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Killzone review

Excellent
AT A GLANCE

Nothing

You know you're onto something when you're taking screenshots of a game and you begin imagining how great it's going to look on the page. When you're pressing the 'grab' button on the 'grabber' and every frame it lifts and tucks away on the hard-drive is a work of art. Killzone is one of those games. We have, in the past, spent hours trying to make some games look anything other than s**t, but with Killzone we just press the button... Perfect. Press again. Perfect. It's impossible to make this game look anything but brilliant.

There are two reasons why. Firstly, it does look great. Obvious really. Behind the scenes the Killzone engine is swap-changing detail models, overlaying textures on top of each other and doing all it can into fooling your PS2 (and your eye) into displaying (and perceiving) more detail than any game before. Study the folds of the enemy uniforms. Study the creases of the in-game character's faces as they chat to you - detail that just a couple of short years ago would have been phenomenal in a pre-rendered intro sequence.

Secondly Killzone looks so good because it knows how to fill a frame. Stand still for a moment and count the buildings/grassy hillocks/muddy trenches/shops/windows/corpses/advertisments/ruins etc. Etc. ETC!... Most games labour long and hard on lining your avenue of action with some decent scenery (a smashable box here, a flickering monitor screen there) but Killzone just heaps it on. Wherever you turn there's detail bimbling off to the horizon. In the distance cannons fire off at unseen invaders and smoke rises from wrecked vehicles you couldn't possibly reach or would ever want to. We tried sooo hard to catch it out. Find the boundary where the artists said 'Sod it, they'll never notice'. But we couldn't. Even on the level's edge you're deflected back onto the desired course by believable obstructions that gently nudge you forwards. We've played games that rely on idiot proof flashing arrows and we've played games that let you blunder around blinkered, lost in a maze of grey and brown mush. Killzone keeps you on track simply by offering something actually interesting and inviting just ahead - constantly. It's a game you'll begin playing and want to complete just to know what amazement lies around the next corner.

The action takes place on Vector - a Dutch-looking planet (perhaps due to the locale of Amsterdam-based developers Guerilla? Perhaps?) where the resident (evil) Helghast rebels have broken away from the Earth's ISA forces and must be put back in their box. You play not as one but your choice of four ISA troops as you meander through a mission that features rescues, escapes, plot-twists and even a little romance.

So, it's a game that has got the lot. And perhaps that's its undoing. Consulting our notes after days of play reads like a petty whinge-list of minor niggles - all of which were brought on by the game's big ideas. The four-characters are a great idea but why can't you switch between them mid-level? Thanks to the diversity of action on offer (frantic massed battles interspersed with sniping and creeping) you're frequently equipped with the wrong man (or lady) for the job. And are you supposed to play through the whole game as one character then play through again trying another? Or should you keep replaying missions as each of the characters on offer to better notice the clever changes in routes through the levels each is treated to? And anyway, how are you to choose who to play as when you haven't played the level yet?

Similarly much has been made of the enemy AI. The Helghast will flank you. Hunt you down. Be indistinguishable from real players. Oh no they won't. Try popping around a corner and having a pot shot at a few of them. Wait for a few moments then pop back round for a second shot. What are they doing? Ducking and covering? Radioing for reinforcements? Or even just ducking behind a box? No. They're still stood there waiting for you to stick your head out again. The brilliant new AI that prevents them from aimlessly running around the corner into your waiting line of fire also makes them stand around waiting to be killed. You just try coaxing one down a corridor from his preset start point or (heaven forbid) down some stairs. Similarly try and get one of your buddies who fight alongside you to usefully engage the enemy. No mate YOU go first... The whole game AI is here to give the impression of intelligence rather than deliver the real thing. Stop playing, or retread your steps and the game stops around you. Play like an idiot, shoot your own men or rely on them to kill people for you and you won't get anywhere. It's all well-programmed deceptive, superficial fluff.

Fortunately it's bastard hard fluff too. Don't think that beating the 'Zone for all its dumbness is a breeze. The painfully lengthy reloads of most weapons and tiny clips of others mean that the game has a unique - and brilliant - all-new duck 'n' cover gameplay. DO NOT play it on 'Easy'. Play on 'Normal' and taste the pain. Shuffle from cover to cover, pop up, shoot, reload, repeat. Don't taunt the guards or rely on your buddies to do anything useful - just single-handedly work forwards killing anyone that stands in your way and it's great.

Sure, there isn't the action/adventure/discovery gameplay of Half-Life but compared to Medal of Honor this is taking things to the next level. Side by side with the frivolous and fun TimeSplitters 2 though is a trickier contest. The bleak future setting will be instantly more appealing to many . And the delivery of true online play keeps promises TS2 broke meaning that, for this reviewer at least, Killzone comes out on top.

The new click-down-to-run feature (and stamina bar) make dashes for cover as exciting as shooting and the peering through the gloom trying to line-up the sniper weapons is laden with tension. But most of all it's the great level design, sheer number of enemy to kill and it's relentless NAILS toughness that makes you feel like you're actually achieving something rather than just playing another game.

We did throw the pad down a few times as Helghast refused to drop despite emptying clip after clip into them. And then go toes-up with a single faceshot... Something to do with the thickness of the armour? We don't care, it's not clever, it's annoying. Same your limited armoury making you sacrifice your sniper rifle for a fat noisy rocket launcher just before (what turns out to be) a sniping section. Ho ho! You got me! Smartasses.

But these are all (and we mean ALL) minor gripes. Killzone owes a debt to another FPS [cough, Halo] and can truly, proudly hold its head up as PS2's answer to it. From the strength bar that tops up as you rest to the nicking of weird weapons you find, there's a catalogue of brilliant (and stolen) ideas here. If you're the least bit taken by what we've described we implore you to buy Killzone. It isn't an amazing new concept - rather it's THE state-of-the-art PS2 game. And who could ask for any more than that?

Killzone is released for PS2 on 26 November

A gorgeous, big, weighty, important event-game that makes good on most of its grandiose promises. Easily in the top two first-person shooters for PS2 alongside TimeSplitters 2

More Info

Release date: Nov 02 2004 - PS2 (US)
Nov 26 2004 - PS2 (UK)
Available Platforms: PS3, PS2
Genre: Shooter
Developed by: Guerrilla Games
Franchise: Killzone
ESRB Rating:
Mature

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2 comments

  • KrizLol - July 6, 2009 5:54 a.m.

    it is great but it was not better than Halo.Still is a fun FPS game on the PS2.
  • Draculas - May 30, 2009 3:55 a.m.

    I need help on KILLZONE:Liberation. I can not seem to get pass "RICO" setting C-4 on the West Harbor Entrance.I need a CHEAT PLEAse! pLEASE SEND IT TO : wet_ob@hotmail.com Much Appreciated....

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