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SummaryHey, a modern shooter that doesn't suck :O!
The GoodKillzone shares many similarities in terms of game design with the modern shooters we got today. I am talking about games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (which made it on my top 5 worst games of 2011 list), Medal of Honor and Battlefield 3, all of which are games I absolutely can't stand for reasons I am going to explain now:
First of all, all these games have characters that are downright boring. If they even have any personality at all it is mostly macho-behavior that is both childish and annoying. Playing a game like Modern Warfare mostly feels to me like how I used to play with those little, green soldiers (the ones who were also in Toy Story) and how I used to take one or two and make them punch enemies into the sky and grunt every sentence they said. Luckily for me, the characters in Killzone are actually quite good... Amusing even. You have the Captain who is a very dutiful soldier and not much special, the cold assassin who is his former girlfriend and with whom he has a lot of awkward dialogue, the racist black guy with the big gun that hates all Hellghast and the half-Hellghast half-Human who is really smart and sarcastic, but has a lot of issues with said racist. Sorry if that sounded nowhere near special, but I just can't go into too much depth without giving spoilers, just take my worth for it, will ya?
Another thing I hate about the modern shooter is that the stories are always very boring. I remember playing Modern Warfare 2 and thinking "Oh jolly, I am representing America. The largest military and economical force in the world who is supposed to be threatened by a bunch of rebels who live in the slums of Afghanistan. Boy, the stakes sure are high.", but Killzone actually reminds me more of F.E.A.R. in which at first it looks like the situation is under control, but then things go array and you wind up fighting your way through thousands of enemies with no back-up, limited supplies and not a lot of hope. That is a story with actual stakes, a story about a conflict with an outcome that simply can't be predicted and is therefore exciting.
Enough beating on other games though, another thing I really liked about Killzone was that you could choose between different characters as they joined your little squad of rebels. I often ended up going with the black guy because he had a machine gun in his hands that can only be compared with mounted turrets. Aside from determining which weapons you start with this choice is mostly cosmetic with no real function, if it changes your stats or something it was not big enough for me to notice, but it's still a nice choice to have.
The game is very linear, to the point it feels a lot like an on-rails shooter. This is really a personal preference, but I really love this, seeing as I am not the slightest bit interested in exploring a world unless it is really part of the narrative (such as in Half-Life). I am not interested in what might be on the other side of that hill, I am interested in going to the enemy base and planting charges there and Killzone makes sure that I don't get lost nor give me any incentive to think there might be something to search for in the first place.
Combat mechanics held up fairly well and contained some nifty extras over the standard things we have come to expect. You can pick up weapons, aim and fire them, but there is also a second function on most weapons that does something else. The standard Hellghast Assault Rifle for example had a secondary function that would fire off a shotgun round without taking ammo away from the main function, nice to have in close combat or during an ambush. You can also climb over small obstacles, take over turrets and rain dead on your enemies and finally you can throw grenades, but also cook them for some seconds.
The Hellghast are a very entertaining enemy to fight, just like the Hearthless in my last review (Kingdom Hearts) and the Replica Soldiers from F.E.A.R.. I don't rightfully know what the reason is, I was just taken in the second I saw the opening cinematic where they were all lined up and looking insanely imposing. That scene was awesome. There is also a variety within their ranks, not as much as with The Heartless, but at least they gradually started sending stronger units my way.
The game was made by a Dutch company and I'll be damned before I skip out on a chance to mention this and hand out a point for it. In all seriousness, I do applaud this studio for making a big game for a home console and do such a good job at it. They even put in a little joke where they gave the main protagonist the most Dutch name they could come up with. And hey, did Nationalist ever cause anything bad? (Aside from contributing largely to the Second World War and wars in general?)
I should probably end on saying that the game looks really good for something that came out on a system from the previous generation and in 2004 no less. Not only the environments look nice and occasionally huge, but also the action is great to watch and the cutscenes look nice too. What is the downside to all this graphical fidelity? Well, the rendering distance is just as bad as the one from World of Warcraft, but that is a fair trade in my opinion.
The BadWhile it's nice to not have to bother with searching around, it makes it rather annoying that the game is filled with little side-paths that lead to nothing but dead-ends and dark rooms. I actually think this is a joke on the developer's side because they also revel in putting knee-high obstacles on the path because the game doesn't feature a jump-command and the jump-over feature I mentioned earlier only works for certain objects.
The AI often think they are smart and start yelling orders at me, their favorite been hints telling me to use stealth, but there is no damn stealth in this game and enemies will turn around and shoot at you as soon as you come close to them. They also often yelled "Watch your back", but this was a prank because it would make me turn around and see nothing, only to be shot in the back by the enemies I was fighting before the AI yelled at me.
If an object is available for interaction, such as a turret you can control or a blockade you can jump over it is often very precise on how you must look at it and where you must stand before it will allow you to use it. This was very troublesome when there were Hellghast shooting at me from all sides and I just couldn't get into the turret, a situation that I only ran into like six times over the course of the game.
The Bottom LineKillzone is definitely underrated and if I have to pick a favorite title between all the modern shooters we got nowadays it would definitely be this one. Odd that this game was launched in 2004 though, it was far ahead of its time, hell it even preceded F.E.A.R. which revolutionized the shooter genre. The reason why I like it is that it is just so far above-average, not on par with F.E.A.R. and less realistic titles such as Timesplitters, but just far better executed than titles made by Infinity Ward or whoever makes these Call of Duty games nowadays. They looked at the standards as a foundation and then built an actual home on top of that.
There was not a single moment in Killzone that I hated, unlike Halo 3 which has the Flood Ship section and Gears of War 3 which I will never play again after going through it on Hardcore, so I will definitely play it again sometime. If you like modern shooters, try this out sometime, it's pretty cool and all. Shooter fans in general will probably like this too, but if it's not your thing than I hardly doubt this game will change all of that.