Killzone 2

You know that level with the grey background, the one with the shattered buildings, war-torn landscape and metallic debris? You know, the one where everything is graphically stunning, with some of the most impressive visuals ever seen on a console? Surely it's familiar - it's the one where hundreds of enemies are deeply entrenched and completely determined to halt any progress you might hope to make. Still no? That's the problem with Killzone 2. It's incredible, a technological masterpiece, a showcase for the power and possibility on Playstation 3, and it has all the imagination of an uninspired turnip. It feels as though a creative genius like Rembrandt has been set loose on the world of computer games, but been told only to use blunt charcoal; you still end up with something truly accomplished, but there's an inescapable lack of variety and scope for creative flare.

Killzone 2

Visually, there's no denying that Killzone 2 is brilliant. The intro videos, in particular, are stunning. For example, the lip matching of the Helghan leader during the intro is superb, even if the character model looks a tad waxy, and the visuals in the main game are also extremely impressive, with some incredible effects. It's not easy to criticise something so technically gifted, but the problem really lies with the absence of imaginative twists. Given a sci-fi setting and an alien world, there are infinite possibilities. There's no reason at all to comply with default expectations. However, it's as if that's exactly what happened. With so much money invested in Killzone 2, and with it carrying the hopes and expectations of Sony and Playstation 3 users, the game has to do what millions of people want it to, and as a result, there's nothing brave, nothing scary, there's just a comfortable little grey world filled with Helghast, all carrying weapons that are either identical to, or heavily inspired by, anything you've ever used in a standard FPS game before.

Even more disappointing than the unimaginative scenery and weaponry is the cast. The soldiers you fight with are depressingly stupid and arrogant. It's not easy to form any sort of bond with any of them, and you could easily find yourself hating the silly morons for their ineptitude and ridiculous commentary. At one point, entering an area with seven enemies, the player-controlled character took down the first six, while the AI soldier floundered behind cover for a while. On meeting the seventh, the player scattered some shots in surprise at meeting the seventh enemy, but ultimately took down the final foe. The AI friendly, having taken down nobody, having contributed nothing, and having seen the player demolish all seven enemies single-handedly, commented on the player's shooting accuracy, suggesting that the broad side of a barn wouldn't be possible to hit. Go fack yourself, automated idiot.

Killzone 2

To make it worse, why are we doing this anyway? Okay, the first Killzone might have seen a Helghast invasion, but digging into the history of the game, a nice touch, it's easy enough to find out that the Helghast were not originally the aggressors. So why are our characters now heading to Helghan to duff them up? It just seems mean. They appear to have the technical advantage over the Helghast, and yet we're supposed to feel proud as our massive assault force wipes out Helghan defences. Don't tell us they've got a precious fuel resource under that grey shell of a plent, that'd just be too depressing. One thing's for certain, the idiotic friendly AI thinks it's doing the right thing, and will merrily blast into combat, happy that they're kicking the badstuffs ass. Yay.

So, after ploughing through four or so grey chapters, and deciding that it was as much fun to shoot your own team (and repeatedly revive them) as it was to shoot the enemies, things started to get a little bit more interesting, courtesy of a few last-stand style levels (an epic one is Visari Square was quite enjoyable), followed soon by a level based on a fast-moving train. Things were beginning to look up, but these brief flashes were as far as the game dared go. Swiftly, things returned to idiotic soldiers shouting at eachother and more standard gunfights. By this point, it's likely gamers will have become accustomed to the controls, since there are standard FPS configurations available, but not everyone will have adjusted to the handling. In the same way that racing games can having very different handling for vehicle types or driving modes, Killzone features character control that is drastically different to, say, Resistance or TimeSplitters. Where games like Resistance rely on fast movement, quick turns and short flurries of gunfire, Killzone 2 is more of a luxury model, featuring clunky movement and a sense of momentum that continually fights your every turn. Each soldier is so heavily armoured that their movement is hampered, but it doesn't matter, because it takes so many shots to down a soldier that you can easily turn to face your enemy before any real damage is done.

Killzone 2

It would be somewhat mean to focus so heavily on the criticism for the game though, since Killzone 2 does so much right. In fact, if you were to fill out a tick box list of everything you need in a game, the first 95% or so of the boxes would have a nice big tick, reassuring any corporate type that their product was going to be a success. Moving on from all those missing boxes at the bottom (like freshness, imagination, precision, connection and purpose), there's a lot of positives. For a start, returning to those stonking visuals, Killzone 2 does look as good as anything on any console, which is a nice warm feeling for those invested in the future of PS3. In addition, despite severe complaints about what the AI might say during the campaign, there are moments where it shines, particularly in the use of cover. Specifically, the enemy is pretty good at noting its own location, manoeuvring accordingly and planning assaults on your position. On one occasion, leaving a teammate shooting from the front, the player decided to scoot around to the side to take shots at the Helghast. Brilliantly, the Helghast were wise to it, and had started retreating back to cover, ensuring that they weren't pinned in. It wasn't an isolated incident either, and it shows that the AI behaviour is of a very high standard. If only they'd shut up.

The music that plays out at particular intervals is stirring and atmospheric. The menu music, in particular, is quite impressive. Within the game, music is used more sparingly to accentuate particular scenes or assaults, while the general sound effects are left to accompany the more standard encounters. It's a balance that works well, since the sound of gunfire is so frequent that it provides its own soundtrack. Aside from that, the moron AI is actually quite well voiced. It must have been disappointing to have been brought in to say things quite so moronic, but the cast have done so with great gusto, avoiding anything too hammy or cliched. Okay, actually forget the last part. It's pretty cliched.

Killzone 2

The main campaign isn't long, but it's long enough. Any more levels of pure grey would have been too much of a drag. It lasts just long enough that you've had a chance to enjoy the solid shooting, you've seen the story progress to the next stage, and you've been pushed to the limit by your idiotic teammates. Along the way, there are collectibles like intel, and Helghast logos to smash (is nothing they own sacred?). The trophies in the game will also keep most gamers occupied for sometime, especially those in the online campaign. There's a huge variety of online modes to try, and the game excels in this area, offering gamers a huge number of ways and levels in which to shoot eachother to pieces. For those that can accustom themselves to the unusually slow handling of the soldiers, there's a lot of potential in the online mode.

Killzone 2

Overall, Killzone 2 proves that Playstation 3 has the credentials in the power department. It shows that a lot of pixels can be thrown around the screen, and it demonstrates another solid online experience on the console. For those that enjoy the slightly-generic FPS games, or wish to continue the story they started on PS2 with the original game, Killzone 2 is an ideal purchase. However, for anyone weighing up very carefully which game to get next, unsure if this is definitely the FPS for them, it'd be fair to say that some research elsewhere would be a good idea first. With Modern Warfare and Resistance games out there, the competition is strong, and outside of the genre it's even stronger. Killzone 2 is very good, and exceptional technically, but their may be better options out there, especially for those looking for something new.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Sony

Developer:

Guerrilla Games

Players:

1

Online:

1-32

Release:

2009-02-27

Trophies:

84

Review summary

Gameplay:

Solid, chunky FPS action throughout

Graphics:

New levels of technical excellence, but little imagination

Sound:

Tremendous effects and a good score

Lastability:

A relatively short single player, but with online support

7.7

Volcanic

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