Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1 or 2, 2-16 network play
If you ask any PS2 owner what their console needs, they’ll probably say a first person shooter of the calibre of Halo on Xbox. In every other genre the PS2 seems to be covered, but despite some noble efforts, a top-quality FPS with first-rate multiplayer options is still missing from the PS2 line-up. Killzone has long been touted as a “Halo beater” and it’s finally here, the problem being that Halo 2 has just arrived…
The weapons are all futuristic versions of exiting weaponry; combat knives, pistols, assault rifles, shotgun, machine guns, minigun, grenade launcher, rocket launcher, automatic sniper pistol, sniper rifle and a cool laser designator that allows you to target armoured vehicles or dug in troops with an aerial bombardment that wipes out anything in the area. You fire them all with R1, and several have a secondary fire function set to R2 (the two different assault rifles have grenade or shotgun function for example). The sniper rifle, and the way it sights, is also worth a mention all on its own - it's bloody awful. You find out where all Killzone’s colour went as you sight up and get a reddy-orange tinted lens!, which means you can see virtually bog all at any distance, and it aims in a similar way to Timeplitters, i.e. the reticule moves within the screen and then drags it over as it nears the screen edge – you can zoom the scope with the D-Pad, but overall it lacks subtlety, and is a real let down.
Killzone’s sound is pretty varied too; highly atmospheric for the most part with background ‘battle-in-a-big-city’ noise done really well. The many explosions and weapons also sound great (and look great too, although the detailed loading sequences take so long that they get on your wick). The music is also pretty good, a sort of rousing orchestral score that works well, but I found myself turning it down a bit. Voice acting is also well done (Sean Pertwee plays Hakha) and the Helghast all sound suitably annoying, arrogant and killable, but there aren’t really enough speech samples and their constant cries of “Advance”, “Medic”, “They’ve got me pinned down” get repetitive quickly…
So Killzone isn’t quite the “Halo beater” that we’d hoped for, but it’s a big step in the right direction for the PS2 that seems to get stuck with innumerable multiformat WWII & Vietnam first person shooters, and little else. Killzone is an impressive and timely game to get so late in a console’s life, and Sony knew what they were doing when they signed Guerrilla, the game’s talented developers up to an exclusivity deal – Killzone 2 is a certainty, and it’s an exciting prospect.
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- Good story and characters.
- Nice heavy weapons that fire LOTS of bullets.
- Gritty, violent and hectic battles with good sound FX.
- Some good locations that make the war seem more real.
- The multiple characters mean there’s a good replayability factor.
- Highly playable offline and online multiplayer.
- The frame rate often drops.
- So many graphical glitches, even close up in facial animations.
- Some annoyingly long distances between checkpoints.
- The voices soon get repetitive.
- There are loads of vehicles in the game but you don’t get to play with them.
- Fans of colour should get Jak 3 instead.
Been completely ignored? No-one cares? Reviews put people off? Well I got a copy to see just what was what, and because I don't trust commercial reviewers, biased fanboys and popularist internet sites wanting to court controversy. Well for those that know nothing about it, Killzone is a First-Person-Shooter, set in the nearish future on the next few planets away from Earth. One colony has got pissed off and invaded another colony. You play through as a small team of the defenders trying to help repel the invasion. It has nazi overtones which are well played out in FMV cutscenes, however most of the themes do not progress much further, and it devolves into generic skirmishing and relationship/story developments about the immediate moment. Really taking a look at the story from a distance, I dont know if the team achieved anything. As in if they had gone off for a beer if the end result would still be the same, which makes your efforts seem a bit futile in the scheme of it. Maybe one of the other character's cutscenes throws more light on things? So I might have to finish the game with the others.
I think the single-player aspect is pretty good. It's been much maligned in reviews, but is way better than the last couple of Medal Of Honor games, which it plays somewhat similar to. Weapons are functional rather than OTT. Displays do the job. The environment feels well realised, though it is basically on-rails, as even the outside bits are mostly very controlled as to where you can walk. The AI is both good and bad, mostly good, and they react when you shoot their buddy with a sniper rifle, unlike some games. They take cover, support each other, but are rather non-aggressive considering the setup of both the plot and supposed nature of its soldiers. Gameplay involves standard running and gunning, using cover and tactical application of the most suitable weapon (of which you can carry three). The characters vary the levels slightly, as some can take different paths, but they also handle weapons differently, so the heavy weapons guy does feel different than the spy using the same gun.
Graphics are excellent, with a very real grim atmosphere. This does portray very much like being in a warzone, with music and ambient sounds adding to the mix. The colour pallette is very reminiscent of ICO, as can be some of the starkness and emptiness of the earlier levels when you are by yourself. Each level seems to grab a certain muted colour and run with that. It's effective as an aid to setting the tone of the level, been called drab by others, and a tad arty. The character models are decent. Some reviewers have complained about the lack of variation in the Helgast, but it is logical when one considers that an army usually dresses a.) functionally and b.) similarly. It should not be 'green-bad guy with claws', 'red bad-guy with big gun' - that would not make sense given its premises. Also they do add a certain menace with their goggles aglow.
Sound is on the whole neglected. Magazine changing sounds are generic, maybe even reused, so loading a shotgun shell seems much the same as swapping a rifle mag. There needs to be about ten times as much banter from the Helgast, as repetition sets in far too quickly, and not always appropriately. Sure they should call out team tactics (fire from the left : give covering fire : squad member down) but when there's one guy by himself yelling out calls and giving the same grunt noise as he's shot by you... a bit poor. I'm not saying it's the worst I've heard but not up to the standards of the graphics. The ambient noise is better however.
I guess the main thing is all these elements do tie together to give a very believable world. It is all so realistic, for a sci fi game, which in some ways makes it less exciting than your Quakes, Halos or other flashy sci fi shooters, and has a grim atmosphere more like Games Workshop's Warhammer 40K. If you can accept that change from the current vogue it does draw you in quite well, and gives an appealing FPS experience of solid quality.
Online is a bit more variable; I'm well sick of some gamers awful latency. I was shooting one guy with the combat shotgun, and everytime I'd fire he'd not be there and would teleport left - killed me too! Another time I'm right behind a guy and I unload with an assault rifle right into his head. One clip later, and while I'm reloading he turns around and kills me with one shot from a shottie!... So when it's "laggy" it seems like anything with explosion damage and shotguns work (up close). The big chaingun is ok, but the smaller MG and rifles suck, sniper rifles are excellent against stationary targets.
Apart from those times there is some good stuff: game-modes not on other PS2 games, very atmospheric, and if you play with 5 or 10 respawns (only) it makes people play a lot more tactically. Weapon ranges (and their enforced inaccuracies) give guns realism too. Rifles are good at mid-ranges, or zoom for less efficient long range firing. MGs for suppression, but brutal if you can hit etc. A couple of times I've been in an artillery hole, pinned down by snipers or MGs and calling for backup, bullets flying overhead, a quick burst of fire at a half-seen shadow moving in the smoke from an exploded grenade, and thought "Hey - not many games in war settings recreate a war feeling this well".
Overall I'd rate it a decent online game, but whether it remains popular is down to some updates. I think Rachet & Clank 3 online is actually better, but it doesn't have the following of Killzone, and of course you have to tempt people away from SOCOM 2, which is always difficult, but it does have real potential.
Killzone is worthwhile playing in my opinion, and has had some unfair criticism. It's not perfect, doesn't push gaming boundaries much, and is patchy online. However it does many things better than previous games, fares admirably against its contemparies, and can give one of the most immersive feelings of a war zone that I've yet had.