Killzone begins with a beautifully rendered cinematic of the leader of the Helghast speaking before an organized mass of soldiers that brings to mind Hitler at Nuremberg. Powerful imagery of war and cruelty follow, set to his commanding tone, and only at the very end do we catch a glimpse of the ISA soldiers struggling against this onslaught, whose role the player will soon assume. It's an odd first impression, attempting to create the illusion that these enemies aren't simply a collection of polygons and AI scripts, but men driven by purpose and united by strength. Your goal in this conflict is not to reach the end credits, or something so grand as bringing an end to the war. It is simply to survive.
Starting deep in the trenches with wave after wave of Helghast moving in on his position, it might seem like survival isn't an option for Captain Jan Templar, the first of four characters you'll gain control of, but a tutorial will help make short work of these advancing enemies. Right away, Killzone feels different from the standards of the genre, reaching for the realism of Rainbow Six while staying anchored in the fast-paced gameplay of Halo. Unlike most other FPSs, the screen isn't locked in a static position, but naturally conforms to the movement of the character, increasing the feeling that you are seeing a war unfold through their eyes. It puts you in the moment.
There's no radar to point out your enemies with brightly colored lights. You need to keep your eyes peeled for movement and the cries of their advance. Even the most well-hidden enemy gives away his position as soon as he opens fire, creating a bullet trail that you can trace back to its source. A well cooked grenade can also flush them out, as the AI is smart enough to dive out of the way if it takes too long to explode. Levels are designed to provide ample cover for both friend and foe, and the most skilled player will only pop out of hiding when he's ready to put a bullet right between the eyes of his adversary.
In single player, you'll be able to choose your character to conform to your playing style. There's Templar, the 'good at everything but exceptional at nothing' leader of the group. Luger, the silent assassin who can creep up on an enemy and take out whole platoons before they know what hit them. Her armor is thin, however, so you can't risk her in the line of fire. Rico not only comes equipped with one of the most powerful weapons in the game, but can manage the heaviest of heavy armaments with ease, though all that weight slows him down. The former Helghast Hakha is a dead shot with his native weaponry, and can also slip past enemy sensors as one of their own. Sadly, the only one who makes a significant difference in gameplay is Luger, and with character selection limited to the start of a new environment, you'll be stuck with your chosen avatar for the next handful of missions.