Killzone HD almost never happened. Franchise creator Guerrilla Games had to search long and hard for the PlayStation 2 title’s original assets – eventually discovering them in a shoebox beneath the house of an IT technician. Even with the appropriate materials located, it spent many hours sorting through outdated source code and incorrect header files in order to port the title to PS3. Having played the high-definition update, we can’t help but feel that the developer’s time was seriously misspent.
While franchises such as Sly Cooper and Ratchet & Clank have weathered the test of time, Killzone feels like a relic by comparison. The futuristic first-person shooter failed to impress upon its original release over eight years ago, and as such this port is a redundant reminder of the original game’s failings. It might look and perform better than it did on previous generation hardware, but you should only really consider purchasing this port if you’re a faithful fan of the franchise or are eager to see where the series started.
The game’s art direction and tone was never a problem in 2004, and unsurprisingly it remains Killzone HD’s greatest asset just under a decade later. The rousing monologue of Autarch Scolar Visari that scores the title’s opening cinematic is as powerful today as it’s ever been, and it’s complemented by some supremely confident design decisions. Even if you’re playing the title (or franchise) for the first time, it’s hard not to be impressed by how quickly the game relays over three centuries of science fiction lore.
Unfortunately, Killzone HD begins to fall apart the moment you’re given full control. First-person shooters have come a long way over the past ten years, and it’s harder to go back to previous entries than almost any other genre. While Guerrilla Games has attempted to spruce up the control scheme to match more recent entries – switching reload to the now customary Square button, for example – the game still doesn’t feel right. Weapons are clunky and imprecise, while Helghast forces shuffle in front of your cross-hair like brain dead orange-eyed zombies as opposed to the incredibly intelligent units of Killzone 2.
The title’s just not particularly exciting to play. Combat scenarios are agonisingly rote, as you spray through wave after wave of hostile forces, with very little respite to let you recover your breath in between. The occasional turret section helps to change the pace a little, but Killzone was an especially dull shooter when it first released, and its problems are only accentuated under the spotlight of modern expectations.
That’s not to say the shooter is entirely without merit, though. The introduction of multiple characters throughout the game’s campaign remains an intriguing idea, and it’s unfortunate that the developer hasn’t opted to expand it further in more recent entries. Primary protagonist Jan Templar plays the all-round good guy and assault rifle specialist, while Luger brings stealth into the mix. Rico – yes, the same one from the PS3 sequels – is an all-out war-machine, constantly exposing his prejudice by undermining Hakha, a half-Helghast human spy. Switching between these characters allows you to tackle missions from different perspectives. Hakha, for example, is able to bypass Helghast security systems, while Luger can slip through small openings into new environments. It’s a cool dynamic and it encourages replay value – if you can get past the oodles of shoddy shooting, that is.
The campaign is split into chapters, which are again segregated into short ten-minute missions. The pace of the adventure is broken by statistic sheets, which themselves feel archaic. These days we’re used to first-person adventures unfolding naturally and seamlessly, but Killzone feels agonisingly disjointed by contrast. At least the pause to load new environments prompts a save point – otherwise you’d be entirely at the mercy of the title’s terrible checkpoint system.
Guerrilla’s done a decent job of updating the game’s graphics, but it doesn’t quite upscale as favourably as other franchises like Sly Cooper. The visuals are grainy for a reason, but it all ends up looking a bit drab. Even a shootout in a blossom filled park fails to impress, and you’ll never really find yourself doubting that this was a last generation game despite the evident improvements.
Performance is one area where the re-master shines, though, eschewing the performance mishaps that hampered the original release. It still doesn’t achieve the silky smooth 60 frames-per-second presentation we’ve come to expect from PS2 reboots, but it runs well enough.
It’ll take you about 10 hours to get through the game’s single-player campaign, but you’ll spend a lot of that time retreading familiar corridors. Even artistically impressive stages like a rain-slicked sea-port outstay their welcome, because it feels like you’re constantly exploring the same stretch of land over and over again.
Sound is similarly disappointing due to some of the most woeful voice acting you’re ever likely to hear. There’s some enjoyment to be derived from the Helghast’s comically exaggerated mumbles and groans, but it gets tiresome as you crawl through the second-half of the single-player slog. Joris de Man’s impactful score is as imposing as ever, but it’s scandalously underused during gameplay.
