Before you’re enraged by the relatively sensationalist headline, hear me out. I love the Killzone franchise, each title from the original, to Killzone 3. Admittedly I didn’t much take to Liberation, but spin-off aside I’ve stuck with Killzone through thick and thin.
Unfortunately despite my fondness of the Killzone series, Killzone never became what Sony needed it to. The original Killzone whilst a relatively solid game was very rough around the edges, although at the time I was blown away by its technical prowess. I’d never played a game before where the gunplay felt quite so meaty and visceral. Unfortunately this wasn’t the consensual opinion of reviewers at the time, the lack of polish exerted by the game lent it to a relatively modest critical reception.
Considering the original Killzone’s frankly, mediocre performance, it was a little bizarre that it was the FPS franchise Sony chose to flagship it’s next generation system: The Playstation 3. At E3 2005, Sony and Guerilla Games announced Killzone 2 with a mind-blowing target rendered trailer. At the time many claimed it as a deception because target rendering is typically used to glamorize the experience of a video game. To some extent it did that, but when Killzone 2 launched it exceeded everyone’s visual expectations.
Killzone 2 was met with a solid reception and garnered a score of 91 from metacritic. A glance at the reviews would suggest that this game would be Sony’s Halo beater; something that Playstation fans had longed for after the hopes they had placed in Haze fell through. Sadly despite Killzone 2′s remarkable reception, something held it back: the game simply doesn’t control like a conventional shooter. This created a sort of love-hate relationship between consumers and the game. Killzone 2 managed to see moderate success netting almost 3 million units sold worldwide, but it is still a long way from AAA franchises like Halo, and even Sony’s own first party titles, like Uncharted.
Two years after Killzone 2′s launch, Guerilla games released the third instalment in the Killzone franchise. Introducing a new, more conventional feel to the game, alongside new environments and tools like jetpacks and mechs which influenced the gameplay. This was largely a double edged sword as while the new controls were appreciated by some, Killzone 2’s fanbase were those that fell in love with the more weighted feeling controls and arguably intense visceral feel they brought to the unique title. That alongside a poor menu system and the abolition of the games server-browser left many Killzone fans discontented. Killzone 3 struggled to retain the already moderate success of its predecessor, and did very little to bring new consumers into the mix.
Now it’s 2013 and we’ve had a small taste of Killzone: Shadowfall. I can’t help but ask myself; why is this Killzone? The Killzone franchise, whilst moderately popular, has never become the exclusive FPS experience that consumers clamour to on the PS3; generally favouring third party productions like Call of Duty, and Battlefield 3. Regardless of which Killzone title you’ve played, there’s a good chance one of them left a bad taste in your mouth. If it was the original it may have been the problematic artificial intelligence or the relatively simplistic gameplay and level design. If it was Killzone 2, it might have been the unconventional controls. If it was the 3rd instalment then it may have been the departure of the established controls and multiplayer setup that you’d enjoyed in Killzone 2.
At any rate, as gorgeous as Killzone Shadowfall looks I can’t help but feel the effort is misplaced. The game looks like a rather large departure from what the Killzone franchise has been known for (dark gritty environments in particular), and even the name itself suggests it is attempting to detach itself from its own identity. Sony could have taken this opportunity to start over with a new, creative experience; instead it clings to established property as if it provides some sort of security. I hope Killzone Shadowfall finally enables the series to see the success it deserves; however, I personally believe the game’s fanbase is too insignificant and fragmented between varying instalments with differing favourable attributes to warrant holding onto the Killzone brand. Guerrilla games are an extremely talented studio, and I’m eager to see what they could do outside of the Killzone franchise.