By: Guerilla Games/Sony
Killzone 2, Sony's flagship exclusive shooter for the PS3, is without a doubt one of the most hyped games of all time. But, has it lived up to the hype, or drowned in it?
Killzone 2 is a FPS and is a direct sequel to Killzone on the PS2, and also uses the story of Killzone: Liberation for the PSP in some well-placed areas. Jan Templar, the hero of Killzone, is not playable, but is instead the leader of the ISA operations, which was an excellent way of keeping with the story and universe while giving you a fresh new character to play as. You'll take the role of Sev, a strong ISA soldier who *gasp* actually talks and has a personality, which is a great break from the games these days that give you a speechless hero with no personality as a way of making you feel like you are the hero, which often just feels like a cop-out. Sev is not the traditional shy rookie here; he knows what he's doing, and your squad leader Rico trusts him with the big jobs. And speaking of Rico, he is every bit as hot-headed, rash, and cocky here as he was in Killzone. Really, Killzone 2 is not just a pretty shooter, the foundation and story and universe are all great and the returning characters are well-placed, and I can't recommend enough that you play through Killzone beforehand. The general story is, after being attacked by the Helghast in Killzone, the ISA take the fight straight to the planet Helghan. The stakes are high, and the circumstances are dire, and you really grow attached to your teammates throughout the game. It's not all testosterone and guts, there are a few sensitive moments that are extremely well-placed, and you will feel a little tug on the old heart strings when you see the facial animation; a sad character actually looks sad, and it's rather jaw-dropping to see realistic emotions displayed so realistically, and this brings me to the next part of the review: the visuals.
I'm sure everyone has seen the old E3 trailer for Killzone 2 which was said to be real-time graphics. Well, it wasn't. But what's really amazing is that, now, a few years later with the game on my shelf, the visuals in every way surpass the E3 trailer. Killzone 2 is a beautiful game, and I know you guys have heard me rant on about how much the visuals amazed me, so I'll try to keep it short and sweet here: There is more color to the bleak world of Helghan than the cold blue and grey of the demo level would lead you to believe, and it's all wonderfully saturated and rich, and nullifies the arguments that PS3 games have washed out colors. The animation, as I noted above, is incredible and dare I say, is the best out there. Faces are so detailed you want to pause at close-ups to take in the skin textures and facial hair renderings, and characters move and act with fluid realism. The Helghast soldiers alone have over 100 death animations, making the killing smooth and varied enough to avoid repetition. The textures are the most detailed you will see in any console game, the lighting contrasts perfectly, and the design of Helghan is inspired and well thought out. The water looks absolutely stunning, the skies are marvelous, and the atmosphere really makes you feel unwelcome on this dark enemy planet. And it all runs at a smooth 30fps and barely falters. Killzone 2 is without a doubt the best looking console game to come out yet. I am very harsh when it comes to judging a game's visuals, and the game managed to make my jaw drop many times. The sense of immersion easily rivals the best out there like BioShock and Dead Space and no amount of praise will prepare you for how good the visuals actually are.
But of course, graphics are never first. Gameplay comes first, and Killzone 2 delivers. You are a soldier, a well-toned man carrying guns and equipment, wearing a heavy and protective uniform; you're heavy. Killzone 2 has a sense of weight to it that I've never felt in a game before. It's not sluggish, it's realistic. L3 can be clicked to sprint, of course, and the game isn't "slow" per-se, but you will feel what I mean when you play it. Shooting is natural and precise, just as you would come to expect in a FPS, and the controls are tight and responsible and feel more organic and less robotic than other shooters. Aiming sensitivity can be turned up and/or down for both X and Y axis, and can be inverted. You can choose to hold the aim button to iron-sights aim, or have it so you press the aim button each time you want to switch from iron sights to cross-hairs. There are 6 controller presets, and I found the best for experienced shooter fans to be Alternate 2 and check off the option to hold Aim to iron-sights aim, as it feels a lot like Call Of Duty. There is a cover system as well, and when you hold the duck button behind cover, you can move left and right, and peek out with your gun to shoot. You can blind fire and you can pop up while holding aim to accurately and safely fire off a few shots. You WILL be using cover a lot in Killzone 2, because even on Normal difficulty, it can be a challenge. The AI is solid, enemies can take a few hits, and bosses are exciting and keep you on edge. Killzone 2 is no run-and-gun cakewalk.
The sound is quite good as well. Voice acting is well done, music is epic like expected in apocalyptic shooters, and the sound effects are on par with the best. Rico is over the top with his dialogue and incessant swearing, but really, that's in his character; as funny as it can sound, it's not forced at all. He's the hothead of the group, although sometimes the cursing can get over the top. At the worst it provides some comic relief, which is never a bad thing.
After you complete the campaign, there is much incentive to replay it. I completed it on Normal in 7 hours and 48 minutes, but only finished 49% of it. I suspect that the unlockable Elite difficulty will add at least an extra 2 hours onto the total length, and there is Intel to collect and Helghan symbols to destroy that will have you searching them out to earn Trophies and a higher campaign completion percentage. There are also the online multiplayer modes, listed under Warzone, and they are awesome. I haven't had much time to play multiplayer, but what I have played is fun, frantic, and deep. There is a ranking system, items to unlock, and a great class system to earn after you put in some play. There are also badges and ribbons to earn, and Trophies to unlock. The maps are well done, the multiplayer modes are fun, and somehow they managed to keep the visual quality almost identical to the campaign while having 32 players on the screen at once, with no lag. I have played a few full 32 player games, and it all runs pretty much perfectly. Some features that will be amazing in the long run are the excellent clan support and the intriguing tournament modes. One complaint would be the lack of co-op play, but since Guerilla Games has said that it's not out of the question, I won't factor it's absence into the overall score. Plus, the online multiplayer is so fully realized that the lack of co-op won't bother you much at all.
Killzone 2, overall, is an amazing experience. It doesn't really do anything new besides being the next big visual leap, and really making you feel the weight of a soldier, but honestly it doesn't need to, because it does almost everything better than it's contemporaries. Killzone 2 doesn't need to reinvent the wheel or even design it differently, because it feels
different and unique. Gripping story with memorable characters and a deep universe, tight gameplay, fantastic audio, challenging difficulty, bar-raising visuals, and long legs in the form of a highly replayable campaign and a deep, fleshed-out and fully-featured online multiplayer. Killzone 2 is without a doubt one of the most hyped games of all time. It exceeded all hype and expectations and turned out to be one of the best games ever made.
Story - 9.5
Gameplay - 10
Visuals - 10
Sound - 9.7
Replay - 10
Overall - 9.8 / 10