After mankind began its colonization of space The Interplanetary Strategic Alliance (ISA) was formed. Seeking freedom from Earth, some colonists fled to Helgan, an irradiated wasteland whose atmospheric radiation left many people sickened and even dead. Slowly the Helghasts not only adapted to these harsh conditions they also became stronger than they ever were. Lead by Scolar Visari, who in the last ten years has rebuilt the Helghast people and created massive armies and fleets of warships, the Helghast attack and decimate the ISA’s Vecta colony. This is their time. You lead an ISA squad of soldiers to repel the Helghast forces and prevent them from gaining revenge on Earth.
Killzone starts you as Captain Templar but eventually you can unlock three other playable characters. You progress through missions little by little and with each new objective you enter a new area that you can’t pass until the objective is complete. When you’re ready to move on either a hole will be blown open in the environment or a teammate will move a barricade, meaning that some teammates are never in any real danger unless their death is scripted. In addition to the health pickups your health also regenerates a bit on its own. Each level has several missions, after each of which is a screen showing your time, shots fired, kills, headshots and hit efficiency. When you die you’ll respawn at the most recent checkpoint.
Prompts appear onscreen throughout the campaign showing controller buttons and their function; a useful tool but the graphics don’t always remain on screen long enough. Despite the impressive ability to remap all buttons at any point during game play the overall control scheme is still deficient for several reasons. First, you can run but doing so drains stamina so it must be used sparingly. Movement is assigned to the Left Analog Stick and running is defaulted to L3; holding L3 and moving the left analog stick simultaneously is incredibly awkward. Since the Digital Buttons are unavailable for remapping, a safe choice is to swap the L3/sprint function with the L2/couch function. Bear in mind you can only run forwards; your reversal and strafing speeds don’t change.
Equally important is the lack of a jump button – at the beginning of the campaign you’re stuck in a trench and you can’t get out until the CPU-controlled marine moves some barbwire aside. This lack of a jump function means you’ll get stuck at very short walls and obstacles and have to maneuver all the way around rather than simply going over them. X is your action button used for climbing and descending ropes and ladders and controlling mounted weapons. You can also use the action button to vault over certain objects but to do this you must first receive an onscreen prompt. It would have been helpful if X also spoke to teammates since there are times when it’s unclear where you’re supposed to go next. Lastly, many weapons including the sniper rifle allow you to zoom in for a closer look at your target, however once you zoom in with the sniper rifle not only is sniping difficult because the targeting reticle moves around within the scope independently from the main view, but also because once you move your character the view automatically zooms out. With other weapons you can zoom in and still move normally. Pressing Select calls up a list of mission objective though the control config screen doesn’t point this out however.
Throughout the campaign there is little to no music and the repetitive melodramatic single voice that is used by every single enemy soldier will drive you nuts. The non-stop screams, grunts and barked orders ranging from “get theeeeem!” to “attaaaaaaack!” to “yaaaarghoooo!” may have you turning the sound off completely. Even when playing Defend and Destroy multiplayer your CPU buddies will repeat “they’re getting close” over and over again as enemy forces approach your base.
More than matching the poor sound quality is Killzone’s disgustingly unoptimized graphical performance, inexcusable considering that Killzone is a PS2 exclusive title created on PS2 dev kits and not simply ported from another platform. Killzone looks reasonable enough as long as you stand still but motion creates flashing textures and constant texture draw-in when approaching dead bodies and scenery. This is almost always seen on character models (dead or alive) and on objects when zooming in and out with weapons – there’s also a constant bombardment of graphical seams at all points throughout the game. Some scenery is quite obviously two dimensional. Near the beginning of the second mission where you obtain the sniper rifle, a portion of the environment across the street hangs down from a building. Stand near its side and look at it – it disappears! There is also an unusually long delay between pressing Start and the appearance of the pause menu.
Fortunately there are some redeemable details to Killzone’s graphics. When climbing up a ladder you can see your arms and hands climbing and there’s even a separate descending animation where you grab the sides and slide down. You can see empty shells eject from other people’s weapons, corpses normally remain onscreen indefinitely rather than vanishing into thin air and all of the gun switching and loading animations are very cool and complete with opening, cocking, reloading, and even scope opening animations.
Battlefield mode is for on and offline multiplayer and offers numerous modes of game play in addition to standard and team deathmatch, though the menu doesn’t offer any kind of description for these modes nor does it list the objectives. Killzone’s multiplayer is boring due to a lack of rounds; in other words as soon as the objective is complete the game is over, you don’t start again regardless of how much time is left. When playing with a one hour time limit you may have fifty minutes left because there is no option to adjust point requirements for certain types of games. In Assault once the enemy base’s generators are destroyed the game is over.
In Supply Drop, the first team to pick up supplies from the battlefield and return them to their respective base wins. This is usually over very fast due to a lack of rounds and close proximity of supplies to the bases. In Domination you must take over communication beacons by touching them. Each beacon you touch is worth a certain amount of points so it’s not a matter of who has them all at once, but rather who reaches the required number of points (though the former would have been a challenging alternative option).
Killzone’s cool features such as enemies recognizing the threat of a grenade and running from it, secondary fire modes on weapons and the ability to play offline against bots in some creative forms of multiplayer would normally make a game fun, but most of these details are overshadowed by buggy graphics and monotonous sound. Killzone will most likely be left in the wake of games like Halo 2 and Half-Life 2.