In the middle of the last decade, if you liked first person shooters there were plenty to choose from. Whether they were fully hyped games like Doom 3 or Half-Life 2, sleeper hits like Black, or franchises on their way to taking over the world like Call of Duty or Halo, the gaming world was buried beneath a mountain of discarded weapons, hidden health packs, and dead enemy soldiers.
So it’s something of a small miracle that Killzone, the PlayStation 2 exclusive game released in 2004, not only survived but also managed to spawn Killzone: Liberation for the PSP, the brilliant Killzone 2, and last year’s Killzone 3.
If you missed the game the first time around, Killzone is now available for download from the PSN. At more than 3GB, the game is fully HD and comes complete with trophies, re-mapped controls, and a much needed higher frame rate.
While the sound design is better than ever, with nice contrast between the dramatic score during the game intro, battle chatter, and moments of quiet, the biggest disappointment is the lack of online multiplayer. Although all of the multiplayer game modes are still there, including Deathmatch and Supply Drop, you can only play offline against bots or in split-screen.
In the campaign mode you start out as Interplanetary Strategic Alliance Captain Jan Templar as he takes up the battle against the evil Helghast Empire. From the beginning it’s full-on macho posturing and ‘war is hell’ clichés, as wave after wave of Helghast soldiers are dispatched over eleven chapters of interplanetary war.
While the game tries hard to get a story going, it struggles. With cut-scenes now far more gritty and graphic, Killzone looks cartoonish and dated. This undermines any emotional weight the story may have had, and what you’re left with is a very arbitrary kill-fest.
But, there’s nothing wrong with that. Killzone is all about masses of inept Helghast invaders, running into your gun sights and dying in droves. If you’re playing as action hero Templar, assassin Luger, angry man Rico, or half-Helghast spy Hakha, nothing really changes. Yes each character starts with a different load-out but you usually just pick up the biggest guns you can find, admittedly from a selection of some pretty awesome weaponry, and start shooting.
For the first half of the game Killzone is FPS 101. You jog around broken buildings, beaches, and bunkers, clearing pockets of Helghast soldiers, the odd heavy machine gun, and the occasional tank. It’s linear, with no advantages or rewards for doing anything other then look for the next group of enemy soldiers to kill. Not that there’s many places to explore as you are unable to step over even ankle high obstacles. While the second half of the game increases the challenge, mainly by throwing more enemies at you, it is standard stuff, enjoyable for what it is, but it wasn't groundbreaking even back in 2004.
When it was released originally, there was some hope that Sony and developers Guerilla Games may have come up with the PlayStation alternative to Halo. They didn't. There was criticism of the controls, a few issues with draw distance, and very limited enemy AI. In Killzone HD the controls have been sorted, you can now set them up anyway you want, but the enemy AI hasn’t changed, and draw distance still has issues. While everything looks good, especially in campaign mode, in the multiplayer battlefield mode when you’re scanning the ridges for enemies, and plants and trees pop up out of nowhere, it’s bloody annoying.
However, accepting that eight years is a long time in gaming, if you’re a fan of the series Killzone is worth the investment. While it’s not the graphically violent, frantic, and desperate game that recent shooters have become, Killzone feels almost relaxing with its deliberate pace and disconnect from reality. You shoot everything in sight, preferably with a high hit efficiency, and don’t worry in the slightest about collateral damage. And the only moral dilemma you have is should you kill everyone with the BP-02 Pup launcher or the STA-52 SLAR sniper rifle. Now that’s a first person shooter.