Killzone HD Review
It’s a great thing, the past. We’re younger back there. Thinner. More/less hair, depending upon the age (and gender, let’s be honest). Few of us can look back without soft strains of retrospection, and even in this business – the business of high-octane, high-impact and high-definition balls-to-the-wall interactive entertainment – it’s hard not to glance back and chuckle fondly about dem good ‘ole days.
Take Killzone for example. Sony’s flagship shooter hit the PlayStation 2 in 2004 (eight years today [2 November], as it happens) and spawned a generation of sharp, intelligent shooters. With its embroidered backstory, (then) cutting-edge graphics and oh-so-iconic bad guys, it brought the genre not only new realism, but also a new maturity.
It was the shooter to play before any of us knew of – or cared about – multiplayer maps, zombie modes and gritty advertising campaigns, and it left a powerful legacy in its wake.
Emphasis on that little word “was”.
To the nostalgic eye, this is a careful, considerate remodeling of Guerrilla Games’ classic. Breathing hi-def life into ageing animation, this remake is heavy in memory and precedence. But in a shooter-soaked 2012 where our standards have very much changed, can Killzone HD expect to still measure up to the franchises of today?
The story itself, naturally, hasn’t changed. You play through as one of four leads, each with their own individual combat class which, in practice, actually aren’t all that individual (only weapons specialist Rico brings a meaningful difference, and that’s only because his difference is a big-ass gun.)
The Helghast – human hybrids with a scathing hatred for their human counterparts – have waged war, and it’s up to the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance (ISA) to put an end to the conflict. Jan Templar – your unlocked starter lead with boy-band good looks and dreamy hair – heads up the fray.
Whilst considered by some to be a masterpiece in 2004, by today’s standards Killzone’s story is sloppy and slow, chopped up into bite-sized chunks that are delivered by so-bad-it’s-good voice work and over-exaggerated cut-scenes. We can’t say it’s bad because it’s not, but quite frankly it’s not all that good either, and the memory of the game from almost a decade ago now is distinctly more enjoyable than the reality we’re chugging through today.
That said, battle sequences – while repetitive – are enjoyable enough, providing you don’t mind the rinse-repeat action of mowing down wave after wave of enemies.
Gunfire feels heavy and meaty, with spiraling recoil and stroke-inducingly slow reloading that adds a raw edge of anxiety to gameplay, particularly as the environments relinquish little opportunity for cover, escape or strategic retreat. It feels cold there. Sad. Men are dying, and the corpses don’t disappear in a puff of smoke when the battle moves on. Reach the end of a chapter, and the sound of bullets will still ricochet in your ears.
Trouble is, the games of yesteryear were made in yesteryear, and whilst you might think that you’re immune to the Hollywoodesque gloss of a triple-A blockbuster, you’re probably not. Whilst achingly faithful to its 2004 form, it may be that our memory is more forgiving than our current-gen standards.
The controls – crass, clunky and wholly counter-intuitive – inhibit your instinctive trigger finger, so it’s just as well you’re able to remap to a more 2012-friendly configuration. And while the endearingly over-the-top voice talent bruises dull, monochromatic environments that hold no interest or character, sometimes it’s hard to keep enthused. Sure, war isn’t pretty; but it also shouldn’t be against a backdrop of bland, splintered nothingness, either.
Mission objectives are confusing, the directives of your comrades often lost under the tat-tat-tat of gunfire and rarely repeated. Even pulling up weapons from the ground can be a mind-numbingly frustrating affair.