From the very beginning it is clear that Killzone's developers, Guerrilla, had big ideas. Ideas that may have been a little too big as it turns out. The intro movie sets the scene of an epic battle, backed by an equally epic orchestral score, in a traditionally massive Sci-Fi way. The Helghast are a race of genetically mutated humans who seem intent on getting one over on the ISA, the good clean American boys who rule the universe, after they left Earth some time ago. The Helghast leader is stirring his troops with a speech in the intro movie. It is all very impressive and sets the scene for, what one would expect to be an absolutely remarkable game.
Unfortunately, and it is a terrible shame, it doesn't quite end up like that as the game just doesn't seem to gel very well. There is always a niggling doubt at the back of your mind thinking that if only things had been done just a little bit differently then the claims that Killzone was Sony's Halo Killer, may have rung true. As it is, is Killzone is merely an above average first person shooter.
The game starts out with the Helghast laying siege to an ISA planet called Vekta, and it is our intrepid hero, Templar, who is set to help repel their advance. Templar is just the first of a number of characters who are playable through the game. The different characters do add a bit of much needed variation to the game and they do play slightly differently. Luger for example is a sniper and moves around with a bit more stealth than Templar who has more of a sense of weight when moving.
From the first level, the game tries to throw you into a war zone. It takes place in a World War One type trench system as you are given the task of repelling wave after wave of Helghast troops. Unfortunately it all begins to feel a little repetitive. Sitting in a trench picking off big, bulky, slow moving and incredibly stupid AI is not the greatest of challenges and it all feels a little bit clunky. The controls just don't quite feel right and aiming can be problematic at times. It can be a case of aiming in the general direction of an enemy and hoping for the best. Sniping is also a huge let down. It is not possible to move while sniping. Reality would dictate this of course but after playing Halo for years now, it feels terrible not to be able to snipe while on the move and can lead to taking far too many shots from enemies.
Despite its overly simplistic idea of gameplay, the game does end up being fun in a stupidly simple kind of way. Levels are simple and linear and the AI is absolutely terrible. But there is something to be said about mowing down droves of enemies then charging in to kill them with a melee attack. It is nothing too cerebral or original but it can be a lot of fun. Just don't go expecting anything overly strategic.
The game's AI deserves a special mention as Guerrilla has seemingly forgotten to put any in there. I cannot stress just how bad the AI can get at times. I watched my teammate try to clear some barbed wire at one point. However, rather than clearing it, he just walked into it again and again until it wasn't there anymore. It looked stupid and amateurish for such an otherwise well-produced game. Your teammates are just plain stupid and provide little help to you, as they cannot be controlled. When compared to something as advanced as say Rainbow Six 3, Killzone just falls flat on its face. The enemy AI is just as bad. It is possible at times to just walk right up to a Helghast soldier and kill him with the melee attack before he even reacts. It is all a little bit silly and when compared to something like Halo 2, it feels terrible.
One area where Killzone does shine is in the graphical department. The levels are an absolute joy to behold. The universe created resembles the Warhammer 40,000 universe in many ways. Landscapes are gritty urban futuristic cities which have been torn apart by the Helghast's advance. It has some of the best visuals seen on the PS2 yet and I, in all honesty, prefer the grime and dirt of these landscapes to Halo 2's cleaner feel. Player and enemy models are also incredibly well done and are full of cool little details. Gun models are also excellent and reloading animations are a joy to look at, except when you are surrounded by Helghast of course.
These graphical feats come at a cost though. The frame rate is appalling and it actually impacts on gameplay quite heavily. Gameplay can at times get so choppy that aiming becomes almost impossible. It is all a shame too as if the frame rate was smoother then the game would have felt a lot better. As it is, the game just can't compete with the big boys of the genre.
Sound in the game is excellent. From the sweeping orchestral score of the FMV scenes to an absolute riot of explosions, radio chatter, gunfire and explosions in game. The game has definately not been neglected in this area and the sound, when combined with the excellent visuals do create an excellent atmosphere of warfare and general carnage.
As usual, I am not able to comment on the online functions of the game, as I am not online enabled in the PS2 department. However, from reports I have heard, the game shapes up nicely as players do not have to contend with boneheaded AI. There are also a lot of online modes to keep players busy for a fair chunk of time. The frame rate issues could be a problem though. It should be fun, but as in most aspects, I doubt it will contend with Halo 2 and its amazing Live features.
Killzone is a good game. It is far from perfect though and despite Guerrilla's obvious attempts at creating an epic game, it can't live up to its obvious main contender, Halo 2. If you are a first person fan then Killzone is definately worth a go and if you can get over the flaws of the game then you will find an enjoyable title. Just don't go expecting something ground breaking.