If you were gaming in the PS2 and PS3 generations then you’ll know the name Killzone. Thought by many to be the “Halo killer”, a term that was thrown around and affixed to any shooter that appeared on Sony consoles, the series made a name for itself with its intense atmosphere, weighty weapons, and oppressive setting. Fast-forward to today, and, the developer, Guerrilla Games, has since pivoted to the likes of Horizon Forbidden West, trading the corridor shooter for open-world exploration.
It’s been 10 years since the last mainline entries into the Killzone franchise, as the divisive PS4 launch title Killzone: Shadowfall and the surprisingly excellent PS Vita Killzone: Mercenary dropped all the way back in 2013. Since then, it’s been radio silence; a surprise given that the franchise launched Guerrilla Games into the big time as one of the premiere PlayStation development teams.
Things are looking bleak for the Killzone series. Last year, all the online matchmaking servers for the series were turned off, leaving only the single-player campaigns standing (via Eurogamer). As someone who clocked up dozens upon dozens of hours with Killzone: Mercenary, and replayed the main story more times than I could count, it’s a blow that still leaves a bit of a sting. There was something about how the handheld title rose above its station that has me longing for what the Dutch devs could do, given the current power of the PS5. Unfortunately, I fear I may be waiting a long, long time.
Killzone: Shadowfall was hardly a commercial failure at the time. The FPS title went on to sell 2.1 million units, accounting for half of the PS4’s install base by January 2014 (via Gamespot). Critically, however, the Sci-Fi shooter didn’t score as admirably as it could have. Soon after its release, the title sat at 73% (or mixed) out of 88 critic reviews on Metacritic. The user score was even harsher, at 6.9 / 10, leading to an ultimately lukewarm reception despite strong initial sales.
In contrast, Horizon Zero Dawn, which debuted five years later in 2017, was a smash-hit success for Guerrilla Games and offered something completely different. In our review, we said: “This is the PS4’s next rising star” and now, looking at the success of the series that followed we were right on the money. Consumers and critics appeared to agree, as by November 2021, the first entry in this new franchise had sold over 20 million copies across the PS4 and PC release, according to co-founder of Guerrilla Games and now Head of PlayStation Studios Hermen Hulst (via Twitter).
Given the runaway success of the original Horizon title, the news that Horizon Forbidden West then continued the dominant streak shouldn’t come as too big a surprise. We gave Guerrilla Games’ 2022 follow-up a near-perfect 4.5-star review stating that it was: “ A triumphant return for Aloy that finds a heart and soul among all the technology”. It can easily be considered one of the best PS5 games and one of the first PS5 games you should get for your console overall.
The momentum behind Horizon Forbidden West hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down into 2023. The game recently received the Burning Shores DLC, which has been garnering stellar reviews from the press and players alike. On top of that, a sequel was confirmed by Guerrilla Games in a recent message from the Guerrilla Games Studio Management. Things appear to be going from strength to strength for this franchise. Even the series’ PSVR 2 launch title, Horizon Call of the Mountain was well received, causing us to describe it as: “The killer app Sony needed” in our impressions piece.
For as great as the Horizon games are, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t miss Killzone. The flagship shooter franchise was not only an excellent way to showcase the strength of PlayStation’s hardware, but stood as intense shooters in their own right, easily being some of the best FPS games of their time. The battle of the ISA against the Helghast was something that I felt particularly attached to with the PS3 sequels and the handheld titles.
Killzone was a product of its time and, perhaps, something that audiences grew out of as the industry matured. The need for more immersive storytelling and the transition to the open-world format clearly held more commercial and critical appeal, especially as Horizon Zero Dawn has sold roughly 10 times more than the last Killzone title ever did. Still, it leaves me feeling nostalgic for a time when there was nothing better than blasting away space Nazis on a hostile planet with my brother – an experience Killzone 3 was more than happy to provide.
While nothing has been confirmed by Guerrilla Games stating it would never happen, a new Killzone game seems like a tragically unlikely proposition. For as much as I would love a reboot or reimagining, if not a direct sequel altogether, Horizon is simply too successful and too beloved to justify diverting resources towards a series that’s laid dormant for a decade. At least we have the memories of Tomas Sevchenko and company destroying the Helghast home planet for good, and that’s something that will never leave me.