The Killzone series has been up and down in its lifetime. Killzone was a great example of a game hyped up to great heights, only to not fulfil them to the degree expected. 2 was a solid, well-received FPS, but copped flack for its prerendered trailer which was passed off as gameplay. 3 was an example of how to push a console to its limits, and was highly praised. And then Killzone: Shadow Fall was released for the PS4. While a graphical achievement with the new Decima engine, it was less warmly received than its predecessors.
So here we are in 2019, 6 years after the last game. The question given the current gaming climate and market is: Do we even need Killzone anymore?
Admittedly, the need for a game in the same vein as the previous titles isn’t really there. There isn’t the need for a game to topple Halo anymore, nor is there a console for which to provide a launch title. So where does that leave a series best known for graphical prowess and focused action?
Personally, the series needs to take a step back and really think about what makes Killzone great. Having owned the entire main console series at one point or another (even getting the PS4 launch bundle for Shadow Fall), I feel that the franchise had a couple of main selling points.
Every game in the series has looked amazing for its time, with Killzone 3 looking stunning for a PS3 title. Shadow Fall looked great for a launch title and really showed what the PS4 could do graphically, even from the beginning of its life cycle. Of course, nowadays there are games that have clearly surpassed the visual quality of Shadow Fall, by quite a large margin as well.
A new Killzone game would have to take advantage of everything the Decima engine has to offer, and really knock it out of the park graphically. Horizon: Zero Dawn is the most recent Decima-based game from Guerrilla Games and it received high praise for its graphics, especially given its open-world nature. By taking that quality and applying it to a more contained experience like the earlier Killzone games linearity, I think a graphically stunning game that is at least on par with current titles like Resident Evil 2 and Anthem isn’t too much of a stretch.
As much as Shadow Fall switched up the formula with a more open level layout and structure, the Killzone series up until then had always been a very straightforward thing to play. You started at the beginning, you played through a linear level with some collectables to find if you wanted, marveled at the set pieces throughout the level, and then you reached the end. And then you would repeat this flow until the end of the game.
Some might say this was restrictive and unambitious, but I feel it just played to the strengths of the game. You’re a soldier during an invasion, shooting all the bad guys. Contained linear levels allowed you to enjoy the action and the campaign story, but it was always moving and it was always having something happen. Shadow Fall faltered because while the world opened up, and more opportunities arose, the gameplay was still that of what was essentially a corridor-based shooter.
I love Killzone as a series. I’m a sucker for a sci-fi FPS, and it served that job well. I think yes there is still a place for a new game in the series if it’s done right, but doing it right is the problem here. For a new Killzone to be viable, Guerrilla would have to either embrace the straightforward gameplay flow the older games had, or abandon that completely and do something entirely different. The middle-ground is not the place to be.