What’s the most important thing to remember before launching a devastating surprise attack? Anyone who said careful planning can leave the room now. The correct answer is, obviously, cool uniforms. Black preferably, and with lots of skull badges and eagle insignia to really scare the crap out of the locals when you abseil from the dropships. Of course, bad guys always have impeccable dress sense – presumably because quality tailoring is the mark of true evil. We’re talking murdering Teutonic Knights, the massed ranks of the Wehrmacht saluting in unison and Vader leading the Imperial assault on Hoth. Essentially, what you want is an outfit that says, ‘we’re going to crush you, but in style’. And in this respect the Helghast don’t disappoint.
Their uniform is equal parts fascist chic and rubber fetish perviness. The first time you see them emerge from the smoke – all jackboots, Swastika-inspired emblems and gas masks – is breathtaking. Better, though, is the first bullet you put between a pair of those glowing orange eyes.
Because the Helghast look so utterly evil, it feels just as thrilling when, some 15 hours later, you blow the last one away. The Helghast are the real stars of Killzone – not your plucky band of survivors – secretly, we even sympathise with their politics.
The game is set at an indeterminate point in the future, by which time mankind has colonised other solar systems. But while everyone else is off having sex with pleasurebots on luxury planets, one particularly grumpy bunch of outsiders decide to set off for the distant world of Helghan.
Putting it kindly, the place is a sh*thole of galactic magnitude. The atmosphere is toxic to human life, scorching lungs and making hair fall out – more pressingly, there doesn’t appear to be any decent restaurants. Over time the inhabitants adapt to their environment, their bodies changing to enable them to breathe the caustic air.
But the mood remains understandably grim within the ultra-militaristic society. Gradually, a strong leader emerges (‘strong’ in this sense meaning ‘boggle-eyed mentalist’) who outlines plans to take revenge on humanity at a rally that even Hitler would consider slightly too bombastic. Before anyone can say ‘look out, Poland!’, the invasion is underway…
The first target is an outlying colony called Vecta. Unprepared for such an attack, the defenders are soon overrun by seemingly endless hordes of Helghast infantry. Vastly outnumbered, you’re thrown into battle as Jan Templar – an ISA special forces captain and the first of Killzone’s four playable characters.
You’re protected by an energy shield (sneakily ‘borrowed’ from Halo) that recharges – provided you can avoid being shot for a few seconds. This has a key impact on how Killzone plays. Storming in simply isn’t an option, because even with the shield you can be cut down in seconds. Instead you’re forced to find cover, use suppressing fire to keep the enemy’s heads down and snatch kills when you can. Consequently, there’s a palpable sense of actually being involved in a firefight.
Squeezing off short, controlled bursts is essential, because your gloriously designed gun jumps around like a cat in a bath. Missing targets just a few feet away initially feels frustrating – but once you stop panicking and come to know the weapons more intimately (our sniper rifle is called Kylie), drilling Helghast scum becomes eye-rollingly satisfying.
Particularly because regular soldiers go down easier than Parisian girls, and you never tire of hearing them scream for a medic in raspy voices. More often than not you’ll be faced by dozens of the bastards, too – so the art of headshots becomes critical. Once mastered you can thin out squads in half the time. Plus, you’ve got to love the SPLATCH noise as brain exits skull.