LIKE a Helghan ambush on invading ISA forces, Killzone 2 has finally been released to a chaotic reception. The war of words between fanboys has reached fever pitch and now it is time to see if KZ2 manages to put its money where its mouth is.
Now I’m a PS3 owner, so it would be easy to write off this review of Sony’s flagship title as biased.
I’ll lay my cards out on the table and say I want KZ2 to sell well, I want it to shift PS3 consoles and I want it to be well received. I don’t want these things so that I can brag to 360 owners, I’m not that juvenile, but I want it to succeed because I don’t want my console to die out!
But if Sony are hoping Guerrilla Games will be their white knight then they can relax, Killzone 2 delivers.
I wasn’t massively impressed with the original Killzone and I’m not generally an FPS fan. The one thing Killzone did do was showcase the power of the PS2 at the time of its release, impressing gamers and critics alike with its visuals.
So, I didn’t have a vested interest in the Killzone series, but I was drawn in by the hype of KZ2 and the desire to see the PS3 prosper – and I’m glad I did.
Killzone 2 knows how good it is. As soon as the into movie begins and your jaw plummets to the floor, you’re in. The shooter is incredibly engaging. I’ve always been critical of FPS games which use the viewpoint to make you feel part of the action, but fail to make you feel like you are “in” the game – often feeling sterile and lacking atmosphere.
KZ2, however, is a vacuum, sucking you in and immersing you in the experience.
The setting for KZ2, the planet of Helghan is incredibly bleak and foreboding. The message is clear; you may have seen off the Helghast on home turf, where you were comfortable, but this is a different game altogether and it’s not going to be so easy this time around.
Your character, Sev, and his comrades Riko, Natko and some other guy who you probably wont care about throughout the experience, are dropped onto the battlefield and you must fight – no patronising tutorials here. I say “some other guy who you probably wont care about” because KZ2 offers little in the way of a narrative, but this is a testosterone fuelled juggernaut which straps you it and hurtles you forward, not much time to stop for a chat.
Most reviewers have focussed on the most obvious aspect of the game, the graphics, but its hard not to. When you consider the palette of greys and browns, its no mean feat that Guerrilla Games have managed to pull of a visual stunner. While it is true that there is a limited spectrum of colour in the game, it is a pyromaniac’s wet dream as the browns and greys are illuminated with muzzle flashes, explosions and lightning strikes. There is, at times, warmth to the visuals, with the glow of flames painting rooms orange.
The other impressive aspect of the visuals are the cityscapes, slashed intermittently by violent forks of lightning. Often I found myself wanting to stop to take in the vistas, but there’s not much time for sight seeing on Helghan.
KZ2 is a solid shooter. I’m not the most skilled FPS gamer, but after tweaking the sensitivity of the X and Y axes, I was soon improved. Sev can take a fair amount of damage before you need to scurry away to heal and the cover system works well to keep you hidden whilst you take pop-shots at the space-Nazis.
A lot of the mainstream media have taken an interest in Killzone 2, and have likened the cover system to Gears of War’s. Now, I take exception to this. Can we all please agree that Gears was not the first game ever to implement a cover system. METAL GEAR SOLID 2? 2001?!
When walking, your characters movements feel weighty and measured, but the sprinting is pacy enough to make you feel agile and capable of getting out of a hot zone if you need to. Gunplay feels accurate and substantial, with distinct differences in the weapons. I found myself switching to the appropriate weapon for close quarters action, for example.
Animation is incredible, whether it’s the reloading of an assault rifle, your team-mates barking commands at you or Helghan soldier caught in the crossfire from your flame-thrower. If there is one aspect of KZ2 that I can’t stress enough, its how good the animation is.
The soundtrack sweeps and swells to match the action and is very commendable. The sound effects, essentially the sounds of gunfire, are thunderous and punctuated in parts by the crackle of lightning hammering down on you.
As I mentioned, the plot is a bit of let down. Considering how much time has been spent in crafting the graphics and gameplay, they should have been anchored by an equally exceptional narrative, but instead we are left with a functional one.
Also, the title oozes with technical sophistication, but its a shame this couldn’t have been reflected in the dialogue. The space marines are chauvinists, jocks and generally muppets who seem to have no thoughts about the nature of war or their cause, preferring to reflect sex, swearing and shooting-up some Helghast. This is fine for a shooter, but they could have gone the extra mile and given us some themes to think on.
All in all I’m glad. Glad I bought into the hype, but not let it overshadow my KZ2 experience. Glad I bought a PS3 so I was able to play it, and glad that it will give Sony the boost Little Big Planet should, by rights, have given their black box.
If you’re into scores, I’d give it a 4/5, 8.5/10 or 85-90 per cent. But try it yourself, you’ll enjoy it.