Delivers on Killing but Stays Out of the Zone
At some point during the Playstation 2’s never ending life-cycle Sony decided that they needed to hop on the rising popularity of console first person shooters with a FPS of their own. Their main competitor Xbox had released Halo in 2001 and was pretty much the benchmark for all console FPSes from that point on. With only Red Faction, Medal of Honor and Timesplitters on the PS2, Sony snatched up Guerrilla games in order to make their own exclusive shooter to the PS2. That game would be Killzone. Some dubbed it the “Halo Killer,” a bold statement, one that holds lofty expectations, expectations that would not be met. From so-so graphics to sluggish gameplay and controls Killzone is a game with lofty aspirations that fall short of the mark.
The game takes place on the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance (ISA – AKA humans) colony Vekta. The SD platform that protects the planet from invasion fails and Helghast army decides to invade the colony. You take control of Captain Jan Templar as you ward off Helghast armies and take control of the SD platform. Although this may sound like a compelling story it really is not. The game’s story telling is poor and the plot is quite unclear. I got most of this info from wikis and the internet. When you actually play the game there are a lot of cutscenes but they don’t explain much. I spent most of the game wondering why I’m killing these people, why do they want to kill me?
Gameplay consists of going from point A to B killing helghast and completing objectives. Though it was released in 2004 the game feels quite archaic. The gameplay is slow and sluggish and lacks many conventions of the modern FPS at the time. Just moving your character around feels slow, aiming feel sluggish. You rarely feel like you can line up your shots well in this game. You can sprint but you can’t jump. You can only jump on parts of the level that prompt you to do it. You also can’t use a melee attack unless you’re close enough to an enemy to do so and then it will prompt you to melee them. However, unless you have a knife don’t expect the enemy to go down in one hit, and even while you melee the enemy they can unload tons of bullets into you. This makes the game balance unfair and melee attacks somewhat useless. You also have grenades but it only feels like whatever you start the level with (5 grenades) is all you get for the whole level. On the plus side you can cook the grenades so they can go off sooner after you throw them. Only some weapons you can zoom with, but it’s not scope kind of zoom, it just makes the picture larger. Only the sniper rifle you can zoom but you only get it on a few levels. It’s not something you would want to use often anyway as the sniper rifle aiming system is straight out of Timesplitters 2 where you actually move the screen and line up the reticule instead of pointing the gun where you want to.
Along the way you’ll gain allies, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Templar is your jack of all trades character. You’ll meet a woman named Luger who is kind of stealthy and can go places other characters cannot. Rico is a heavy weapons guy. Hakha is a half Helghast half human who is kind of like Templar but can use the Helghast weapons better than the humans. Each of them have a unique weapon they use. Templar has a unique weapon since she is stealthy, a silenced machine pistol, which you can use the secondary fire feature and take out most enemies in one or two hits. This leads to a kind of odd weapon balance as the others who use machine guns will have to unload half a clip to take down an enemy while Templar only has to use a few. A couple levels, especially the final one, have multiple routes depending on which character you choose which offers you incentive to play again if you enjoy the game enough.
The graphics strive to be good. The developers made a graphically intensive game, perhaps too intense since the PS2 can barely handle everything that goes on in the game. Rarely does this game reach a playable framerate. The animations are a bit herky jerky as well. The game utilizes an atmospheric perspective texture system where you can see the graphics are better from close and get really muddy and plain the further you see. There is a massive amount of fog to mask this effect but even sometimes when you get close to another character the game takes a bit of time to draw the textures on to that character. The game uses a limited color pallet so you’ll see a lot of grays and browns. Most of the levels look the same, some decimated battlefield/building, only towards the end do you see some different looking levels but even then they seem to become a bit cliched (a forest, space, and a snow level. All that is missing is a minecart level). All of the guns emit a muzzle flash that encompasses 3/4ths of the screen. To say this game is trying to be in your face is an understatement. The sound is also obnoxiously in your face. Frequently the enemies are screaming. The guns are loud. The game is loud. However, all this in your face action doesn’t pay off. Most of these aspects are overdone but underwhelming. The voice acting is decent but the script leave much to be desired.
Killzone is an ambitious game but flawed. Most of the game falls flat and doesn’t seem to rise above your average FPS (though you can tell the developers tried). From hardware limitations to generic and over-frustratingly gameplay, Killzone is a nice try but leaves much to be desired.