More than Just a Pretty Face!
Killzone 2, actually the third installment in the Killzone series after Killzone for PS2 and Killzone: Liberation for PSP, is an action-packed, squad-based third-person shooter for the PS3. Developed by Amsterdam’s Guerilla Games, this title pushes the graphical envelope and sets the bar for future FPS titles on the console. Outside of the immaculate visual presentation, Killzone 2 also sports an engaging story, varied level design, quality A.I., and a multiplayer offering that is as good as the competitions’.
Unlike the events that transpired in the previous Killzone entries, the ISA is now taking the fight to the Helghast on their home-planet of Helghan. Nearly two years after the invasion of Vekta, the ISA have come up with a plan to shift the front away from their planet, control the Helghast capital of Pyrrhus, and capture the evil dictator, Emperor Visari. Players will take on the role of Sev, as he and his mates from Alpha Squad take the fight deep into Helghan. As players will soon find out, the Helghast know their planet well, are entrenched, and have employed new technology that will harry the ISA advance. Surviving in such a harsh place has made the Helghast formidable, and players will be challenged to get the job done.
The single-player campaign is made up of ten missions that will test your FPS skill through varied levels. Fighting through buildings with a couple wingmen, clearing out fortified Helghast positions, taking out machines of war, and cutting down waves of Helghast in brutal vehicle segments are just some of the ways gameplay stays fresh, fast, and challenging. The story progresses lickety-split, bolstered by the logical progression of mission-specific objectives you will complete.
Gameplay in Killzone 2 is utterly enjoyable. The simple cover mechanic works very well, and the way your bullets rip through the enemy is very satisfying, indeed. Hucking grenades and plinking dome-pieces will come naturally to any FPS fan, and taking the fight to the fire-eyed Helghast is a joy. This is emphasized by the quality enemy A.I. implemented by the devs. The Helghast do a nice job of taking cover, flushing you out with grenades, and utilizing their fortified surroundings to their advantage. That said, I never found myself stuck in any one place for too long. That’s because the Alpha Squad team is made up of a handful of gritty veterans that know how to get the job done – these soldiers seem to always be one step ahead of the evil they’re fighting. This gives players the sense they are a heroic badass, which is very gratifying. What’s more, while Alpha Squad definitely exudes testosterone, the characters are still believable and interesting, rather than being too over-the-top.
The only downsides I found with Killzone 2 are that the single-player campaign is short, the weapons are a bit lackluster, there are only a handful of controller configurations, and there is no co-op play. Each of the ten missions can be played in more or less than one hour. As a result, players will likely wish they had a bit more content to wade through, especially because what is there is so fun.
I also wasn’t a big fan of the weaponry. The old standby M82-G you start the game with is the most efficient firearm you’ll use, as the multitude of Helghast weaponry strewn about the levels is fairly clunky and ineffective. The assault rifles, SMGs, and even flamethrower are novel to use initially, but you’ll quickly realize they make the job a lot more difficult to get done. As such, you’ll likely only use these weapons when you run out of ammo – a fairly frequent occurrence. I especially didn’t like the sniper rifle in the game; getting headshots with the standard issue armament was a lot easier. I will admit, however, the loads of high-rate of fire weapons do feel realistic in their inaccuracy, but it does takeaway a bit of the satisfaction.
Though controls are certainly very respectable, I was dismayed by the fact there are only a few, preset layouts from which to choose. Granted, the layouts provided by the devs are sensibly put together; I just like to have a bit more control to shift things about and hone them to my liking. Of course, these are pretty nitpicky complaints, but when a game is this good, you have to find something.
One thing that is a bit more of a substantial criticism is the lack of any co-op play. I see this as a missed opportunity for Killzone 2, especially considering how the campaign typically has you advancing with at least one other squad member. Because Killzone 2 is every bit as good as the last two Call of Duty titles, Gears 2, and Resistance 2 – all of which had impressive co-op offerings – it too should have sported such features. Playing through the short campaign by yourself is a hoot, but being able to share the experience with at least one other friend would have been ideal.
Thankfully, the crew at Guerrilla Games didn’t skimp out on the multiplayer. Gamers will be able to romp through eight different maps of varying sizes and character. The level design of these maps is outstanding, and they truly lend themselves to hours upon hours of multiplayer fun. Enhancing the online package is a set of rotating objectives that keep multiplayer sessions meaningful; you’ll constantly be shifting focus while playing. Objectives such as securing key chokepoints, delivering propaganda messages, assassinating or protecting random VIPs, and straight up deathmatch rules keep players on their toes and moving around the maps. Also, the ability to break up into squads and choose your spawn point is a great touch that truly enhances the strategic elements of multiplayer and largely eliminates static spawn killing. Topping it all off is a great reward and advancement system that lets you mix and match load-outs and makes key weaponry and equipment available to you as you progress and gain badges. The multiplayer component is truly fun, works incredibly smoothly, and will really enhance the play value of this title.
Of course, Killzone 2 is masterfully presented to players. The visuals are as attractive and solid as anything I’ve ever seen on a console. It is the kind of game that makes previously appealing titles seem ugly. The sweeping environments, highly detailed textures, and overall polished finish are second to none. Only a select few PC titles are Killzone 2’s rivals in the graphics department. That said, there is a bit of shuddering while levels quickly load on the fly and when the auto-save feature kicks in. Other than that, the framerate is solid. This is one insanely gorgeous video game!
The musical themes are also quite good. The orchestral background music is what you would expect from a AAA title and does a great job of enhancing the atmosphere. The sound effects are very realistic, and the voice over work is very professional. I loved the sound of propaganda blaring over loudspeakers, and I quickly got into the characters because of the actors’ excellent portrayal.
The final review copies we received had no initial install. Even still, the game did a nice job of loading missions quickly and only mildly suffered from in-level loading. In fact, with all the information this game uses, I was amazed at just how minimal load times were. Additionally, it really seems like the game data is organized on the disc in such a way as to limit the amount of resources our PS3s were using. This game is well-coded and purrs like a kitten.
If you’re a PS3 fanboy and were a little bit jealous because your “Xbot” friends were loving it up with Gears of War 2, don’t worry too much. Killzone 2 is every bit as engaging as that title is. In fact, the story and characters are much more interesting and, dare I say, the graphics are even better. However, the lack of co-op features is a substantial misstep; anyone who has gone through Gears 2’s Horde mode, blasting away with their buddies can tell you that. All in all, Killzone 2 is an FPS that lives up to the hype and its AAA billing. Look for this game to be the first mega-seller on the PS3, and one that may help shift a few more console units for Sony. This is the kind of exclusive content we’ve been waiting for!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 5.0 Graphics
The visuals are better than anything we’ve seen thus far in this generation of consoles. 4.2 Control
The game controls quite well. I just wish I had full control over the controller layout. 4.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
This game sounds great in every way. The orchestral, musical score is appealing and the voice over work is right on. 4.5 Play Value
Between the fast-paced single-player campaign and the rock-solid multiplayer offering, players will have a lot of fun with this title. Unfortunately, co-op features would have been great, but there are none to be found. 4.6 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.