Killzone HD is a remaster of the PS2 game that came out only a week before Halo 2 and two weeks before Half-Life 2, a pair of revolutionary and beloved FPS games. So, you might think that Killzone is one of those games too, right? It went on to have 3 mainline sequels with Killzone 2 and 3 on the PS3 and Killzone: Shadow Fall the PS4 launch title, along with a PSP and PS Vita title, after all. But alas, it does not even stand as a contender with Halo: Combat Evolved. Rather it is disappointing and often frustrating to muddle through this game’s 6-hour singleplayer campaign.
Starting the game, it's very noticeable that the render distance is extremely low, while this is possibly an artistic choice as some later levels do have much better render distances, it is nonetheless a poor first impression of the game and one that really doesn't improve as you actually begin to navigate the game. The most glaring issue you'll face as you move around and attempt to repel the Helghast invasion of your home planet Vekta, is that the performance is horrible with the FPS dropping to the 20s, if not the high teens, during combat. Even scripted sequences can cause these performance drops making the simplest action of walking feel horrible.
Which brings me to movement and gunplay. Inconsistent performance would be somewhat tolerable throughout the game if the actual gameplay itself was satisfying, much like it's sequel, Killzone 2. However, the gameplay is extremely frustrating. From the slow movement speed accompanied by a terrible bobbing animation, to painful slow reload times and weapon switching, to the worst bullet accuracy I've experienced in any video game I've ever played. You could be standing right in a Helghast's face, your reticule dead centre on their head, you can't see anything but them on the screen. You pull the trigger and... nothing. Your shot hit the wall. How? Who knows? This game measures your accuracy at the end of every section and it's neigh impossible to stay above 30% with how bad the accuracy of the guns are.
So, if the game isn't satisfying to play and doesn't have great performance, is it at least nice to look at? No.
Visually, it’s really uninteresting with the exception of the Helghast. Locations in the game have no life to them, there's no colour palette to speak of as it mostly consists of varying shades of grey and green. There are brief moments later in the campaign of interesting set pieces but they are fleeting. The final mission sees you boarding a space station which has the most interesting exterior design in the whole game, but the interior is confusing with many rooms being copy and paste jobs and you only see the exterior briefly as you begin the mission, then make your way to the final boss.
Speaking of the missions, I mentioned earlier that each section gives you a rundown on some of your statistics. These are your accuracy, as mentioned earlier, time to clear, kills and headshots. Each mission is broken down into around 3 sections each and for most these are incredibly short. Averaging around 5 minutes, with some maybe taking 10 minutes to get through at the longest. These aren't clear finishing points either. At the beginning of the campaign, they make sense as you'll walk through a door or enter a new area and you'll be greeted with the stats screen where you can choose to continue you on or return to the menu. But as you progress, you'll find yourself suddenly stopping dead in your tracks while walking along a path, as the screen fades to black before the screen pops up. This really hurts the flow of the game.
At this point you might be wondering if there are any redeeming qualities of the game outside of the Helghast enemy design. To which I can say, yes, there is. While the story of Killzone is nothing spectacular, the characters really carry the narrative. You begin the story as Captain Jan Templar, who is mainly a piece of cardboard until you meet up with Luger, a Shadow Marshal (stealth division.) It becomes apparent, extremely quickly, that these two not only know each other but have been romantically involved. Templar is still very hung up on it and it makes their dialogue unintentionally very funny. Shortly after, you meet Rico, whose whole squad has been wiped out and really only tags along with you because he wants to kill more Helghast. Eventually, the trio reach Templar's MacGuffin for the early portion of the campaign, Colonel Hakha, a spy in the Helghast army who is half-human, half-Helghan. Rico tries to kill Hakha before you even free him from captivity and thus the dynamic is completed, leading to hilarity as the rest of the campaign ensues. The humouressness of the makeshift squad's setup is entirely unintentional for the most part as the game does want you to take the story seriously, however the character interactions are so hammy it's hard to not laugh. This also extends to the traitorous General Adams, who becomes the target in the latter half of the story.
If you ever do spend some time with Killzone, either the original or HD version, you might notice, there's a complete lack of music within the main levels of the game. There is music but only during cutscenes and a short level complete stinger when you reach the end of a section. However, the majority of your time spent wandering the environments will be done in a musical void with very little ambiance and atmospheric sound effects to accompany it.
Overall, Killzone is a game. Sadly, it's just not a very good one. I played it in its entirety using a DualSense connected via a Brook Wingman adapter to restore features that are missing if you connect it normally, like vibration and remapped most of the control layout (as the game lets you do this natively) but I don't think I could have made it through the whole thing on a SixAxis or Dual Shock 3. Also, with how poor the performance was, I ended up using the cheat code from the original PS2 version that enables one shot kills to get through the second half of the campaign, since it still works in the HD version. If you've never played the Killzone series before, my recommendation is to just either watch a playthrough or a compilation of the cutscenes on YouTube and then move on to Killzone 2.