to you as you run and lose stamina while doing it. Reloading on the go is also well done as the camera looks down on the gun as you reload it and cock it. It’s all very well done.
Explosions and lip syncing both in-game and during cutscnes are also well done. Guerilla obviously took some care in creating a visual wonderland, although they should have worked on the framerate a bit more and this game would have easily have been in the high 90s in the graphical section.
Voices are well done when advancing the story and the sounds of the guns are excellent. Things kind of fall apart on the enemy side of things though. They tend to spout off the same lines over and over as you are in skirmishes with them. It gets quite annoying, but luckily if you’re good you will have mowed down the wave of enemies that showed up in front of you before you hear the same things over and over again.
The music is pretty good for what there is of it. The music is very militaristic, but in the menu it certainly pumps you up into starting to play the game. The gun and other weapons sounds are top notch and well done in Dolby Pro Logic II encoding.
Control is pretty easy and standard for an FPS. R1 fires your weapon, R2 fires the secondary weapon, L1 throws grenades while L2 allows you to crouch. R3 button allows you to do manual aiming. X button is used for actions that pop up on the bottom of the screen, such as jumping over something or taking control of a stationary gun in a level. Circle switches your weapons and allows you to switch out to another weapon on the ground if you hold Circle down.
Of course, with the framerate problems also comes some control problems. When enemies are extremely close to you the framerate really drops and you have a harder time aiming for the enemy. This will see you lose valuable health as you try to adjust to the slower framerate in order to shoot. It brings this score down because in most cases the control is tight, but once the firing of shots starts all bets are off.
Although the story is a hodgepodge of ideas as you go through the single-player campaign, the opening certainly gets your blood pumping. A man is overlooking his army (the Helghast) and he talks about how the group got to where they are in the story. At some point, humans went to space in order to colonize other planets. One militant splinter group ended up on the planet Helghan. They isolated themselves from the rest of the colonizing groups and started to see physical changes as they lived on that planet and its atmosphere. With the hardship of the planet the troops dress up in uniform and where gas masks with glowing orange eye covers. The group has decided that the rest of humanity has done them wrong and they need to start taking over the planets and make everyone follow their way of life. Thus, the Helghast go after the planet of Vekta first. This is where the initial character, Captain Templar, starts his quest.
The first mission introduces you in how to play the game and then you get into the meat of the story. It’s not that the story is horrible, but it probably could have been told better than it is here. Basically you are going from point A to point B while killing off the Helghast on your way to that goal. One of the biggest problems with this game is that there really isn’t much variety in the enemies that you face. Basically you face off against the grunt Helghast army person and sometimes they drop in a slightly stronger Helghast character.
You eventually pick up 3 other people you can play as: Rico (a heavy gunner), Luger (a female assassin who Templar has a past relationship with) and Hakha (a half-human, half-Helghast). Depending on who you pick on each mission some of the objectives do change, but generally you can just take on all the levels with Rico once you get him. He has a powerful machine gun and it takes a lot more to put him down than the others. The character dynamics are interesting, but unless you want to replay through the 11 missions again you probably aren’t going to see the extra characters as much outside of having the ability to use them.
The enemy AI shows flashes of brilliance in that they will take cover and they will run away from grenades if they see it fly by them. For the most part the Helghast believe in the “strength by numbers” route of fighting. Oftentimes you will have a lot of Helghast to take out and hopefully you’ll have some friendly fire to help you. Be sure to find cover because it can be your friend in this game.
The levels are varied in appearance as you travel through all 11 of them. The graphics are top notch, it’s just that things go downhill once the screen gets a bit busy. Had Guerilla been able to keep the framerate rather smooth I think a lot of reviews would have given this game a higher score than they did. I still think it’s a good game, but the framerate problems certainly rear their ugly head a lot.
You may only want to play through the game once, but there is also a 16-player multiplayer aspect to the game as well. The same framerate problems are present in online games, although you are technically sharing the problems with other people instead of against an enemy AI. From the little I played of the online component I found it to be pretty fun, although it certainly isn’t as big of a draw as, say, the SOCOM series is for the PS2.