Here we are, four years later after the announcement of the PS3. That day, E3 shook like never before; the PlayStation 3 was announced to the masses in 2005 and with it, Killzone 2 was the first title that would show a pre-rendered trailer side by side the announcement. The trailer was shocking; it was perhaps the most talked about thing out of the entire show. Who cared about the new PlayStation, the Killzone 2 trailer looked marvelous! The trailer itself represented the PS3’s “PLAY B3YOND” slogan showcasing graphic beauty beyond all our expectations. Sadly, the trailer was indeed pre-rendered and because of that fact, Guerilla Games was then on constantly clobbered with the condemnation of their seemingly unachievable graphical standards showcased by the pre-rendered trailer. Guerilla Games defended their trailer stating that it was their goal. It was their target to get as close as possible to the legendary 2005 E3 trailer; a target that was set to push the development team to bring their A-game to the table for themselves and their fans. That target, four years later became their greatest triumph. Indisputably, Killzone 2 came remarkably close to the infamous trailer, and no doubt about it, the game we see before us is a genre redefining game for later games to follow in its footsteps.
Killzone 2 is the third installment to the series following up all of the past events of Killzone on the PlayStation 2 and Killzone: Liberation on the PlayStation Portable. While Killzone 2 picks up right after the events of Liberation, the player does not need to remember or know the back-story to comprehend the ongoing epic skirmish of the Helghasts. In a nutshell as Emperor Visari said after the last cut scene of Liberation, the Helghasts have acquired weapons provided by an ISA traitor advancing their military capabilities by years. With these weapons the Helghasts are ready to receive the ISA forces back in Helghan. The ISA, oblivious to the Helghast small acquisition and tired of the Helghast attacks on Vekta, will try to retaliate and invade Helghan believing that the Helghast spirit has been broken by their losses on Vekta. Rapidly, ISA soldiers discover that this is far from the truth. The Helghasts now have the upper hand with a new menacing weapon that “will unleash such terrible vengeance that generations yet unborn will cry out in anguish!”
Throughout the game, fans will encounter some familiar characters returning from previous titles, and a few references connecting back to previous games. Unlike the first two installments though, you will no longer be in control of known hero, Templar. This time around, you will be breathing in Helghan as Sev. Sergeant Sevchenko is now your main character that will follow the story along with the other members of Alpha Squad, Garza, Natko, and leader Rico. Though the story is not Killzone 2’s strongest point, it will have enough for a new comer to grasp on. The main themes of the game – fascism and militaristic aggression, revenge and the costs of war – are scattered across the battlefield. The story as a whole is solid; for someone new to the game it will be a normal story like any other shooter, but for fans of the game the story will be much more rewarding. For those who aren’t familiar with the first two titles, the story will feel something nothing far from the ordinary. There is parts where there will be strong voice acting, but most of the time your squad will over use swearing making it sound acted rather than something that would come natural. Further in the game, you try to make a connection with you and one of your teammates, but fail because of the lack of knowledge on his background and poor amplification on him as a character in the game. Towards the end, if you are not a returning Killzone follower, Templar will not become someone that you will be attached to regardless of what will happen, causing you not to connect with the plot. Here is where Killzone 2 fails to recap pass events of the other two titles for you to get an idea of why some of the things happening are so devastating, and why should you care. Also, the ending of the game leaves you thinking quite a lot. It definitely sets you up for a sequel, but after such impressive battle the ending feels rather weak and far from being well delivered. With that in mind, the story overall keeps you going in the game, and with such intense fight against your nemesis the Helghasts, you will be closer to the screen on the edge of your seat asking for more.
Guerrilla Games really set the standard for shooters to follow. Killzone 2 presentation is unlike any other, and what make it so good are the intense moments that are seen in just about every level. In the first level for instance, you are drop on the middle of the battlefield and had just survived some strikes from enemy forces. You saw fallen comrades basically crash into you and exploding vehicles near you, thus making you aware of how short your lifespan can be on the battlefield itself way before the game starts. These moments don’t just stop there; they are placed throughout the game making you more edgy and in constant pandemonium. The game places you open to the enemy’s line of sight, in consequence you are forced to take action immediately or suffer the consequences. Seeking for cover is one of the best actions to take, but your enemy is smart enough to know that the cover will not withstand so long before it crumbles down pressuring you to move to another position.
