Gamestyle Archive Intro: if you ever wanted proof that GS stood by its approach and ethics then here’s the perfect example. Whilst the mainstream media were falling over themselves to praise Killzone the reality of the gaming experience was somewhat different. You can never win reviewing these games – you’ll have PR companies moaning you only scored it a 9 when it deserved a 10. We never bowed to such pressure and on the flipside these more realistic scores pushed down the game on ranking websites, much to the fanboys annoyance. Oh yes, a review such as this I’m sure in November 2004 did receive criticism from the Killzone-fans and it wasn’t the first, nor is it the last. I can recall another PlayStation exclusive in the shape of Gran Turismo prompting a similar backlash.
This review comes from Chris Pickering and overall proves that taking your time with the gaming experience and summing up the package stands the test of time. Too many sites tried to be first out of the blocks with a hashed review, not Gamestyle.
So, it’s here – the Halo beater is finally here. The game that’s set to propel Sony’s PS2 to the next level (and urinate from a great height upon Bungie’s Halo series). The game that truly defines the FPS genre and takes games, and gamers, to that dizzying new level we’d never thought possible. Why, even Edge harped on about Killzone’s immense potential – so how could it be any different?
Well, it is. It’s quite difficult to calculate just how many superlatives had been whipped up prior to the game’s release; proclaiming Killzone to be ‘heir apparent’ to the FPS throne (well, at least on consoles). And, let’s be honest, many of those utterances would’ve been made after witnessing early clips of the in-game action. However, drawing a line in the sand, we here at Gamestyle expect a little more substance to accompany our gaming hype. It all starts reasonably enough: an attractive introductory sequence clearly shows you how the game will play out.
Killzone is yet another homage to the ‘bloody war’ scenario (somewhat akin to the Medal Of Honor series, but set in the ‘near-future’ rather than the past). The Helghast – the masked enemies you’ll have seen all too often in the previews – are the baddies of the piece. They wish to take over, and obliterate anyone who isn’t part of their super-race. As is usual for this type of action-FPS, the storyline isn’t particularly interesting – but it does at least get you mildly intrigued for what is to come. Things take a slight turn for the worse when the game ‘proper’ actually begins. Unfortunately, playing on the normal difficulty or below, the enemy displays some mightily-unimpressive AI. On these lower settings, it’s something of a throwback to simpler times – when bitmapped sprites proceeded to run full-pelt towards you without a second thought to their existence on the spectral plane. However, to Guerrilla’s credit, if you wish to take on the game at its most difficult, enemy intelligence does ramp up; foes often come at you in a semi-realistic manner (even to the point of overwhelming you with some impressive routines). Of course, at the end of the day, it’s ‘artificially’ hard for the simple fact that it wants you to lose.
Killzone’s enemies (or should that be clones?) become something of a detriment to the title overall. After the first hour or so of play, you’ll be screaming out for a little variety as far your opponents are concerned. Your screams go mercilessly unanswered, of course, as wave upon wave of identikit soldiers come tearing towards you. Don’t get us wrong, Gamestyle is partial to the Guerrilla style – but the FPS fashion stakes could’ve been upped considerably with a dash of spice on the playing-field. Even worse ‘fashions’ are yet to come, however, with the design of the levels. After witnessing and playing through some of the most exhilarating and incredibly-vast levels in Halo 2, there’s nothing but disappointment laying in Killzone’s wake.
Half-Life 2 showed us that levels need not be overly-simplified and obvious to stave off frustration; but here, there’s very little sense of actually being able to shape your own destiny – and more of a feeling that you’re being forced against your will through channels of hardness. Matters aren’t helped one tiny bit by the aesthetic design; these are some of the most drab and lifeless stages that Gamestyle has ever visited. The endless collage of browns and murky greys are quite depressing in fact, almost to the point of despair. Okay, so it does support the ‘warzone’ motif quite well – but there’s no excuse for inactivity outside of immediate battles. Guerrilla needs to remind players that the rest of their world is actually alive.
Despite the overly critical tone we’ve taken with Killzone, it’s not a game that can’t yield the occasional highpoint. When we say highpoint, we don’t mean to imply that it reaches the heights of multiplayer Halo 2 (although Killzone is fully playable online) – perhaps ‘highpoint of relief’ is the better expression. Relief that arrives in the aftermath of a bad purchase; knowledge and the implicit hope that someday Guerrilla will rise above the ruins of a dismal and overhyped package.
In the meantime, media interest which at first raised the game up to unreachable levels looks almost certain to implode – killing off Killzone in the process. The potential for Guerrilla to develop a truly impressive FPS title on the PS2 is obviously there, but it’s a learning curve that players won’t be scaling anytime soon. The PS2’s answer to Halo? Don’t make us laugh.
Gamestyle Score: 5/10