Killzone HD Review
Game: Killzone HD
Developer: Guerilla Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Available on: PlayStation Network only
It’s always tricky to critique a HD release of an old classic; it’s hard to take a look at any beloved franchise without seeing it through those darned rose-tinted specs we gamers struggle so hard to remove.
For example, take Killzone HD, the shiny re-skin of Sony’s “flagship” shooter, the game the Japanese giant once touted as a “Halo-killer” (a status that, although it never reached, it came closer to than any other shooter of its time). It’s almost unfair to review it by today’s standards, and yet by re-releasing it with an updated look, Sony are forcing us to do just that.
Fortunately, Killzone remains a very playable game even eight years after its original release. Set in a future where humanity has long since colonised the stars, Killzone tells the story of the war against a powerful race called the Helghast. Evolved from the humans who colonised the harsh, barely-habitable planet Helghan, the Helghast are stronger, faster and uglier than we are. Their look, all glowing red eyes, breathing apparatus and heavy black armour, has become iconic, and the sense of familiarity for those who loved the original is immediate.
In each stage you’ll control one of four characters: Captain Jan Templar, the franchise’s original poster-boy, a solid hero, brave, loyal and not afraid to bend the rules; Shadow Marshal Lugar is Jan’s one-time lover and a ruthless assassin; heavy weapons specialist Rico Valasquez brings the noise with his minigun, and Gregor Hakha is a half-Helghast operative rescued by the other three. Apart from their weapons (particularly Rico’s minigun) there isn’t a great deal of difference between the protagonists, and their presence serves the story more than the gameplay.
Since the additions of Killzone 2 & 3, the franchise has become known for its rich lore and tendency to blur the lines between what we consider to be good guys and bad guys, and such great storytelling wouldn’t be possible without the decent script and voice cast that the series is known for. Developers Guerilla Games are clearly proud of their universe, and so they should be. The plot may follow a fairly basic path to get from A to B, but the interplay between the characters and the attention to backstory is something modern shooters still get wrong.
That being said, even the rosiest of tints can’t hide the wrinkles in Killzone’s newly HD’d skin. The environments are almost all horribly drab, the HD shine practically wasted on the uniform shades of brown and grey, and even with the higher level of detail there’s just so much empty space that Killzone’s stages can become incredibly monotonous. There are a few exceptions, such as when the game swaps the dreary streets and muddy trenches for ice and snow, but the colour palette rarely comes alive in any environment and the textures, while smoother and sharper, still leave a lot to be desired.
Thankfully, Killzone’s shooting is fairly solid considering its age. The guns feel weighty, punchy and powerful, characters move with a reassuring head-bob and actions like reloading take just the right amount of time to ensure that doing it at the wrong moment instils a genuine sense of panic. The A.I., however, is blatantly last-gen. While enemies will take cover, they often do so in clusters of two or three which either sets them up for a grenade lob or makes it very easy to spray and pray; hilariously, they’ll even often run blindly toward you in a kind of zigzag pattern. In those stages that feature ally NPCs, the A.I. proves just as inconsistent. Most of the time squadmates will come to your aid and use cover, but now and then they’ll squat down in full view of the Helghast and get themselves blown to hell seemingly for kicks. Still, at least cannon fodder is useful for drawing enemy fire.
VERDICT: All things considered, Killzone HD is exactly what the title suggests: The original game with a lick of paint. That the paint isn’t a particularly appealing shade will be neither here nor there to fans of the 2004 release who’ll lap this up with gusto, but there’s very little chance that this will attract a new audience.
For the low price of £11.99 (or $14.99), it’s not a bad deal at all for those who own 2 and 3 and won’t be buying the Trilogy boxset, just don’t be expecting to take off those rosey specs and see Killzone quite the way you did eight years ago.