I find it incredibly odd how even when I’m not a particular fan of first-person shooters, I’m absolutely in love with this title. Where most games have something lacking, this one delivers, and delivers with a wrath to bring down the heavens.
First off, I realize the title KillZone may not depict a very sophisticated image. Sure, I had that impression myself. My first shot at this game was multiplayer with a friend and I wasn’t too impressed at first. But like many great things, KillZone has to grow on ya. You have to give it a chance to unfold its visual and tactical splendor. Not only that, but it actually provides a rather twisty storyline to play as background. But while the story being in background sounds less than impressive, take it from me; the only reason for it is the sheer captivity of the gameplay itself.
So there you are in the first player mode. You soon make out that there’s a rather hostile breed of humans coming into your home planet and not with friendly intentions. Basically you have the Helghans invading the humans of Vekta (planetary colonization occured, by the by) due to Helghans feeling oppressed, conquered, etc… Doesn’t seem like a very deep story, I know, but instead of focusing on the grander scheme of things, you take on the more personal role of Captain Templar, whose eventual 4 man squad punches quite the hole in Helghan forces.
The opening is done fabulously. While gradually learning the controls through a guided orientation, you are also playing a game of trench wars against Helghan invaders. The difficulty is low considering you’ve got a simple gun ’em down scenario to follow while learning controls, yet it also provides a fast enough pace that if you don’t apply yourself, the enemy can make it into your trench and catch you up close.
To get into the controls, I can immediately tell you they are done very well. The shoulder button layout is very approproate and easy to learn, comprised of a primary fire, secondary fire, dodging and grenade toss, while holding down the grenade button allows you to “cook” the grenade to allow less time for enemies to scatter. The forward/backward and strafe movement is done by analog, typically at a fast walking pace, while pushing down on the joystick (L3) causes you to run (at the expense of not being able to use your weapon). The right analog stick is used to turn and aim vertically. Pushing down (R3) can activate a “zoom” feature with some weapons. Then you have a typical ordinance layout with the right four buttons. Square used for heat vision (Luger only) and held down for voice chat with online play. Circle is used to switch weapons and held down to swap the current held weapon with one on the ground (maximum of 3 carried). Triangle is used simply to reload, especially useful between firefights considering you don’t wanna be caught reloading in the middle of the next one. And ‘X’ is for general action, used to hop over obsticles, climb/descend ladders and utilize equipment whenever an appropriate icon appears at the bottom of the screen.
The heads-up display is kept mostly at the bottom of the screen, giving you your health bar, stamina bar (for running), grenade count and primary/secondary ammunition count for whatever weapon currently being used. The interface is simple and very handy, as everything is shown to you without confusion. Walk over a felled foe that dropped the same weapon as you (not necessarily the one being used) and an icon of the weapon will appear showing how much ammunition you scavenged under it. As mentioned before, should you come across a fallen tree that you need to vault over, an icon will appear and you need only to press the action button. Should you stand over a weapon you aren’t currently holding, an icon of the weapon will appear and prompts you to hold down the button to pick up and swap with your current. If just starting the level, you begin with two guns and the third is automatically picked up, showing the icon of it while passing over.
Getting into the visuals and physics, you have the grandest treat of all. Every visual aspect is simply marvelous. The environments have great depth and detail – no wonder it’s so easy to feel part of the action. Every little action has its own unique animation as well. Each weapon has a realistic reloading sequence as well as when swapped out or put away. Vaulting over obsticles has a clean and smooth sequence, not to mention when climbing up a ladder – holstering your weapon, gripping the ladder and the hands making the realistic climbing motions while the screen weaves with the action, then stepping up at the top and readying your weapon once again. Even when running; the simple tucking back your weapon and increasing speed isn’t enough, it even adds a fine-grain filter to give you the actual feel of increased speed. The weapon firing sequences are done very well with engaging light and recoil simulation. Explosions occur not only with the momentary fire, but with realistic smoke emerging and floating off. The ricochet of ammunition is done perfectly with realistic dirt puffs and metallic sparks. All that and the cutscenes are done extraordinarily well in nearly flawless CGI instead of simply using the game engine. You get the idea – everything visual is GOOD.
Sounds and voices are done nearly as well as the sights. The voice cast is irregularly well, providing an entertaining and motivating storyline with just the character dialogue alone, including the voices of Ronny Cox, Sean Pertwee and Tom Clarke Hill. The script is witty and intelligent, boasting some memorable phrases such as Pertwee’s and Hill’s characters’ line; “Even a monkey will write Shakespeare given enough time,” “What the f@#k is a Shakespeare?” The characters and sound in general are grungy and provide solid background to the environment and gameplay. Some ambiences are done off-beat though, as is noticeable towards the end when going from outside into a building, giving you a sudden, awkward switch from mountain winds to the droning hum of mechanical devices. Yet the sound effects tend to make up for this, especially in the sharp whisps and ricochets of enemy ammunition missing you, giving you a very engaging sensation in the action.
The AI is far above average. Enemies that acknowledge you will take very intelligent strategic measures in pinning you down, wearing you out and blitzing you altogether. Though when pinned down themselves, the enemy shows an exceptionally cautious nature when taking cover during your fire and coming out to provide covering fire for teammates (to which they’ll verbally shout “Covering fire!”), take aimed shots at you or advance to either you or a closer position for cover. And obviously if they do that much, they will also strategically respond to a grenade and scatter. The AI is also evident in verbal shouts during firefights, as not only the enemy will be heard shouting their intentions in killing you, your own teammates will signal covering fire, incoming grenades and often the presence of Helghast troops nearby (“Keep quiet,” “Keep out of sight,” “Hold your fire,” etc.).
The enemies and weapons themselves are also on a flawless template. Though it’s not as easy to tell an enemy’s difficulty as the same enemies in different colors, you’ll be able to look at one Helghast and say, “Okay, that guy definitely looks more brute than the last one…” The weapons they hold is in no particular association to their class, either. A certain troop type can be seen with the typical assault rifle, the larger machine-gun, a pistol, grenade launcher, grenade pistol or even a hand-held field cannon (very nifty). The weapons are incredibly detailed and varied in power, ammo capacity, recoil intensity and accuracy. From the accurate and surprisingly powerful ISA pistol to the massive chaingun used by Sergeant Rico, the arsenal is vast and exciting to collect and try. This makes for a very good multiplayer experience.
All aspects considered, I give KillZone a deserving 9.2/10 rating. I’m no solid fan of shooters, but this title gripped me and wouldn’t let go. If you can stand an intense, realistic battle experience, KillZone is the game for you.