Review: Killzone 2
The title of Killzone has never sparked a lot of excitement or interest. With the first game on PS2 delivering mediocrity and the PSP adaption being a good game, it’s natural to claim that it has a bumpy history behind it. However it was near impossible to not take notice of Killzone 2′s progress over the years since it was announced back at E3 of 2006.
Killzone 2 was quite possibly one of the PlayStation 3′s most anticipated titles. Now, the wait has, at last, come to its end, as PS3 owners worldwide can finally get their chance to dive into the Killzone. The only question left is: did it live up to the years of hype, promises and expectations?
[Note: For an in-depth explanation of my review system, go here: Tody's Review System]
Killzone 2 picks up where the previous games left off, but don’t worry, you don’t need to have played either of the previous games because the story isn’t really a big deal. The game takes place two years after the Helghast assault on the humans (during the PS2 and PSP titles) and this time the ISA are taking the fight back to the Helghast, who are more than prepared for their attack. The ISA’s goal is to capture the Helghast leader, Emperor Visari in order to end the war.
However, Killzone 2 suffers from a huge story-related flaw that makes the game’s simple action movie story seem a lot less dramatic and a lot more annoying. It was expected that you would have some wannabe hardcore teammates, but from the outset of Killzone 2 it becomes apparent that all of your teammates are some of the worst in video game history. Throughout the game, the player will be constantly subjected to horrible dialogue filled with cliched lines, lame jokes and enough swearing to write an Eminem song. The fact that the game focuses on these characters makes you soon stop caring about the story, and start hoping your teammates would just be killed off.
Thankfully though, Killzone 2 seems to understand this, and lets you slay your teammates as many times as you want with no penalty. I mean, the game even lets you revive them just so you can kill them some more. And believe me, this is one of the games greatest enjoyments.
Moving onto the game, the player takes on the role of Sergeant Thomas “Sev” Sevchenko, of the ISA Special Forces Alpha team. There is no official tutorial, as the player is immediately thrown into a heated Helghast-filled battlefield after a very short cutscene. It’s a very thrilling and exciting beginning to the game, but it doesn’t go easy on you from the start, so you’re going to die a little before you fully adjust.
Killzone 2 isn’t really going for the ‘hold your hand’ approach. It immediately becomes noticeable that the game is no pushover. One of the greatest aspects of the game is the difficulty scale. On the lower difficulties, enemies will behave like moving targets and it’s basically on the same level as most FPS easy difficulties. But the harder difficulties are truly where the game shines. The enemy AI is one of the most impressive we’ve seen and unlike most other games in the genre, the enemies’ teamwork is unbelievable. They will work together and flank you, flush you out behind cover, set traps for you, rush you and overall just give you hell. There is also a large variety of Helghast soldiers who each use their own battle tactics and adapt differently to situations, which ensures that the player is always on the the alert as to what the enemy will do next. On the contrary, while your allies are fairly intelligent themselves, they will occasionally do something stupid like block you or not shoot at the enemies that matter.
It’s obvious when playing that the game is really out there to give you an enjoyable challenge and you’ll almost never feel like the game is being unfair to you.
It would have been nice to have the option to customise your own controls, but in the game’s defense, there are quite a number of different control schemes to choose from, so I’ll be doing this review with the more or less standard console FPS controls in mind (Alternate 2).
Killzone 2 plays like any console FPS regarding controls, however, the game also features a unique cover system designed especially for FPS, and while the game’s controls are efficient and responsive, the cover system seems awkward and clunky. Once you get used to it, however, it works like a dream and becomes great fun to use, but it takes a fair deal of play time to adjust to it which is more than a little frustrating as you will soon find out just how much you need it. It could have been easier to use, if it had used a ‘snap-to-cover’ mechanic, requiring you to press L2 only once rather than awkwardly holding it in. Still, that said, it’s a brilliant innovation for the FPS genre and opens doors for more play styles and ideas. As a side note, however, the cover system is not featured online.
The more you play Killzone 2, the more you will realise just how amazingly the game has been adapted and optimised for the PS3. To elaborate, it’s one of the few games that put Sony’s motion sensitivity to any good use. It’s clear that the developers spent good time thinking of how to best implement it within the game and for once it does not feel like a gimmick at all. It’s good fun to use the motion sensitivity to turn valves for opening doors or using it to set demolition charges thereafter setting them off with the detonator.
But by far, the most innovative use of it is with the sniper rifles. The player is required to hold the controller steady to increase accuracy rather than pressing a button to hold your breath in. Also, to make sniping more intense, your accuracy is affected by what’s happening around the player. For instance if a grenade goes off near you, your shot will be thrown off balance despite how still you held the controller.
It really does well to make the sniping very immersive, but like the cover system it takes time getting used to. The drawback however, is that you can’t turn it off, and this makes sniping online a very frustrating and difficult ordeal.
Killzone 2′s level design can best be described as linear. The levels are usually based around all out battles in large open areas, or solo acts with a partner to complete certain objectives. There are very few boss fights in the game and most are not very memorable, but the exceptional level design makes up for it. Basically, the game is made up of connected gun battles, but there is enough variety and epicness to keep it fun all the way through.
The problem with the levels, however, is that there is no map in the game, so with the large environments the player will often find himself lost. Your allie(s) do shout out what needs to be done to progress, but then the problem there is finding where they are. Luckily though, in defense, pressing one of the directional buttons makes an arrow appear on the screen which points you towards your teammates, but it doesn’t always help as sometimes they’ll be following you rather than moving towards the objective.
