Review: Killzone 2

If there was an ever a game that’s been hyped and debated into the AAA ether, it’s Killzone 2, which is odd considering that the original Killzone was a fairly rote shooter that received a lukewarm critical reception and was only a bit more remarkable than Shellshock: Nam ’67, the over-the-top cartoony bloodbath that Guerilla released only one month prior. And while 2006’s PSP follow-up, Killzone: Liberation, was a step in the right direction, it’s a wonder that here we are, four years later, and Killzone 2 is one of the most anticipated titles of 2009 and a tentpole in Sony’s forecast this year. Blame the 2005 E3 pre-rendered Killzone 2 trailer; the gauntlet was thrown down by gamers and the media to see if Guerilla had the mettle to achieve the impossible: to surpass the juju seen in that video and bring a breathing, living world at war to life.

Instead of reprising your role as franchise protagonist Jan Templar, you step into the combat boots of Sergeant Tomas “Sev” Sevchenko, another fairly generic character and a member of Alpha Squad, who quickly becomes embroiled in one long string of firefights after another, lasting most of the duration of the 10 mission singleplayer game. Oh, Rico returns, and they’ve somehow managed to make him even more annoying than before. Impressive. The story takes off after the ISA launches a campaign to crush Helghast Emperor Visari and the Helghast Werhmacht on their home planet of Helghan. Cue rousing soundtrack and cheesy, profanity-smeared tough talk, and… that’s basically the whole singleplayer game, more or less. Go through this building, take this area, clear this room, clear this house, take the bridge, yup. Now, it’s all awesomely done and is genuinely fun most of the time, put there is absolutely nothing here that you haven’t already done in the dozen or so shooters you’ve probably ripped through in the last year.

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The multiplayer features an offline bot training mode called Skirmish, and your standard online match types in Warzone like Team Deathmatch, CTF and Capture and Hold, which is a territories mode that plays like it sounds. There’s also the CoD4-esque Search and Destroy and Assassination, and a Valor Point leveling system to boot (in Warzone); you start as a soldier class and earn points for almost everything you do, allowing you access to new weapons and classes along the way.

Where Killzone 2 really shines is in the atmosphere and presentation departments, and the oodles and oodles of particle effect-driven explosions and strobe light muzzle flashes, make Killzone 2 rank among the most cleanly rendered, cinematic and potent shooters I’ve ever played. The AI is formidable and the weapon loadout is rich; one of my faves was the VC21 Bolt Gun, which belches an explosive bolt that pins Helghast n00bs to a wall and explodes. The vehicle/turret type events are also high points, helping to break up the somewhat repetitive peek and shoot gameplay. One section, where you man an Anti-Air gun on a ship in space trying to buy time (reminiscent of the meteor defense sequence in Dead Space, only less frustrating) is especially fun. And don’t even get me started on how badass the mech level in chapter 9 is.

My biggest gripes with the game come more in what it doesn’t deliver than what it does—namely co-op, better iron-sight aiming, and wayyyyy less convoluted controls when trying to duck in and out of cover whilst maintaining a bead on your tango. Seriously, holding the cover button while looking down the sight of the gun and trying to shoot, which requires the simultaneous holding of L2+L1+R1, is just bad bad design. Also, there weren’t enough boss fights or encounters, leaving you to wait until the final fight against Radec to face off against a truly beefy foe, but even then it’s an exercise in tedium; there’s actually a Trophy for beating him in less than 20 minutes. I guess it’s intended to be long and trying.

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Closing Comments:

Based on graphics, gameplay, and overall chaos factor, Killzone 2 is FPS gold. The singleplayer campaign plays like a Jerry Bruckheimer film. Everything is exploding, burning to ash, ricocheting around you. It’s hairball. Though combat can get repetitive, it lacks serious boss fights, and there are a few control issues, overall both the singleplayer and multiplayer modes are fun, the latter of which adds plenty of replay value. Gripes aside, Guerilla Games have surpassed our expectations, delivering a thoroughly engaging, gorgeous shooter that’s a must buy for PS3 owners who like to shoot stuff.
score4
Version Reviewed: PS3