Killzone's got an interesting story, though even with the futuristic setting, the similarities between the game's bad guys, the Helghast, and the Nazis, is quite apparent. The Helghast were once human, until they set off on their own and settled on a planet name Helghan. The planet's atmosphere was so inhospitable that they slowly evolved (or devolved, depending on how you look at it) into the sub-human, hell bent on world domination race that you see in the game.
Over the course of the game, you play the role of four characters, each with their own abilities and semi-unique storylines. Each character's abilities alter the tone of the mission to an extent as their unique skills alter the path you'll take through each level. Templar, is the basic all-around-guy, Luger is an assassin and carries a silenced weapon, Rico's got a huge gun and can take lots of damage, and then there's Hakha, who can use Helghast weaponry efficiently and can sneak past certain areas since he is part Helghast.
The gameplay found in Killzone is extremely basic when compared to the better FPS games out there. The levels are strictly linear, and this not only encompasses the paths you take through the level, but how you handle each situation. If you come across a tank, the game tells you to get a rocket launcher and take it out - there's no chance for creativity. On top of this, accomplishing one objective often has nothing to do with the next objective, and it just feels like busy work. For example, when you take out that tank, a garage door opens (by magic?) and you go through, never to deal with the area you just saved again. The tank never posed much harm to you, and it would have been easier to just run past it through the door, but instead you've got to waste your time. Stuff like this happens all the time, and it's just obnoxious.
The game's controls are also pretty lousy, and while it's partially the fault of the game's hideous framerate, they are pretty bad on their own. The button mapping is poor, the sniping is barely functional, your soldiers can't jump, and the aiming is downright miserable. Reloading your weapons takes incredibly long, and it's very disorienting as you actually look down while you reload, which makes it hard to follow the action. You're telling me these people can't reload guns without staring at them the whole time? Please.
The computer A.I. is another weak point of the game, as the bad guys just walk out towards you, wave after wave, as you mow them down. Snipers will stare at you as you line them up, and soldiers will "hide" in rooms and do nothing as you beat them with your weapon.
When you've got a game with bad A.I., poor controls, and lousy, linear levels, there's really not a whole lot you can do to save it, so even the game's decent online mode doesn't add much to the package. After a lengthy setup period, where you've got to download updates onto your memory card, you can choose from a variety of game types, and play against 15 other people, and while it works well, it's still the same broken gameplay from the offline experience. If you can't get online, you can play with bots, which obviously isn't as good as playing with friends, but anyone who can't get online or doesn't have gaming buddies will appreciate it.
If you've seen screenshots of Killzone, you've no doubt been impressed with its visuals. However, once you see it in motion (I use the term "motion" loosely) it looks rather awful. The biggest problem is the framerate, which somehow managed to be very slow and very erratic throughout the entire game. It seems reasonable that a game that pushes the system would at least run smoothly with no other bad guys on the screen, but Killzone is just pokey, and then slows to a crawl when there's any action. Some people may dig the urban setting, the snow level, and the jungle area, but they're really pretty boring - though a lot of this could be because you can't explore them.
Killzone's sound is actually pretty good, though it's small consolation at this point. The soundtrack is intense and like a good Hollywood score, it helps you become immersed in the game. The voice acting is also quite good - an impressive feat for a game with a dark, futuristic theme, since most games like that sound pretty cheesy. The only bad part about the game's audio is the horrible, repetitive screams from the Helghast as you mow them down by the dozen. It's enough to make you turn down the sound if it weren't for the fact that you'd miss your fellow soldiers letting you know where to go.
In the end, there's very little reason to play Killzone, and there's absolutely no reason to play it if you've got Halo 2. If you're dying for an online shooter, then you need to go buy an Xbox, and get Halo 2. If you can't afford an Xbox, have someone buy you one, and go get Halo 2. If you're still out of luck and you can't hang with a friend that has an Xbox, and can't steal one, then you might want to rent Killzone to see if you can look past its many issues.
12/10/2004 Aaron Thomas