I’ll be honest when I first popped Killzone 2 into my PS3 I was actually surprised, not at the amazing graphics, but Visari’s rousing speech as the game loads up. I used to play a lot of games on QQ before I got hooked on to the PS3 and started enjoying it quite a lot. For a second I thought maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t going to be a no brains shooter, but just as that thought popped into my head a muscle-headed army dude punches the wall and grunts something incomprehensible – scratch that idea.
If you’ve managed to avoid the hyped juggernaut that is Sony’s Killzone then I’ll sum up what’s been going on; in the first game the Helghast (read: bad guys) attacked a planet controlled by the ISA (read: good guys) in this game the ISA has decided it’s payback time so now you’re invading planet Helghan: home of the bad guys. That’s the biggest thing that annoyed me throughout the whole 5-7 hours it took me to finish the game, the absolutely hollow plot premise, you’re just told that the Helghan are evil and that’s about it, almost no attempt is given to humanise either faction. Arguably the Helghan end up being more likeable than the bloody ISA, the amount of times I cringed as either Rico or Natko – two of the men on your squad – spouted out a string of swear words to try and sound adult was ridiculous.
Luckily, Guerrilla seem much better at designing good gameplay than they do writing because, credit to them, this is one of the only games I’ve actually felt I was in an actual warzone – at least until the phone rang. It’s in the little details such as the ships flying overhead and anti-aircraft cannons firing in the background that make you believe that you’re contributing to a war effort rather than just being funnelled down a linear path. Once, the games pace gets going things just keep getting better and better, first there’s the battle through the streets towards Visari Square, then there’s the shoot-out aboard a moving mine-car and to top it all off there’s the incredibly tense, inch-by-inch bloodbath towards Visari’s palace in the final mission – it’s moments like these that push you through towards the end rather than the limp plot.
The shooting is solid and responsive and gunning down Helghast never gets boring, the cover system is intuitive and really sets apart Killzone from other FPSs, making shootouts more about tactics than quick reflexes. The AI is certainly commendable; again it’s in the subtleties such as how they scramble to cover when shot at and how they’ll start blind firing if you constantly shoot where they’re taking cover but sometimes it does start to feel all too easy to just rush at them with the combat knife before they can react, up close all they’ll do is fumble around and maybe try and clobber you with their gun.
I couldn’t go through this review without paying special attention to the graphics, everything about them is spot on, from the way the lighting works to the soldier animations and the way you reload your gun – everything works down to the tiniest details. What did annoy me though is the sheer amount of shooter grey there is, sure you have the greatest graphics engine to play with but when everything is literally various shades of greys and browns things can get monotonous. I think in all honesty that explains a lot about Killzone 2; it’s almost less of a game and more of a tech demo, showing some of the feats that the PS3 can pull off, it certainly doesn’t feel like the complete package that other first party games have been such as Uncharted and Ratchet amp; Clank. Guerrilla
Multiplayer does go a heck of a long way to solving that though, and this is where Killzone 2 shines; remove all the silly NPCs and clichéd characters and stick in a bunch of trigger-happy gamers and you’ve got a seriously addicting game. The multiplayer obviously draws lots of parallels to Call of Duty for obvious reasons but it also draws heavily from Team Fortress as well with various classes to choose from making it more tactical, if less accessible, than CoD and its ilk.
It might be a year on since Killzone 2 was released but it still is one of the best shooters to date. Guerrilla have their engine sorted now so they can focus on improving the plot and characters for Killzone 3 so we’re not left with Cro-Magnon idiots like Rico.
So if you’re looking for a multiplayer FPS to get your teeth sunk into Killzone is still a definite alternative to CoD but if you’re after something with deeper meaning and an interesting story stick with Half-Life and Bioshock.