Review: Killzone 2 (Sony PS3)

coverKillzone 2
Developer: Guerrilla
Publisher: SCEA
Genre: First Person Shooter
Release Date: 02/27/2009

Killzone 2 was the game anointed by the press and fans as, “The Savior”. First announced at E3 2005 as the great silicon hope by Sony, it was later discovered the initial gameplay movie was entirely pre-rendered. Ever since Killzone 2 has been the game to judge the graphics muscle of the PS3. “Is it as good looking as that Killzone 2 trailer?” could often be heard. It’s the game that people talked about when every other game released on the PS3 left something to be desired. Didn’t dig Heavenly Sword? Don’t worry man, Killzone 2 is coming. Motorstorm do nothing for you? Trust me man, Killzone 2 is coming, keep that PS3. Much like Halo 3 or Mario Galaxy, Killzone 2 is the franchise for Sony. Does it earn that throne, or will PS3 owners simply be switching their sights to God of War 3 as their next great hope?

Story:

If KZ1 was the Nazi Blitzkrieg of France, then KZ2 is the Normandy invasion. The Helghast invaded a Vekta in the first game, and the ISA had to go to war to free that colony. After all that, the Helghast stole some nuclear weapons and now the ISA must invade Helghan, the home planet of the Helghast. After all, a space faring bad guy nation shouldn’t be allowed to possess nuclear weapons, as though a space faring nation of any sort wouldn’t have already gained the science to do so.

Anyway, the campaign starts off well and then goes wrong, leaving you and your squad to face the brunt of the fighting and presumably win the war. The story is serviceable, though it contains some disturbing dialogue choices. I mean honestly, giving the Helghast the nickname of Higs is bad enough. Having a black character talking about, “Killing those f****** Higs” or hearing him say, “That Hig had it coming” comes closer to being racist than I am comfortable with. It’s a very short leap from Higs to Higger and from there to other less savory words. Combine that with the anonymity of online gameplay and it’s a recipe for condoning the garbage that is often spewed by gutter trash online. Yes I mean you. No actually I don’t, I refuse to believe those people read.
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The story itself is actually emotionally unsatisfying. Certain characters seem to be ripped directly out of Gears of War (Dew Rag and all). The entire game seems to be intent on setting up another sequel, meaning the end of this game will leave you feeling ripped off. The fight isn’t over, and you have “developmentally challenged” people for squad mates.

Graphics:

So did Guerilla manage to live up to that E3 2005 CG trailer? Amazingly, yes. They cheat at times, as the areas you fight in are darker and usually much smokier, but it absolutely looks damned good. It’s better than Gears of War 2. Hell, it’s better than just about anything else out there.

Sound:

The score has a very epic feel to it, as though the developers realized they were going to be judged very critically and decided to make the game feel as large and dramatic as possible. The music immediately sets the tone to life or death, and nowhere does it disapoint. I could easily see myself listening to this sometime outside of the game.

The voice acting does a good job with the material they are given. From the head bad guy’s speech during the opening cinematic to the dialogue thrown around during gameplay, the voice actors are all doing a solid job of getting into character. All of the Helghast characters sound the same though, unfortunately. Maybe it’s the helmets they are wearing, I don’t know.

The game does a good job of presenting the atmosphere too. During gameplay where it’s windy, you hear it howling around you. When you are running across metal decks, you hear your feet clanging. Gunfire and explosions all sound very vivid, nothing muffled or fake sounding.

Control/Gameplay

I got this game shortly after the patch was released to fix the control dead spot, and I didn’t even know about the dead spot until after I had started playing the game and had patched it. So if you’re reading this and wondering why I’m not reaming the game for having such a horrid design flaw, that’s why. I got to it after it was fixed.

