posted 12/24/2004 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: PS2

When you think of the best titles available on the PS2 names like Grand Theft Auto and Metal Gear Solid probably come to mind. But search long and hard; can you think of one top-tier first person shooter available for the console? I know it's tough to fathom, but through the PS2's extensive library there lacks a true first person shooter. This is where Guerilla and SCEA step in with their lovechild, Killzone.

It's supposed to be the HALO killer but we'll kill the suspense right now, if that's what you're looking for you'll be hugely disappointed. Don’t let that deter you though, if you come into the game looking for a decent shooter you might actually come away satisfied. It has its fair share of problems but the developers were able to hold it all together fairly well with a solid storyline, above average visuals and some fairly intense gameplay elements.

Let's start with the storyline first; if you've seen the commercial for the game you've probably noticed how much the enemies look like Nazis. Well that's not too far from the truth; in essence you can look at the Helghast as futuristic Nazis. Their ultimate goal is to wipe out the rest of humanity until only their kind exists. You'll start out as one character but as the action unfolds you will eventually gain access to three more whose fates are intertwined. Each of them has their own distinct advantages and their strong suits come into play later on in the game when you can choose who you'd like to use in the mission. Picking the right man for the job isn't crucial but it'll go a long way towards making your life easer.

Killzone is the type of game that reminds us why Ritalin was invented. When it's good, it is extremely intense and rivals the best that we've ever seen in the console realm. When it's bad, it's horrifically frustrating and forces us to wonder why those issues couldn’t be hammered out through the QA process. Let's start with an aspect that encompasses both ends of the spectrum; the mission structure. The game essentially unfolds over a set of pre-scripted killzones set in the not too distant future. When the game sets you on a designated path and asks you to kill everything that moves, it works excellently. It's just that the game doesn't do this too often; it generally requires you to perform an oblique task without offering up the proper amount of guidance. Everything operates on triggers (usually a certain checkpoint or an enemy that needs to be killed) but you never get an indication of exactly what you need to do so that you can unlock the next sequence of events. Most of the time you'll wipe out a group of enemies and expect to be able to move on until you realize that the game has artificially trapped you in the area. After about five minutes you’ll discover that a lone enemy has survived behind a set of crates, and only after you've wasted him will the game trigger the next event that will allow you to move on. It's kind of frustrating and actually gives me flashbacks of the old Midway Arcade games where you had to kill all the enemies to unlock the door.

Then there's the frame of reference that the game tricks you into believing. Your eyes see you carrying a machine gun so you're immediately given the frame of reference that you would associate with a projectile weapon in the 21st century. Initially this is one of the aspects of the game that really appealed to me. When I play shooters I prefer the real-world weapons as opposed to the energy weapons because I have a realistic expectation on the impact and feel of the weapon. Inherently I have an idea of how many bullets it would take to bring down a human, but I have no idea how many energy beams it would take to bring that same man down. In Killzone you have the same weapons you see in today's world but they're not modeled the same way. For starters, every bullet has a tracer which means that you can actually see the bullet traveling in the air. This also means that the bullet has to be traveling slower than a normal bullet if you can actually see its trajectory as its en route to its target. This really threw off much of the action because I actually had to lead some of my targets, like I was shooting a slow flying projectile weapon. In addition, the impact of each weapon has actually been lessened a bit. It takes a fair amount of bullets in order to bring an enemy down; much more than you would normally see in a first person shooter.
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