23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
A Solid Shooter,
This review is from: Killzone (PS2) (Video Game)
I remember first hearing of Killzone through Edge magazine in August 2003; the front cover of that issue bore the image of two Helghast soldiers, underwritted by the tagline 'Halo for the PS2?'. This, in my oppinion killed Killzone right from the off, as by getting an exclusive report on the unheard-of game, Edge made sure that it got talked about, but by using this tagline, it also made sure that people expected too much from it. Considering that Edge is supposed to be the magazine choice for the more astute gamer, this was a very stupid move on their behalf.
Anyway, I digress. Killzone is not Halo, was never intended to be a Halo clone and should not be compared to it. So for the reviewer who gave it 3 stars as a comparison to Halo, your point was point-less. Killzone is a first person shooter in it's own right, and more to the point it is an FPS on the PS2, which is why it garnered so much hype in the first place.
First off, gameplay; this is where people became disheartened at playing Killzone, as compared to the polish of the visuals and sound design, it feels rather less accomplished. Each level follows an almost entirely linear path, consisting of a move, shoot, move, shoot, objective based dynamic. Said objectives are usually very basic, such as reaching an area, and extra objectives are often added on the fly; but they are never more taxing than finding a button to press or eliminating a certain enemy. So the level progression dynamic is fairly basic, which is what a lot of reviews are picking up on. However, I believe that they have missed the point. Killzone is a wargame, albeit a futuristic one, and therefore is all about the fighting; soldiers serve a purpose, which is not to solve abstract puzzles, they are there to fight and take ground, eliminating any resistance they encounter. Fortunately, in this repsect Killzone succeeds, most impressively.
The combat just feels right. The exceptionally well-designed weapons feel real, and feel like they really could hurt you. Whether slitting throats with the knife, blasting Helghast up close with a shotgun, mowing down troops with a machine gun or blowing up armoured targets with a rocket launcher, each weapon feels like it truly serves a purpose, and the combination of superb sound design and unparalleled particle effects make it feel like you are involved in the fighting. Add on top of that the fact that you have four playable characters to choose from, each of which alters the level flow in some way or another, and you are presented with more futuristic combat than you can shake a stick-grenade at. OK, so certain things, such as the presence of enemy vehicles could have been made more dramatic and purposeful through better scripting, and it never quite feels like you're in the midst of a planetary war, more a series of skirmishes; but at the end of the day, the game is still great fun to play. The only concern I share with the average reviews is the enemy AI, which at times disappoints, with enemies turning their back on you in the midst of a firefight and continuing to run at you whilst you pelt them with fire.
Controls wise, Killzone works a treat, as the button configuration seems well tailored to aid you in the combat, whilst never getting you into trouble through illogical, or awkward assignment. The analogue movement speed is satisfactory, only occasionally proving troublesome when the framerate drops below the norm.
Now onto what put the game in the spotlight to start with - the visuals. I say visuals rather than graphics, as Killzone is not just beautiful because of the way it is rendered; it succeeds through some incredible design. Take the Helghast for instance, they look awesome. The glowing orange eyes, perfectly offset from the dark uniform makes them the definition of menacing. Combine this with some awesome weapon design, and some of the most believable sci-fi environments ever devised in game and you have a stylistic masterpiece. Then combine this with the fact that the artists at Guerilla were able to take this vision and translate it pixel-perfectly onto the weakest of the current generation consoles, and you have one visually stunning game. OK, so the framerate suffers slightly due to this, but the fact is that it really doesn't matter that much; nothing else on the PS2 looks this good, and I gladly accept the odd dip in framerate, considering that gameplay is hardly affected. Similarly, the LOD issues (with textures 'popping' in) are hardly worth mentioning, and besides PC gamers have had to put up with this for years.
The particle effects systems used to for smoke, flames and atmospheric effects are also superb and way above anything seen previously on the PS2.
The sound design is similarly brilliant, from the brutal sounds of the guns, to the immersive ambient effects that really put you in the scene. The cutscene music is also fantastic, coming across as a hybrid between Star Wars and Starship Troopers, perfectly complementing the on-screen action.
So overall, Killzone succeeds as a game. It's fun to play and striking to watch, minor niggles aside. Where it falls down is in not living up to the hype and over-expectations that were heavily put upon it from the off, due in no small part to Edge. However, this is hardly the fault of the game, or the developers; games are created to a strict schedule and set of criteria, and once the process is initiated it is very difficult to deviate if your product is to be released on schedule. Therefore, rather than criticise, I think people should applaud Guerilla for what they have managed to achieve in a relatively short period of time, as Killzone is a game that boasts both fun gameplay and better graphics than anything else on the Playstation 2.