Review: Killzone (PS2)
Format: PlayStation 2 Disc / PlayStation Network Download (HD Version) (3.0 GB)
Release Date: November 2, 2004
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: M
Killzone is exclusive to PlayStation 2. An HD version was created for the Killzone Trilogy on PlayStation 3.
The PlayStation 2 Disc version was used for this review.
The Killzone Universe has an incredibly deep lore and history which was once housed at the official website but has since become inaccessible. To read the immense back story, see this post on the PlayStation Forums. *Note that Killzone 1 doesn’t even start until about halfway down the page.
Set in the year 2357, the people of Helghan, who were originally human settlers from Earth are about to start The Second Extrasolar War. After years of repression and suffering, a new leader comes to power, Scolar Visari. He builds up the Helghast army and restores pride in his people as he launches a bold sneak attack on the nearby UCA colony planet Vekta, a world originally settled by the Helghan people and lost after the First Extrasolar War. It is here that the game begins.
Set against the backdrop of the Helghast invasion of Vekta, Killzone offers up an interesting first person shooter campaign across a wide variety of environments. You’ll move from trench warfare to bombed out cities, to shipyards, parks, snow covered mountains, lush jungles and even a space station.
You start the game as Jan Templar, an ISA Captain who’s caught in the thick of the invasion. As you fight your way across the planet, you’ll add a few new soldiers to your squad, each with their own back story and specialties, Marshal Lugar, the slick female stealthy assassin, Gregor Hakha, a half Helghan spy and Ricardo ‘Rico’ Velasquez, the heavy gunner. As they join your party, you’ll be able to choose which character you want to use at the start of each level, but you can only use one per level. It can be hard to pick not really knowing what you’re getting into and every now and then I became frustrated using a character that was ill-equipped to deal with the situation at hand. More often than not though, you’ll be able to get through the levels with relative ease no matter what character you choose.
As an FPS, Killzone gets a lot of things right. The action can be intense at times and the pacing and story are pretty good. Unfortunately, there are also times when the game can struggle under it’s own weight. Guerrilla Games pushed the technical capabilities of the PS2 to the limit… and then tried to go a little further. Enemy AI seems to be all over the place, but mostly they don’t seem very bright. You’ll do a lot of moving into an area, clearing out the enemy and moving into the next area. It can be a problem every now and then trying to find that one last enemy that will let you move on, but for the most part, there’s some intense action and a few good surprises along the way.
The one strange thing here is that the whole world feels a bit empty. It’s played off a bit in the story, but a huge invasion just happened and it feels like you’re walking through places that were abandoned years ago. Wherever you go, it’s just you and the invading Helghast, the population of the planet has apparently found a really good hiding place. None of it really takes away from the fun of the game and the story that unfolds and I’m sure a lot of it had to do with technical limitations but it feels a bit off at times.
The storyline has a nice payoff at the end and it flows nicely into Killzone: Liberation in the PSP. If you’ve played Killzone 2, you’ll immediately recognize Templar and Velasquez and that’s one of the draws in this game. It’s part of a cohesive story, a bigger narrative that spans four different games across three Sony platforms.
As you can see from the screenshots here, Guerrilla Games worked hard to build a meticulously detailed world that feels like a real place. The layout and design of buildings, streets, shipyards and everything in between is phenomenal. I really didn’t expect this level of detail after hearing so many negative things about the game.
All of this comes at a cost though and the PS2 has trouble at times rendering the textures properly. You’ll find pop in, missing textures and weird geometry in places like the jungle. It’s a distraction at times, but not so much to make you throw down your controller in disgust.
There are also frame rate issues throughout the game which can make things difficult when the enemy is jumping all over the screen. I also ran into more than a few dead bodies with one or two legs flailing all over the place.
Even with the issues, it’s still a fantastic looking game. Killzone set the tone and the design standards for the look of this universe and they would be expanded upon in the games that followed. The great thing about this game is that even though it was on the PS2 it looks and feels like it fits right in with Killzone: Liberation, Killzone 2 and Killzone 3.
The great and not so great is a theme that continues in the audio department. The soundtrack is a real treat and lays the groundwork for the games that follow. The sounds of battle also work very nicely. The voice acting is better than most PS2 games but there are definitely problems.
The Helghast soldiers have a very limited vocabulary and you’ll find them being repetitive pretty quickly. The other downside is the overall sound quality of the voice work. It’s clear that in order to make room for the graphics and everything else on the disc, the audio was encoded at a very low bit rate. It’s not quite the voices in birthday cards bad, but it’s right on the edge of dipping into that mechanical sound.
For all the negative press the game got, it had a pretty strong online community and solid multiplayer matches. The multiplayer is obviously not available in the download version on the PSN, which is fine considering the availability of Killzone 2 and 3
Killzone, like many PlayStation exclusive first person shooters, was built up in the press as a potential “Halo killer”. It certainly didn’t live up to that hype, but underneath the core issues is a really interesting game with a good story and rich universe.
It’s great to see what the franchise has grown into and how good a developer Guerrilla Games can be when they have a powerful machine to work with. Killzone will probably surprise you if you’ve never played it before. Don’t go in expecting a high end experience and you’ll have a lot of fun.
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