I dislike playing FPS games on the Dual Shock 3. The triggers are not what I would call natural. Being used to other FPS control layouts, it took me a little bit of time to come to grips with what KZ2 was presenting me with. They aren’t drastic changes, but I’m starting to get to the point where I would like a standardized control scheme, without constant changes all the time. It’s sort of like how in driving games, X always meant accelerate and square was always brake. Enough of the sidetracking though.
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When I did get used to the controls I found them to be bearable. Sprinting is accomplished by clicking the left stick in, while zooming is the right stick. Circle is the interaction button, X is the jump and Square reloads. R1 is your fire button, L1 is your melee, L2 is your ducking/cover button and R2 is your Grenades. Triangle switches your weapons. You can also choose between types of grenades and your knife, and holding your grenade at the ready instead of having to pull it out while holding your rifle by using the various directions on the D-Pad. I still find myself throwing a grenade accidentally on occasion, but that’s not happening nearly as often.

Cover is almost as important to this game as it is to Gears of War. In single player, you can lean against something and fire from behind it or poke your head out and fire that way. This is something that’s been left out of multiplayer for some reason, but I actually prefer the game without this feature anyway, there is less chance of getting stuck on a wall and killed when all you really want to do is duck.

The weapon selection is a little bit limited for most of the initial stages of the game. You get the combat rifle the good guys use and their pistol, or you can pick up the combat rifle the bad guys use. Slowly, too slowly for my liking, you gain access to other more interesting weaponry. Things like light machine guns, combat shotguns and sniper rifles all become available a little later on. Towards the end of the game you get the fun toys. Grenade launchers, rocket launchers and a lightning gun if you do things right can be yours for the taking.

The gameplay in single player is often taken directly from the book of making clichéd first person shooters. You are the savior who alone can do what the rest of your army cannot. Your squad are a bunch of morons who can’t shoot worth a damn and are there simply to watch you die while you baby sit them (You can revive them but strangely they cannot grasp the technology to do it themselves for you). Every time you man a machine gun in the game you will be assaulted by a wave of Helghast opponents who appear from nowhere. At some point in game you will be in a Jeep. At another point you will pilot an EXO suit. You’ll even get to storm a train.

Despite all of this clichés, I must compliment the game designers for not making use of another one by providing you with more weaponry deep into levels by having you find the dead space marine in the middle of the fortress that couldn’t be penetrated. You know, like in Halo or Medal of Honor where ammo could be found in the middle of nowhere, deep behind enemy lines. No instead of that, the designers give you a perfectly valid reason for giving you more ammunition. They crash shuttles right in front of you.

You get two other modes of gameplay in Killzone 2: Warzone and Skirmish. Warzone is Killzone 2’s online mode. You and up to 31 of your closest friends or enemies can engage in online battles to settle the fight once and for all. At least until the next round starts anyway. You have five mission types in Warzone, including Body Count (Team Death Match), Assassination (find a specific enemy and kill him while the other team tries to stop you), Search and Retrieve (Capture the Flag) as well as Search and Destroy (plant the bomb or stop them from planting the bomb) and Capture and Hold (King of the Hill). A server can be playing any one of these 5 game types during your session, and there is no loading. You win a round and it switches to the next gameplay type in the list. After the game has been won, the game goes back to the menu and a new map can be voted on.

There are perhaps ten or so maps available to play on right away, ranging from huge maps to bloodbath inducing corridor fights in maps seemingly no larger than a closet. Both have their pros and cons, but I find myself enjoying the larger maps more.

One of the nice things about Online is that you get to pick what server you want to join. There is none of this sitting around waiting for your party to join a game. You get a list of servers which show you how full the game is and what gametypes they are currently playing. If one doesn’t work, you just move on down the list. Simple and effective. I wish more games would go back to this style of server selection.
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Like many other games today, you earn battle points for contributing to the gameplay by killing or accomplishing mission requirements. These points enable you to earn new ranks and unlock new weapons. Unlike other games where this is available you can actually see how many points you need to unlock your next upgrade in Killzone 2. I found it very helpful to know that getting so many points in a round would let me unlock such and such. The game also encourages you to try and get the win for your team by increasing the points you earn during a round for a win to 1.5 per every 1 you scored. That can add up quickly. I dislike how long it takes to unlock the medic kit, as for the first few ranks the only thing you can unlock are two new weapons. I also dislike how long it takes the medical kit to recharge. I understand it’s a balancing act, but I don’t think it would have hurt to speed up the recharge a tiny bit. I don’t know, I’m not a General yet, maybe they do upgrade it at some point.