In addition to the single-player campaign, Killzone HD repurposes the original title’s split-screen multiplayer mode. This allows you to play a variety of team matches against bots with a friend, and is a reasonable reminder of how multiplayer sessions used to feel. That’s a good thing, because the online component has been completely removed. Trophies pull the package into the current generation, with a good mix of story and gameplay trinkets up for grabs. There’s also the overarching lure of a Platinum to keep you playing.
Despite its impressive art direction and intense sense of style, Killzone struggled as a PlayStation 2 title. On PS3 its issues are accentuated, with shoddy gunplay and repetitive environments amongst its most notable flaws. If you’re hell-bent on experiencing the origins of one of Sony’s most popular franchises, or simply want to revisit a forgotten favourite, then this is a worthy upgrade – but at £11.99/$14.99, you should approach with caution.
Think my bro got the original, I'll just borrow it from him
It looks like fun. So long as they fixed the framerate, I'll probably enjoy it.
@Jon_Talbain The frame-rate is definitely fixed. It's still not buttery smooth, but it's much better than on PS2.
See, I heard how mediocre the original was, and am glad I started at KZ2. It's possibly the most impressive shooter I have ever played, and I have played QUITE a lot.
Personally I haven't played any HD reboot that lives us to expectation of modern games. The whole industry has moved (not just in shooters) and in many ways other than just graphics. So updating the graphics is not enough.
Even Goldeneye which generally got good reviews felt dated to me.
If I had more time to play games, I might spend more time revisiting games that I missed, but with limited time they are way down the priority list.
I must note that I haven't played Sly Cooper and Ratchet & Clank is not my sort of game.
@Ginkgo I think those two (Sly Cooper, espcially) hold up staggeringly well.
I had a blast with God of War 1 and 2 HD. That said I never played them on PS2 so I wouldn't have known the difference.
I'd give this at least a 7 personally. This was the first time I've played it and it exceeded my expectations. Playing KZ2 right now
I beat platinum from Killzone HD. And it was very fun experience =). I liked this game more than boring Killzone 2 and not so boring Killzone 3, in terms of single player =). And had a blast with it. Maybe it's because i played it on hard from the start =)))... And i like WWI and WWII themes in some stages. And I felt myself like Serious Sam playing Rico. Anyway, this game is a gem and must play. Much better than most recent FPS. And hellgasts are the most awesome FPS enemies ever =).
^Funny thing is, they practically ripped the design from a Japanese Manga series.
@Jon_Talbain I never knew that. That... sucks. I've always thought the Helghast were some of the best enemies ever designed.
That's not exactly the truth. All those concepts are based on German's army uniform designed by Hugo Boss. And German's army equipment in WWI and WWII. And red and orange eyes was essential for players to distinct enemies from environment. I think that's brilliant idea from game design point of view.
@Gemuarto Eh, you're probably right. I thought they looked exactly the same at first, but I'm noticing differences the more I look at them. In Jin-Roh, for instance, they wear distinctive plated armor, and seem to have bullet chains coming out of their suits. (Though it's nearly impossible to find a good shot of a Helghast trooper)
I think, i remember that in some interview developers were asked if they know something about Jin-Roh =)))... And Yes, they were aware about some resembelence =))...But also i remember that they showed a lot of WWI documentary to proof the source of ideas =)... And troopers from Jin-Roh is so cool, even if helgasts was based on them, i don't think that this is wrong. You can tell everything about german army, but you can't tell that they weren't stylish =))))....
Wrong on all counts, Sammy! ;-p
I fell in love with the Killzone series with this game. Yes, it's dated compared to more modern shooters (in truth I'd forgotten about the complete lack of 'down the barrel' aim) - but I loved it then, and I love it now... I'm thoroughly enjoying re-playing it.
As with Killzone 2, the inaccurate weapons were a deliberate design choice at the time, as was the slower movement. To me, the game seems all the more realistic for it. Sprinting around like Usain Bolt with laser-accurate weapons is something best left to CoD.
My only real complaint is that they didn't (or were unable to) recreate the cut-scenes in HD; the upscaling to HD really doesn't work too well, and it's almost as if you're watching them through frosted glass.
Im playing this right now, also got myself KZ2 and KZ3 to get into the franchise before PS4 hits, you're right in everything you said sammy, but for me, new to the franchise, I can easily look past those drawbacks and see the gem inside it! Love the lore, love the style. It reminds me of the time when I fell in love with Halo!
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