One of the biggest mistakes that Sony’s gaming division ever made came at E3 in 2005. Intended to showcase both the power of the upcoming PlayStation 3 console and a title owners could be excited for, the now infamous Killzone “gameplay” trailer was met with extreme reactions at both ends of the spectrum, through many mediums. The resulting shockwaves have carried through the four years that have since past.
An obscene amount of pressure has been heaped on to the shoulders of both Guerilla Games and Sony to deliver; not the ideal situation for either company. PlayStation 2’s Killzone was expected by many to be Sony’s so-called “Halo Killer”, although merely ended up being a pretty good FPS, but no more than that. The stakes are even higher this time around, expectations being stretched to breaking point.
So, now we finally have Killzone 2, was it worth the wait?
You are Sergeant Tomas Sevchenko (“Sev” to your buddies), part of a special forces unit known as Alpha Team. Leading the fight for the ISA against the brutal yet aesthetically iconic Helghast, Alpha Team is set to join the rest of the fleet on Helghan, which is being attacked in retaliation to the invasion of the ISA’s home planet Vekta, witnessed in the first game.
A sensationally well-rendered intro video kicks things off, a single shot panning all the way from Vekta to Helghan, where the scene changes dramatically from hope to desperation; the brutality and resistance of the Helghast is first witnessed as waves of ISA are obliterated. It’s horrible stuff, but it all looks so good that it is easy to let the message go straight over your head.
The first thing that becomes clear is that this is the best looking game on any console, ever. As you touch down (fall in style) on to the Helghan equivalent of Normandy, you are overwhelmed by spectacular visuals that help set the bar for what is to come. Dust is kicked up everywhere, ISA “intruders” (flying people-carriers) buzz overhead, bullets ricochet against concrete slabs and exquisite character modelling allows Sev’s colleagues to move from one place to the next with superb fluidity. It’s truly gorgeous, the settings varying from industrial factories to wind-swept deserts as you progress, giving a well-rounded feel to the campaign.
While there may be debate as to whether the 2005 trailer matched the final product in terms of looks, there can be no doubting the superiority of the atmospherics and style found in Killzone 2. Like that video, Killzone 2 harks back to Medal Of Honor: Frontline’s opening level, doing a superb job of making you feel completely overpowered straight away by throwing you into the midst of a raging war without even a little target practice to get you warmed up. This time around, however, the murky, polluted environments really add to the feeling of isolation; both the house and its residents are disturbingly unwelcoming.
The rise and fall of the wonderful orchestral score, battle cries from all around and the wholesome blend of gun fire and explosions – both in your immediate surroundings and the distance – really create an environment that leaves you breathless. Picking off Helghast is the last thing you want to do as you try to soak in the experience, light dancing across your line of sight like it would on a pleasant summer holiday stroll.
But this is no walk in the park. The control scheme, for example, may take some players a little time to get used to. For those that haven’t spent the last year or two playing the Call Of Duty series, the button configuration will feel reasonably natural, the change perhaps taking longer to sink in for those with extensive FPS experience. A quick switch in the options menu should take care of any of this, although player movement is another matter entirely.
There is a definite sense of weight behind your ability to manoeuvre. You will find that the new cover system, utilised beautifully, is essential to your survival in hectic battles that threaten to overwhelm Sev’s limited movement speed. Whether adjusting the position of the cross hair or merely turning around, the player is forced to feel as if there is a person behind the screen; that you are a human being rather than the camera on wheels that most first person shooters have provided thus far. It is a mechanic that works very well, giving each and every kill you make a sense of achievement and satisfaction. It also adds to the beefiness of battle that Killzone 2 strives for throughout.
Adding to the sense of challenge, the enemy AI on show is second to none. Much like the first game in this series, Helghast will run and duck for cover when under fire, rolling out or popping their heads up in unpredictable patterns that leave redundant the idea of holding your cross hair in one place above a box in tried and tested anticipation. Throw a grenade and they will leap off their backsides and scatter like their lives depend on it. Often they’ll try to catch you off guard, charging at you armed with the butt of their gun and a fantastic one-liner or two (“I’m gonna rip your head off”, “I’m going to take you for a trophy” etc). You feel great killing these guys, but they are certainly a charming bunch.
Your tools of destruction vary from the standard ISA M-82 rifle, which I found myself using for most of the game due to its well-balanced nature and comforting visual design, to the slightly more adventurous flamethrower. Differing from other FPS flamethrowers, this one shoots like a water pistol would with gasoline and a spark behind it, resulting in a long range and the ability to loop shots over walls and balconies.
You are restricted to carrying just one primary and one secondary weapon at a time, giving decisions as to which gun to carry an added importance. The shotgun, for example, is great for close-up combat but would severely weaken your chance of success when you enter one of Killzone 2′s larger (and they can be rather large) battlefields, so often playing it safe with the rifle is your best bet.
While the game’s storyline will be enough to keep you interested to play through the campaign, its contents will no doubt be appreciated most by those who have played through Killzone and Killzone: Liberation and have more emotional investment in one or two of the unplayable characters who appear. Naming no names, they certainly give you added reason to care as the story progresses, although there could have been some more depth to Visari, leader of the “Higs”, who plays a relatively small part considering his role; certainly a missed opportunity when you consider the parallels between this and real-world conflicts of the past.
The multiplayer is, arguably, the best online experience on the PlayStation 3. Playing as either “HG” or ISA, players are split into teams and given the chance to play matches that switch objectives after certain periods of time. Helping to keep things fresh and players on their toes, these tasks include assassination, body count and defend/attack the base. It’s a great idea, prompting major shifts in tactical requirements and an emphasis on teamwork, so finding yourself a great clan to work with is advised.
Points are given in conjunction with individual performance, leading to the chance of levelling up to use new abilities; medic, tactician, saboteur, sniper etc. Each of the classes have their own pros and cons, with a good balance as to which guns you can and can’t carry. Some are better options on certain maps than others – all of which are fabulous examples that much care and planning went into this title. The sandy, vast Pyrrhus Rise, for example, is perfect for picking up your sniper rifle and donning the brilliant invisibility cloak, while various other map sizes and designs offer differing opportunities.
Killzone 2 has done exactly what it promised. Never pretending to be what it isn’t, the gameplay builds on long-standing FPS mechanics, pushing many of them to the brink of perfection and all in the most gorgeous visual style. The single-player campaign is nicely paced and provides enough thrills to grant return visits, while the multiplayer is one of the most complete and satisfying of its kind to date. Pressure? What pressure?
Jaw-dropping visuals are the best we’ve seen on any console, helping to create a truly lived-in and visceral universe.
The feeling of weight is sure to divide opinion, but it is implemented extremely well. Superb gunplay, perfect for single and multiplayer.
The grand orchestral score adds to the game’s epic feel. Meanwhile, the voice acting is good, particularly for the Helghast, who are menacing but somehow fun.
While the campaign will take eight to ten hours of your time, it is the multiplayer that will keep you coming back until the third game arrives!
A truly mesmerising FPS experience, the atmosphere created is unparalleled in the genre. Killzone 2 doesn’t reinvent the wheel, instead honing long-standing mechanics to create a beefy and undoubtedly great game.
For a second opinion from our writer Austin, check out this link.