[6 April 2005]
When Microsoft launched the Xbox it came bundled with a game called Halo, an original first-person shooter set on an alien planet where human survivors engaged in guerrilla warfare against a group of vicious aliens known only as the Covenant. Amazingly (and beyond my brain’s comprehension), Halo became one of the most critically acclaimed titles in the history of the industry, and set a precedent which every FPS has since copied in failed attempts to best Halo at its own game. But truth be told, most, including Killzone, wind up as nothing more than a very stylish mess.
You have to feel sorry for developer Guerrilla. When it announced that they were teaming with Sony to make an original FPS, they opened a Pandora’s Box that unleashed a level of hype and hysteria unseen since the last over-hyped game. Instantly the press and Sony fanboys alike began calling Killzone a “Halo killer” (a term used far too often to describe the next FPS that will surly slay the beast that is the Halo franchise), leaving the developers with seriously unattainable expectations to meet. And the misguided hype continued right up to launch day, when finally the press discovered the game to be, well, misguided. Embarrassed and red-faced, media outlets couldn’t suddenly bestow a low grade upon a game they previously praised to the heavens. To cover their part in the fiasco, the lackluster game was levied with generous scores that would inevitably fool gamers into purchasing it.
Much like Killzone, Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter and Medal of Honor: Frontline were given the same “we’re gonna hype it ‘til we’re blue in the face” treatment, and though Guerrilla’s game isn’t nearly as bad as those two, at times it seems to want to make life as hard as possible for itself—tripping up at nearly every hurdle.
Now after playing the game as much I have, I can confidently say Killzone was never meant to be a war game like Halo. I seriously doubt that this was Guerrilla’s intention. Instead it seems to want to be a more sophisticated FPS like GoldenEye 007, Rainbow Six, or even Far Cry with a light layer of war sprinkled on top. But this is where the game shows it over ambition; playing Killzone feels like eating a cake with too many flavors. Tasty and different at first, but after a few bites you’ll be rushing for the washroom as it’s just not easy to digest.
The biggest flaw of the game, sadly, is the sluggish controls, which many have blamed on the controller itself. Those who fault the design note that the genre is not meant for controllers but a keyboard and mouse. This, however, is utter nonsense. Anyone who’s played TimeSplitters 2 knows that an FPS can be played with ease using any of the three home consoles, so let’s put this silly “it’s the controller’s fault” debate to rest. Nevertheless, Guerrilla’s shoddy control scheme is not excused. They are an exclusive PlayStation developer and it’s only natural to expect a better, smoother handling experience than this.
While it would be rather easy for me to check off all of Killzone‘s flaws, I won’t. Guerrilla’s hard work is obvious (most notably in the score and graphics), and at least the game isn’t a blatant cash-in such as GoldenEye: Rogue Agent or any of the resent Medal of Honor titles. But it’s a game that wants to be so many different things when the truth of the matter is it accomplish none of them.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/killzone-2004/