Killzone 2 Review

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Killzone 2 Publisher: Sony
Developer: Guerilla Games

Platform: PlayStation 3
Reviewed on PlayStation 3

The Interplanetary Strategic Alliance recently repelled an invasion by the Helghast. The Helghan had suddenly emerged from their dismal industrial planet to take control of the galaxy with the help of their industrial power and military might. After a series of battles that pushed the Helghast back to their home planet of Helghan, the ISA is launching an invasion of Helghan to capture emperor Visari and dismantle his military.

Helghan was once "a power generator for half the universe, until Visari turned it into a war machine." Now it's up to a squad of four men, a tiny part of the ISA invasion, to reform Helghan, overcoming horrific native weapons and devoted military forces. Success would mean Helghan's decadent military facilities would be dismantled, and the average citizen will get out of the depressing shantytowns and oppressive work conditions.

Kyle Ackerman

Killzone 2 is undoubtedly the best World War II shooter I've played that isn't set during World War II. Never mind that Killzone 2 is set in the distant future, involving hovercraft, interplanetary travel and glowing, radioactive ores. There's still an unconscionable dictator, Third-Reich style uniforms and a selection of weapons that would be fully at home in 1942. The Helghast even speak with the kind of near-British accent that would be most at home in an old Nazi submarine movie. There's a beach landing sequence that only avoids being obviously set in France thanks to the orbital fleet and hovercraft. Yet, the game is still loads of fun, despite being set in a distant future that extensively echoes the recent past.

A Polished Shooter

That Killzone 2 is almost set during WWII isn't really a problem. Killzone 2 basically takes everything that any other recent first-person shooter has done, and executes those features really well. That goes for everything from the rapidly regenerating health, usual assortment of weapons and excellent use of cover to the hulking, manly infantry types that shoot everything with glowing red eyes and Third Reich-style uniforms while making "Yo mamma..." jokes. Waypoints are solidly implemented so that I never got lost and checkpoints are plentiful, seldom leaving me stuck to replay extended sequences. Some buildings and environmental features can be knocked down on enemies, but even in the future (and light years away) there are still lots of explosive red barrels near enemy emplacements. There are even a variety of gratuitous collectibles that unlock trophies.

Killzone 2 is a lot of fun, and a solidly executed FPS. All the game needs to really distinguish itself is to contribute something to the genre, rather than simply doing everything that everyone else has done really well. How about a new weapon, different squad dynamics, or a unique story that doesn't catapult the mid-20th century liberation of Europe a few hundred years into the future and light-years away? The one (almost) unique feature just feels silly – I got to physically turn the controller to place explosives and turn valves. It was slightly different, but not necessary or fun, even if it didn't detract from play.

I Hear You, Even If I Don't See You

Developer Guerilla Games created the original Killzone and Killzone: Liberation, and are continuing their success with Killzone 2. The setting is even grander the PlayStation 2 and PSP games, the goals are loftier, the weapons have more realistic reports and the weather is harsher. Even the soldiers are buffer with more bluster, although they never really manage real depth, even after the death of a colleague.

Killzone 2 may not break new ground when it comes play, but technically, the game is superb. The visuals are amazing (even if the color palate relies heavily on grays and browns), with amazing lighting effects – particularly when the levels are lit by intermittent lightning or by the perfectly executed flamethrower. Beyond the lighting, the spectacular positional sound is one of the game's best features. The grunts of enemies or the rattle of gunfire makes it very clear where everyone is located, and sound transitions smoothly without the disruptive jumping from speaker to speaker that is so common in many games. The sound was particularly useful in a teleporting boss battle that would have been a lot less annoying if the boss had a health gage.

This Time, Battle as the Helghast

The single-player can easily be completed in a long afternoon, but given that the campaign is ultimately more polished than memorable, Killzone 2 will more likely be remembered for its multiplayer. Admittedly, given the timing of this review, I haven't been able to log on with the full release crowd of gamers, so if the post-release experience is dramatically different, I'll be sure to update this review. That said, the multiplayer plays extremely well with limited human testing and extensive bot play.

The bots available for the multiplayer maps are actually quite good, especially compared with similar multiplayer games. They'll never match human players, but respond well to their various roles and difficulty settings. Based on bot play, the various multiplayer modes not only are engaging, they nicely segue into one another. My first match started as a competition for control points that then became spawn points for assassination, defense and capture-the-flag missions. I really enjoyed the way in which various modes flowed into one another, so that a full server of players can stick together in a satisfyingly continuous game. Multiplayer is substantially more lethal than the single-player campaign, and feels more like lethal modern warfare, where the single-player relies on near-immortal 'roid-rage style heroes.

Killzone 2 is a great game, and a worthy release for the PlayStation 3. What the game lacks is simply uniqueness. It does everything well that other games have already done, from a solid single-player campaign to a ruggedly engaging mish-mash of multiplayer modes. Despite leaving me wanting just a little bit more, Killzone 2 is easy to recommend to PlayStation 3 owners... particularly for the multiplayer.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on February 2, 2009 10:26 PM.

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