To say the Killzone franchise has come a long way would probably be the grossest understatement of all time along with "The Rolling Stones are an okay rock n' roll band". The first game was good, but extremely over-hyped to its own detriment. Billed as Sony's "Halo-killer," the original Killzone was released in 2004 to mediocre reviews and practically zero fanfare.
However, there was quite a few things to like about Guerrilla Game's first Killzone outing. While it lacked the polish, to put it nicely, of Bungie's genre-redefining Halo, it offered a stark contrast to Master Chief's bullet-soaking recharging energy shield and super jumping shenanigans. It took a more realistic and down-to-Earth (or perhaps down-to-Vetka would be more accurate) approach to the sci-fi shooter. Unreal Tournament participants jumped around the stage with the help of a rocket launcher, but there was no jump button to speak of in Killzone. Master Chief threw grenades with ease and zero screen shake, but the ISA forces put their entire body into the throw and really made you feel like you were controlling a real human being with real arms and legs.
The plot follows ISA Captain Jan Templar and his compatriots as they battle an invading Helghast force set on capturing the entire planet. The Helghast are now an instantly recognizable modern gaming icon with their glowing red-eyed helmets, breathing apparatuses, and STA-52 assault rifles. For all its faults--and there were a few--Killzone stood out, but failed to unseat Halo as King of the FPS Hill and, for awhile, faded into obscurity. It would not stay there long, however.Before we get to Killzone 2, we must talk about the series PlayStation Portable outing. In 2006, Guerrilla Games released a PSP sequel to the original game called Killzone: Liberation. The game picks up not long after the end of the original and details Templar's continuing fight with the Helghast forces and one general Metrac who, in the opening FMV, bears a striking resemblance to Alan Rickman. It was pretty good, too! Liberation shifted the perspective to the third person instead of trying to make FPS controls work on the portable console and delivered on every front. It was well-crafted, received far warmer reviews than the original 'Zone, and, personally, won me over to the franchise after my slight disappointment in the original game. Not bad, GG, but a solid PSP alone would not propel the franchise into the higher tiers of the gaming pantheon. Something bigger was needed and that something came in late 2008. And look at those graphics! Sony's hype machine is in full-effect again as Killzone 2 is being promoted non-stop and many feel like they've seen this movie before. With much of the attention focusing on the how great Killzone 2's visuals were, it was easy to worry about the quality of the actual game. Deja vu? Could the franchise survive another misstep? Well, luckily we didn't have to find out. Killzone 2 dropped in February of 2009 and truly arrived as a flagship franchise for Sony. The game looked gorgeous, played like a Stradivarius, and boasted probably the single best multiplayer mode of any console FPS ever. There was also a jump button, but, in true Killzone style, those jumps were shaky and weighty furthering adding to the series' goal of presenting a "real" warzone in an alien world. To ice the proverbial cake, its soundtrack won an Ivor Novella award and was the first video game to receive one and one only need Google "Helghan Forever" to learn why. Impressive by any standard, but more so for the franchise considering such underwhelming beginnings. So, Killzone is legit now. What's next? The campaign of Killzone 2, in true second entry in a trilogy fashion, left players on a desperately huge cliffhanger. Nearly exactly two years later in February of 2011, Killzone 3 arrived... IN 3D! It was almost like the Helghast were literally in your living room shooting you in the face. Literally. Like this:
Killzone 3 also supported Sony's PlayStation Move controller and even shipped with quite possibly the raddest looking rifle peripheral this side of the arcade. If that thing doesn't scream "I'm a giant nerd and I love it" I don't know what does.
As far as gameplay goes, Killzone 3 took 2's formula and tweaked in a bit. There seemed to be more vehicle sections which you'll either love or hate. One of the more visceral ways to destroy all that stood before you was by "Brutal Melee". Instead of simply whipping out of knife a la Call of Duty of bashing an enemy soldier's face in with the stock of your rifle, Killzone 3 allowed you to grab your opponent and poke his freaking eyeballs out or jam a knife into his skull with the press of the button: all from a very personal first person perspective... and in 3D! In terms of storytelling, Killzone 3 picks up right where 2 left off and chronicles the ISA's desperate escape attempt Helghan and its extremely angry and armed populace. Ultimately, Killzone 3 built on the success of Killzone 2 and received some similarly warm, if slightly cooler than K2, reviews. Another solid entry in the series... and in 3D! What a trip! From zero to hero! From beggar to rich! From one fairly disappointing and overhyped shooter to a few pretty awesome and reasonably hyped shooters! I'd say that's quite the impressive journey, but it's not over yet. Killzone 3 started the trend of pushing Sony's current technology (although one could argue that Killzone 2 did by including SIXAXIS controls) and with the announcement of Killzone: Shadow Fall during the first big PS4 event, it's clear that they expect Shadow Fall to move some hardware. In my case, it will. As an unabashed fan of the series, I can't wait to get my hand on a PS4 so I can fire up KZ, hit that share button and show the gaming world a video of yours truly wasting an entire platoon of alien pseudo-Nazis all in real time. See you on Vekta! Quick note: I still play Killzone 3 multiplayer from time to time. If you want to play, my PSN handle is werejohnny. Thanks for reading.