There are a variety of different weapons to use in Killzone 2. From standard assault rifles to sub machine guns, shotguns, rocket launchers, sniper rifles and, of course, the deadly Helghast weaponry.
Sev can only carry one primary weapon, a pistol with unlimited ammo, two different types of grenades and his trusty knife. All of his available weapons can be used at any time, added to the fact that the player will be able to arm himself with any gun found or dropped by an enemy. Killzone 2, regarding close combat, includes both the gun bash melee attack as well as our lovable knife, which is bound to satisfy any melee combatant.
Every gun in the game simply feels and sounds amazing and they each differ immensely. You can actually feel the power and kick when firing, as well as see the impact each bullet has on your enemies. Players will quickly learn to adapt to the various guns they come across, which are quite largely spread out in the game, as well as learn the importance of burst firing rather than all out spraying. Also, players will soon discover the sheer number of bullets that it takes to drop some of the later Helghast, and it will eventually become routine to confirm that you’ve killed an enemy rather than left him in a position to regain his composure and enter the battle once again.
Killzone 2 is a graphical masterpiece for the PS3 and simply has phenomenal visuals. The game has amazing and stunning detail as well, allowing the player to really feel as though they’re in the middle of a warzone. The grey-monotone colour scheme works really well in this game, and doesn’t look and feel as colourless as it may appear to be. The red eyes of the Helghast really stand out in the environment, so you’re always aware of their presence. Also worth the mention, is the extraordinary physics engine behind the game. Enemies will react very realistically when struck with bullets, viciously twisting, shaking and spazzing out when under fire. On the other hand, explosions will send enemies sailing through the air in what can become a very humourous yet impressive ordeal. There’s no end to the praise that can be given to the game’s graphics, but I’m sure you’ve seen and heard enough to convince you just how amazing they really are. Killzone 2 is simply one of the most graphically advanced games ever made.
Once completing the single player campaign, which will take you roughly 8-10 hours depending on your playstyle and difficulty setting, there are the deep and enormously addictive multiplayer modes awaiting you. To explain, there are two multiplayer modes. The first being Skirmish, will allows the player to practice their skills against computerised Bots. Here players will be able to tweak the game mode, map, difficulty and rules of the game. Unfortunately though, as nice as this mode is, you are unable to go up against your friends offline which would have been an enjoyable addition. Still, Skirmish is great practice for those who want to test out the weapons, classes, game modes and also for learning the maps before jumping online.
However, the real fun ultimately lies in Warzone, the class-based online component of the game. Warzone is best described as an ‘Online Objective-based Campaign’. There are two teams, the ISA and the Helghast, and once joining a team, there will be a variety of objectives that make up one play session. To explain, there are five different gameplay modes, namely Body Count, Assassination, Search & Retrieve, Search & Destroy and Capture & Hold.
In one Warzone match, the objectives will constantly switch between these five game modes depending on whether a team completed the objective, failed, came out on top or the time limit ran out. Incorporating all five gamemodes into one play session really ensures awesome fun when online.
Every action performed while online, from completing an objective, winning a session or killing an opponent will grant the player experience points which will add up and increase your rank, of which there are 12 in total. Higher ranks unlock more weapons and classes, each with their own abilities and specialties, for you to use online.
There are six classes altogether, namely Assault, Medic, Scout, Saboteur, Tactician and Engineer. Each class grants the player unique abilities and skills, but if you want to fully use what the class has on offer, you will have to earn medals and ribbons. These are rewards given at the end of a Warzone match for fulfilling certain criteria or performing specific actions. For example if you get 10 kills within one match, you earn a ribbon. If you earn a certain amount of those ribbons, you then receive the medal that goes with it, which unlocks a special upgrade or ability. Earning lots of class-specific medals and ribbons will eventually allow you to combine your skills with another class. This really deepens the multiplayer experience, as you could create something tactical like an assault-medic who can heal allies and take down enemies, or something unique, like a ‘stealth engineer’ who disguises himself as an enemy and runs around building stuff. The fact that you can create so many different combinations, and that you have to unlock the medals and ribbons beforehand, will really make sure that players will be busy with Killzone 2 for an incredibly long time to come.
- The cover system is awkward and unfortunately takes a while to get used to, but that said, once you’ve adapted to it, it becomes great to use. This is mentioned because it could have been made easier to use with an option to toggle ‘crouch/cover hold‘ on or off. The cover system is not featured in multiplayer, however, so any awkwardness with it isn’t present.
- While sniping is a unique and innovative idea for the motion sensitivity, there should really have been the option to turn it off, as it could seriously be an irritation online.
- Although the graphics are incredible, there are a few minor glitches here and there, as well as some very noticeable visuals that stand out. For instance, when reviving a squad mate (you will do this often) the electrical beam fired at him looks horrible compared to the rest of the game’s details.
- A simple story is by no means bad, but forcing the player to be subjected to annoying as hell allies can weaken the experience altogether.
- While the levels look stunning and the atmosphere is excellent, it’s easy to get lost.
- If you’re expecting something completely new, Killzone 2 isn’t it. To put it simply, it’s what we’ve seen before except this time immensely polished, presented spectacularly and just an overall awesome experience.
- For PS3 owners, it’s between Killzone 2, Call of Duty and Resistance 2 for console FPS multiplayer. Personally, I think that Killzone 2 is right at the top of the list.