Killzone Trilogy Review
Continuing the recent tradition of fantastic first-party HD collections, Sony has released one of its premiere exclusive FPS franchises with the Killzone Trilogy. Like any blockbuster Summer film, the Killzone games follow the exploits of a few brave heroic souls as the battle their way against incredible odds and massive action set pieces, all in order to beat back the enemy and save the world. Since that description basically sums up Killzone in a nutshell, this review will focus on some of the more subtle aspects rather than describing exactly how the single-player and multiplayer mechanics function. A particular emphasis will be placed on the latter two titles as Killzone HD received its own separate review.
What I Liked
Keeping It Simple
Guerrilla are one of the few game devs that seem to really respond to what the game playing community says about their games, and I love it. One of the best aspect of the Killzone series, made especially apparent if you play the trilogy front to back, is the concern with eliminating unnecessary aspects. Does having four playable main characters dilute the effectiveness of the presentation of the plot? No problem, cut that number down to one main character for the rest of the series. Are destroying arbitrarily placed icons and collecting meaningless intel a drag on the core gameplay experience? Remove it entirely for the sequel. Do too many multiplayer classes increase the odds of overlap and diminish the usefulness of those individual classes? Streamline and combine them for next time. Not everything is perfect, no. There remains the question of whether or not the multitude of classes in Killzone 2 is genuinely better than the streamlined selection in Killzone 3 and whether or not one provides a more balanced experience than the other, among other things. However, the effort is there, right out in the open. It shows that Guerrilla isn’t afraid to try new things in an attempt to simplify the game and concentrate on the most important aspect: fun, shooting gameplay.
The Art Style
In Killzone 2, Helghan is portrayed as a bleak world of brown and grey. The architecture and game models are beautiful, but the style certainly didn’t help to quell complaints that all modern shooters were boring trudges through monochromatic worlds. It’s almost as if in an effort to curtail the ambition they had for the first game, the devs tried to borrow too much from other games and wound up making a bland pastiche of everything else. Thankfully, they returned to a more dramatic style in Killzone 3.
The third game might as well have been made in black and white. Helghan has become so washed out at this point that it becomes hard to recognize any real colour in the game world, except for the gorgeously vibrant accents. Oh, and they are gorgeous. Helghan is really a dead planet where live persists anyways. Look at the Helghast, they should have died in that horrid environment, but instead they endured and adapted, becoming a brutal and hardy people. Life forces itself out of the cold, grey corpse of Helghan and exists despite the environment, and the life is absolutely gorgeous to look at. Huge splashes of oranges, purples, and reds, haunt the game world, with sickly blues and greens delineating the use of the Helghast’s bizarre petrusite weapons. By contrast, the ISA soldiers have bright glowing blue lights on their armour. Is it a coincidence that the main characters are given a stereotypically heroic colour as their mantle? No, I don’t think so. However, I don’t want to argue that this means that the ISA are necessarily the “good guys,” only that their bright and cheerful blue lights are an obvious contrast to the oppressive colours of Helghan, clearly marking them as outsiders who do not belong on that planet.
What I Didn’t Like
As mentioned in the Killzone HD review, the plot for this series isn’t exactly its selling feature. Each game generally follows a formula where a small squad is tasked with increasingly difficult tasks in the midst of a war zone, or (dare I say it) a kill zone. Cutscenes switch between following the player’s squad and their drama, and their Helghast enemy and their efforts to thwart the heroes. It’s basic and really only serves to explain the player’s motivation to go from point A to point B. Comparatively, the game’s historical timeline is far more interesting, reading like a horrific mirror to 20th century Earth. With respect to Killzone 3, the devs have begun to try to incorporate more of the politic machinations, I feel their efforts still left a lot of be desired. If only there was a Killzone-themed PC strategy game.
Rico Velasquez’s Continued Existence (Spoilers Ahead If You Haven’t Played All Killzone Games)
In the Killzone HD review, I talked a little about why I didn’t like Rico. Before I get into Killzone 2 and 3 where he starts behaving like a war criminal, I want to give a bit of background on the PSP title, Killzone: Liberation. In that game, a high-ranking ISA general covers up the fact that he’s a double agent for the Helghast by framing Rico as a traitor. Despite being cleared, Rico has lost all trust in his superiors. Coupled with the fact that his entire squad, his military family, was killed before the events of the first Killzone, you realize that Rico is a ticking time-bomb with no friends. Well, except for Templar who winds up dead by the second game. This is where things get dark.
Rico is always a pain to deal with. Besides being violent and mean-spirited, he gets squad members killed due to negligence and impatience. After Templar’s death, though, he beats a fellow ISA soldier to death for disagreeing with him. That’s right, death, not unconsciousness. After the cutscene, when you turn your gaze towards the man’s prone body your cross-hairs do not turn green (the in-game mechanic that signifies living, breathing friendlies). He also executes a POW because he doesn’t like him. Doesn’t sound like a big deal? Well, what if that POW was the single most powerful figure in the enemy’s military and government, making them a powerful political tool? That’s right, after capturing the Helghast leader, Scolar Visari, Rico kills him out of spite. I can’t tell you how much I want a Killzone-themed courtroom drama game where you get bring Rico to justice.
Similar To: Gears of War
I know a lot of people like to compare Killzone to Halo, even going so far as to proclaim it a “Halo-killer,” but I feel the series has much more in common with Gears of War. Both place an emphasis on beautiful worlds being destroy, have hyper-masculine tough guys fighting a relentless enemy, make extensive use of cover-based combat, and generally have a more interesting backstory than whatever plot is actually presented in-game.
It’s hard not to like these collections being put out by Sony, especially considering they gather together such well-made games. They’re not such a deal if you already own one or two of the titles, but the trilogy’s existence is still a boon in that case–it’s only going to help drive down prices of titles you haven’t bought yet. The real value is for people who have yet to experience an entire series. Never touched a Killzone game, but have always been curious? This is your chance, go check it out and enjoy.
The Killzone Trilogy was reviewed with a copy provided by Sony.