Guerrilla was hoping to give the PlayStation 2 its first outstanding shooter, but did they pull it off? We wrap our huge Killzone coverage to find out. New videos included.


By Alex Wollenschlaeger

It was a month before my thirteenth birthday when my parents told me we'd be taking a trip to celebrate the day. To say that I was eager would be unfair to my 12-year-old self. I counted the days, hoping for the trip to end all trips. When at last the day came, we drove for hours to get to our destination, one of the local amusement worlds that had garnered so much attention not long before.

I was disappointed. Truly disappointed, for the first time in my short life. It's not that the place was bad - the coasters were pretty fun. But the experience had not lived up to my expectations and it didn't live up to what I knew it could be. Killzone makes me feel like I'm thirteen all over again.

Guerrilla's game is not bad. In fact, it could have been excellent. Instead, the Dutch development house has created a good game that falls short of what it should have been. A good setup is marred by technical and gameplay glitches that tether it to better-than-crap instead of allowing it to soar with some of the outstanding first-person shooters that have come out in the last six months.

It's easy to see why Killzone has attracted as much attention over the past year as it has. A glimpse of the game in a static snapshot reveals refreshingly brightly lit, crumbling sci-fi settings layered with obsessively detailed textures. Likewise the enemies, the prototypical stormtrooper-like Helghast, strike a chord at once. You see them and know, yes, these are the bad guys. These are the guys I'm here to kill.

The opening cinema (see new videos added below) sets the tone; an exiled colony of military extremists returns to their home to reclaim what had been denied them. The game kicks off with the alluringly evil-looking Helghast storming a platoon of ISA troops (the goodies) in foxholes and trenches that hearken back to wars long forgotten.

First-person shooters are among the rare games that absolutely need to have the right frame rate. It's got to be sufficiently high, and it's got to be consistent. Killzone fails in both respects. Despite the tense situations the game places you in, the missing frames reduce them to merely obstacles in a game to be overcome. It's hard to lose yourself in the experience when your brain is continually yelling out that this thing should be smoother.

But these are technical flaws that can almost be forgiven. Not so with the inherent blemishes in game design. While the choice to have your character's head bob all over the place - while climbing a ladder or reloading your weapon or any of a multitude of actions - might have seemed initially well-founded, in practise it's everything but. The visually disconcerting to and fro is like an itch you can't scratch, intensifying with each instance.

But Killzone's biggest flaw is one that's not immediately apparent to the eye. Around almost every corner, both literally and figuratively, there is an invisible wall, boxing you in and funnelling you down a zealously linear path through the game. Take movement around levels as an example. To prevent you from venturing too far off the breadcrumb path you are denied a jump button. Fair enough, there are still first-person shooters that encumber you similarly. But when you, a highly trained military soldier, can't climb a 12-inch-high pavement because it's not somewhere you're allowed to go there's something wrong. Killzone doesn't need a map and it doesn't need an objective lists - all you need to do is go forward and you can't go wrong.

Equally mismanaged is the game's difficulty. The dozen or so levels are divided into three sections, and each of these in turn houses but a smattering of checkpoints. The end result is a lot of backtracking every time a scripted Helghast trooper rounds a corner with a shotgun. It feels like an artificial way to lengthen the life of the game.

For the most part, enemies are on the daft side, but once spotted you will have to shoot your way out. Despite a recharging health bar, death is not an uncommon event. After a while, it can feel like a chore to make progress through the game. This is exacerbated by the post-death reloading process, which errs on the side of frustratingly long.

To offset the singleplayer campaign, Guerrilla has included online and offline multiplayer modes, but built upon the same rickety foundation these can't help but disappoint. One nice touch is the presence of bots, useful for when you want to max out the number of players in any of the six recognizable solo or team-based game types. It's an obvious inclusion, but it's also something that a lot of console first-person shooters fail to include.

Killzone is without question a flawed game. There are aspects of the game design that can be distilled down to early decisions in the design process that just didn't work out. And then there are the technical shortcomings. These detract from the overall experience, which is a pity, since Killzone could have been something special. But, much like my thirteen-year-old self knew all those years ago, there's always next year. Perhaps next time, Guerrilla will get it right.

Graphics Sound Gameplay Depth Presentation OVERALL
6.0 7.0 6.0 7.0 7.0 7.0

This year has witnessed the arrival of the best first-person shooters on both PC and console since the genre was invented all those years ago. It's not an exaggeration to say that Killzone could have been a contender, but there are just too many technical and design errors that hold it back. Playing the game is a disappointment because you know it could and should have been a lot better.

Video Coverage
(See Latest Videos & Video FAQ Here)
NEW - direct feed - stunning introduction movie sequence (640x480, 1.4Mbps)
3.04min 29.8MB WMV
NEW - direct feed - opening game video. (640x480, 1.4Mbps)
1.08min 11.2MB WMV
Direct feed gameplay (640x480, 1.4Mbps)
3.25min 32.6MB WMV
Assorted gameplay trailer (640x480, 1.4Mbps)
1.27min 13.7MB WMV
Direct feed gameplay (640x480, 1Mbps)
3.10m 24.17 MB WMV
Direct feed gameplay (640x480, 1Mbps)
0.37m 4.75 MB WMV
Trailer from E3 presentation (640x480, 1Mbps)
1.58m 15.06 MB WMV
Killzone in-depth E3 presentation (640x480, 1Mbps)
10.59m 83.80 MB WMV
Complete level 1 - shakycam (640x480, 1Mbps)
6.23m 48.76 MB WMV
Complete level 2 - shakycam (640x480, 1Mbps)
5.14m 39.87 MB WMV
Complete level 3 - shakycam (640x480, 1Mbps)
2.58m 22.64 MB WMV
Direct feed hi-res teaser trailer (640x480, 1Mbps)
0.46m 5.83 MB WMV
Direct feed gameplay (640x480, 2Mbps)
2.20min 11.8MB WMV
Official teaser trailer (320x200, 1Mbps)
0.49min 5.83MB WMV

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