Single player review
Killzone 2 is the Playstation 3’s answer to the lack of first person shooter exclusivity the console has suffered since its release. Resistance never captured a wide audience, and Microsoft has enjoyed an unparalleled FPS dominance with Halo, and for a good while Bioshock too. So an awful lot is riding on the shoulders of Guerilla’s FPS, not least of all because it is the sequel to a distinctly average Playstation 2 title.
But Guerrilla has little to be concerned with.
The campaign begins familiar to those who played the demo or witnessed the E3 video of 2005. Swooping down from enormous ISA carrier vessels Sgt Tomas Sevchenko and team crash down on Helghan, home of the Helghast. From here a battle of overwhelming technical phenomenon commences.
Unlike Halo or Gears of War, Killzone 2 pits you as a grunt, making the game as much about survival as it is any superfluous objective it half-heartedly throws your way.
The Helghast are a robust fighting force. Capable of withstanding an onslaught of bullets and are also tactical fighters, they offer a challenge of both wits and aggression. They’ll roar tactics across the battlefield, instructing one another on how best to defeat you. They’ll flank and grenade you, utilise the world around them whether that’s by taking cover, resorting to higher ground to get better sight of you, firing at explosives near your position, or charging knife-in-hand whilst you’re reloading. Each of the Helghast is perfectly apt at killing Sev, and passed the first difficulty setting (of which there are four) failing to utilise the cover system is a one way ticket to a quick death.
But impressive AI and even more remarkable motion capture technology is only half of what makes Killzone 2 remarkable, because the game is a technical Godzilla. Graphically, artistically as well as in the more conventional sense, the game is breathtaking. From the distant smoke scarring a red hue horizon to the shattering of the concrete as bullets ricochet in 5.1 surround, the realistic handling of the weaponry and astounding character models and animation, Killzone 2 has won the race whilst the competition are still warming their engines.
This wizardry extends far beyond the blatant. Taking a moment to pause underground, rubble and dust collapse from a crevice above, amidst a calming battleground ash and dust cascade, smoke blooms from the burning carcass of a tank, and bullet shells lay in a grave about Sev’s feet. During a mission into a desert environment, sandstorms skew your vision, grenades are caught in the wind, and small bug-like creatures scurry away from your intruding footsteps. It’s an absolutely stunning achievement, saturated in atmosphere, so unrivalled it’s difficult returning to anything else.
There’s an argument to be fought with regards to that which the game truly offers. The narrative is weak, and much regarding the Helghast story is omitted. To the newcomer the fight appears little more than a paradigm red versus blue affair. Anyone having played the original Killzone will know the Helghast were once part of the less demonised human race, but here all the minor details are dismissed. It’s a shame, but the narrative is spared and instead replaced by the immersion of war. The battles feel real, fought for by soldiers deprived of superhuman abilities. Whether or not the lacking narrative is a flaw is subjective but having experienced it twice, I’m certainly on the side of it not being so.
Disappointingly though, Killzone resorts to the genres worst traits as well as borrowing the best. Sequences manning gun turrets, riding in mech suits, and fighting scripted bosses do little but highlight the genres artificiality and are less than welcome interruptions to the far more enjoyable set pieces and struggled battles. These sections leave a palpable sour taste, giving birth to frustration in bundles, and fun frugally.
Aggravation again riddles the control system. Whilst the sluggish controls suit the general weighted feel harboured by the game, none of the control systems will feel adequate to those used to Call of Duty. Alternate 2 is similar, yet by choosing that closest to the familiar COD configuration, the cover system becomes havoc. A fumbling attempt to attach Sev to cover (L2), take aim (L1), and then shoot (R1), whilst aiming as well, is fashionably woeful.
As too is the friendly AI. Whilst the Helghast are top of the class for intelligence, Sev’s allies are bottom set. He’ll regularly have at least one of them along for the ride yet they’ll rarely assist you in battle. Instead they’ll cry out for Sev to find cover, as opposed to joining in the fight themselves.
Despite being useless for the majority of the game, they’re at a worst lying in a heap on the ground. Routinely falling at the sound of a Helghast soldier shouting a harsh word, they’ll roll and shout for you to pick them up. They have a habit of doing this as near the Helghast as they can manage, and so rushing to save them rapidly results in a quick game of Duck Hunt for the Helghast, all of which are exemplary students at the sniping academy. Gears of War and Dom spring to mind.
Yet having finished it, I immediately returned for another battle. It borrows everything from the genre, for better and worse, and polishes itself with technical enchantment. If Guerrilla had set out to revolutionise the genre then it would be a remarkable failure, but they didn’t. Instead Killzone 2 is everything it always promised to be.