Killzone 2

While it doesn't deliver anything new, Killzone 2 sets the bar unbelievably high for the FPS genre.

By canana, Posted 24 Jun 2009

Halfway through Killzone 2, you stand, hefty assault rifle smoking after another desperate, exhilarating firefight against Helghast forces. Your senses are frazzled by the big-budget visuals, mouth dry from the thunderous chaos of a brutal science-fiction war. As the last red-eyed foe falls, a palpable sense of overkill engulfs you. Your uphill struggle as a crack squad is exhausting and unrelenting. Bombastic and brilliant as it may be, Killzone 2 hurls you head first into pitched war and doesn’t let go for several hours.

Killzone 2 Review

At this point, it’s almost as if the game senses that it’s time to slow things down. You’ve seen the blockbuster warfare, as explosions tear across the battlefield; you’ve taken control of a gigantic tank and laid waste to enemy forces and you’ve realised, as thick, cloying dust clouds sweep across the foreground and ferocious lightning licks across the grim sky, that, yes, Killzone 2 sets a new visual benchmark for console first-person-shooters. You’ve taken it all in, it’s Guerrilla and Sony, after all those claims and controversy, saying "yes, we can."

But there’s more to Killzone 2 than a desire to batter the player into submission with whizz-bang pyrotechnics. And this welcome shift of pace at the halfway mark, where your grizzled Sergeant Tomas ‘Sev’ Sevchenko and Alpha squad-mate Master Sergeant Rico Velasquez break off from all-out warfare to embark on a covert mission, you realise that, thankfully, Killzone 2 is more than just realistic explosions and pretty particle effects.

That’s not to say those first hours are anything but a technically astonishing thrill-ride through alien territory. The hostile landscape of the enemies’ home-world, Helghan, steals the show from the moment you are set hurtling on a roller-coaster to hell on rather rickety looking skiffs. Splashing down on the planet, you are thrust straight into a gun battle. Your rifle is massive on the screen, the exaggerated depth of field narrowing your focus to the oncoming threat. Everything about Killzone 2 is huge and weighty, your movement slow and measured, as if you really are lugging around heavy weaponry and body armour. Every pull of the trigger shudders with kickback, so burst fire is essential to keep your aim on your target. Despite being a world of pure science-fiction, Killzone 2’s action is heavily geared towards realism and is all the better for it, offering highly-charged tactical warfare, where taking cover and picking your shots are paramount.

Killzone 2 Review

To aid you in your advance, Killzone 2 offers a first-person context-sensitive cover system. Simply hold the crouch button near a wall, or overturned vehicle and you will slam against it, then you can peer over and around it to pick off the Helghast with a well-placed head-shots. Dashing from cover to cover and advancing on enemy lines is an essential skill to learn, the Helghast attack in tight-knit squads and are very well-organised and very smart. Pepper them with bullets and they will dive for cover, if they catch you reloading they will rush your position. They will flank you and flush you out, reacting to each skirmish in a different way depending on how it transpires. These are no shooting gallery cardboard cutouts and their smarts and ferocity help add to a claustrophobic atmosphere, even in wide-open spaces, as you bed down beneath a crumbling wall, rifle fire spitting over your head.

It’s terrifically exciting stuff. And there’s no denying that so much of that is down to that astonishing graphical fidelity and technical excellence. The broader strokes of the caustic, hell-like planet are remarkable enough, with crumbling cities and crackling, bleak skies, but it’s the finer points that truly impress. That dust that seems to pass so innocuously blocks your scope, ruining that perfect shot. Helghast soldiers take a bullet to the leg, stumble and crash into a shelving unit, sending heavy gas canisters tumbling. Grenades are affected by a gust of wind, taken perilously off course. Every bit of that minutiae and attention to detail drags you further into Killzone’s world.

Killzone 2 Review

The same is true aurally. A superb orchestral soundtrack punctuates the action, lending even more thumping urgency to the task at hand. While gunfire is deliciously meaty, offering thundering echoes in enclosed spaces. A glorious assault on the eyes and ears, Killzone 2 is a glistening example of balls-out action and cinematic gaming.