Skirmish is just online mode without online, between you and a bunch of CPU controlled bots. It’s nifty to have, especially if you want to practice on the various maps, but otherwise it’s not exactly what I would call thrilling.

Replayability

You get four difficulty levels in single player mode, and the game supports trophies, so you can finish the game at least four times if you really want to. Online is very replay friendly. In fact it’s the best online experience on the system, with only the two Resistance games coming anywhere near close to it in terms of wanting to continue playing it. Thanks to the server selection lag is hardly ever a problem.

Balance:

In single player mode, the missions get tougher the deeper into the game you get. It can get frustrating at times but it’s usually a matter of picking the right weapon to carry out the assault with. You only carry two weapons you see, your pistol and your primary weapon, whatever that might be. It could be the assault rifle or it could be a rocket launcher. You had better make sure you can make do with what’s dropped by your opponents though, as it can be tough choosing between carrying a flame thrower or grenade launcher.

The filtering system allows you to play against people who are ranked the same, meaning you can play and not concern yourself with having to face opponents who are too good for you. This is nothing new but it does feel more balanced than in previous games like Gears or Halo 3.

Originality:

killzone2bThere is not a whole lot here which constitutes originality. Instead this is a game which takes the best parts of many pervious games and molds it all together. Some of it comes out really well, and some of it doesn’t. A good game, but original it isn’t. I mean come on: Space Nazis?

Addictiveness:

Earning new ranks and unlocking new weapons in multi has so far been very rewarding, so much so that I enjoy going back and continuing. This despite the fact that as I rank up I start to encounter more and more players who are as good as or better than me at the game. As a result I’m dying more but having just as much fun. And now I’ve unlocked the Medical Kit I am earning even more points and contributing even more.

Appeal:

Well on the one side you have the borderline racist comments uttered throughout the game. On the other hand, you have a definite hit with the online gameplay. The graphics and sounds are both amazing, but the single player gameplay is so full of clichés it could have been designed by some Hollywood hack.

Miscellaneous:

Who the hell decided to make the menu thump every time you select an option? It’s distracting as hell. Also, who decided to shoe horn that horrible Sixxaxis use into the game? I don’t care if the controller has this lovely feature, I never want to have to set a bomb or open a door by twisting the stick one way and then again in the opposite direction. I get it, you guys invested in the technology. You want to remind us that you have it. I don’t care, take it out of the game. The only good use of the Sixxaxis was during the loading screen. You’re just lucky I don’t move my hands much when I’m sniping, because otherwise I would have been really annoyed. Oh well, at least the motion controls are limited to those specific events, and that they don’t occur all that frequently.

One last thing: What is with this insistence in having soldiers running around without battle helmets in combat? First Gears of War, now Killzone? I really hope some game in the not too distant future has a character take off his helmet and get his head blown to pieces right in front of you. Not for the “OH COOL” moment, but because it’s ridiculous to present that image. Macho doesn’t stop bullets.

The Scores:
Story: GOOD
Sound: CLASSIC
Graphics: AMAZING
Gameplay/Control: GOOD
Replayability: GOOD
Balance: GREAT
Originality: POOR
Addictiveness: GREAT
Appeal: ABOVE AVERAGE
Misc: VERY GOOD

Final Score: Very Good Game

Short Attention Span Summary:
Everyone who owns a Playstation 3 should probably own Killzone 2. It’s not perfect and it is rated M, but in a year where the PS3 is expected to get some really big games, 2009 has started off on the right foot for Sony with Killzone 2.

One Comment
  1. Matt Yeager

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