It does, however, fall short in a few areas to leave classic status agonisingly out of reach. The story and script never rise above sci-fi cliché. Killzone 2 take place in the middle of a terrible galactic war between the ISA of Vekta and the soldiers of Helghan. The Helghast’s commander-in-chief, Scolar Visari, has captured some ISA warheads, but lacks the launch codes. While the ISA are landing down on Helghan to reclaim the missiles and deal a heavy blow to their foe’s war effort by capturing the dictator. The plot is mere framing to hurtle the action along, which is fine in itself. However, the disappointing thing is that Killzone has been afforded a rich and detailed back story. Suggestions that maybe the Helghast are not the sole cause of this war are brushed aside, the game portraying them as inhuman monsters. A little bit of greyness in the good vs. evil plot would have gone a long way.

Characterisation, too, is depressingly bland. Your squad of four are the kind of hackneyed, meat-headed marines that permeate the genre, while Sev himself is little more than a cipher, remaining quiet and sullen for the majority of the game. The Helghast fare better with their sinister masks, glowing red eyes and Nazi-esque uniforms, but are let down slightly by the bizarre decision to give them rasping, east London wide boy accents, like Darth Vader in an episode of EastEnders. There are shining lights in the Helghast ranks, however. The ruthless Colonel Radec makes for an excellent, if slightly comic-book, villain. While Scolar Visari is an impressive presence, a complex and persuasive character.

Killzone 2 Review

While for the most part the campaign is perfectly formed, there are some difficulty spikes that irritate, particularly on the higher difficulties, and the game never dares to leave its comfort zone. While that might stop Killzone 2 from being lauded in the same way as say, Half-Life 2, the endless pursuit of explosive perfection in what Killzone does best makes for a sharply focused and superbly paced campaign.

The online multiplayer is also expertly crafted. While the omission of the cover system in multiplayer modes makes the action faster and more straightforward than the main game’s strategic heft, you still need to keep your wits about you in most match-types, learning to approach your opponents and each objective in the right way. The main multiplayer mode, Warzone, can produce some epic skirmishes with dynamically changing objectives keeping everyone on their toes. There are few modes you haven’t seen before, but the way they are integrated into Warzone gives Killzone 2 an edge on many of its peers. As does the class system, which allows you to build on your multiplayer character the more you play. In that sense its similar to Call of Duty’s excellent perk system, but offers wider scope for customising your soldier.

Killzone 2 is not a revolution. It was never intended to be. However, it would be folly to disregard its importance, both to the PS3 and the console FPS. It’s a refinement of the genre, distilled to its purest and polished to a glittering shine. The phenomenal technical achievement, both visually and in AI, raises the bar for console games and, just maybe, suggests that all Sony’s claims for the ‘power of the PS3’ were more than just hot air and bluster after all.

Marco Cecilio, NoobFeed

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  • One of the best games released in recent era. I enjoyed every moment of it on single player. I haven't tried multiplayer much, but the ones that have, they say that all the magic is there. Great review Marco :)

    Posted Jun 25, 2009
  • This review sounds familiar :D Great one indeed :)

    Posted Jun 26, 2009
  • Very good review :) The game is so addictive and possibly among the best games released in the last 2 years.

    Posted Jul 01, 2009

  • An 84 seems about right for me, good review.

    Posted Jul 01, 2009
  • Thanks for the positive feedback.

    Posted Jul 04, 2009

  • Like the game Story & Graphics. Are there any pc version release?

    Posted Jul 07, 2009
  • @Angel- Sorry to disapoint you but this game is a PS3 exclusive.

    Posted Jul 07, 2009
  • Excellent game and nice review

    Posted Aug 26, 2009
  • Wow, sounds great, I may chack it out at some point, is there a demo on the PSN store?

    Posted Sep 21, 2009

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