These striking variants are well thought of across the game. With the great presentation comes the amazing graphics that Killzone 2 possesses. Of course, it is not the same as the pre-rendered trailer, but it sure does come close to it. The lighting in the game is astonishing! When you walk into a room where the windows emit light, you will notice the glare of light striking across the room; this light effect (depending on your position) will make your vision change, as you may not be able to accurately see the enemy thus giving the game a great sense of realism. The lighting effect is well shown off in the Helgahst’s glowing eyes and lights on the ISA’s uniform that originate some amount of light. Levels ahead show you the immense sense of graphical power of the game. For example, when fighting with a flamethrower or grenades, if there is cloth near by, you can rest assure it will burn and you will see every bit of ash and debris blowing across you. The particles of fired rocket shells will be extremely noticeable blinding your sight for a few seconds. The detailed environments vary all throughout, and wind is one to be amazed of. You will definitely notice more particles going across you as you push your way to Visari’s Palace.
Sadly in regard of graphics, there are a few minor details that will pop-up here and there. As you play the game, you will be able to revive your fallen foes. This is pretty good since they tend to die a lot specially on harder difficulties, but the bad part is the electric beam that you use to revive them. It looks rather bad, and could have been done much better. You can also notice that the fire effect that comes out of the flamethrower is pretty bad compared to the overall game and the fire after it hits the floor. There are also some problems on some of the shadows and a few other things that you would need to be very attentive to catch. With that being said, there are a few sad details that might bother you like a splinter. The developers decided they didn’t need to have a mandatory installation of the game. Due to this fact, the game will pause for brief seconds while loading a new level, going into a checkpoint, and saving your progress. This is really sad because that little second takes away your feel of immersion on the game. The issue could be quickly solved with a patch allowing you an optional install, but nothing has been heard yet. That is definitely not a big issue nor the loading take much time as mentioned, but it does cause you to trance out of the game.
But don’t let that fool you; the minor details are nothing compared to the game as a whole, especially when it comes to realism. Killzone 2 is truly a beast when giving you a dose of realism. For instance, if you are one of those gamers that like to hold down the trigger and spray everything you see, you might have to think twice before doing so. The gun reacts as a very realistic gun, giving you much more sense in recoil and trying to make you shoot short burst. While highly accurate, your gun is very sensitive. Some players might have to adapt to the different guns and their recoils and actions, but this is one of the things that make Killzone 2 so realistic. Lets not forget about how those bullets you shot will impact the enemy. Every kill will certainly be different than the other. Your bullets that will impact enemy Helghast make them move in various different ways; this assures you that no two kills will be alike. Another very important thing to note is the effective use of motion sensitivity. Guerrilla finally delivered the best way to use motion sensitivity by having you turn valves with the controller. To initiate the function, simply press the action bottom and then hold the controller as if it was a real valve, then grip the valve using R1 and L1 and turn the valve, release and go back to your original position, and do it over again until the door is open. About the same happens with C4 explosives, and it is even more useful when sniping. Instead of pressing a button to hold your breath, your controller will function just like if you were holding the rifle. If you move the controller, your sights will change. Of course you are not immune to things happening around you, so even if you have the controller completely still and an explosion goes off, your vision will shake. This intelligent use of the motion sensing emerges you even deeper into the game. All this combined with the great explosion resonance done with an amazingly composed soundtrack will bring you even closer to this ongoing skirmish.
Helping you with both the sense of realism and the war against the Halghast are your fellow squad members. While they are quite useful and well prepared in most battles, sometimes they can be a really big annoyance. Your squad mates will be intelligent enough to pick out enemies you have not yet spotted, and cover their own ground. Depending on the game’s difficulty setting, your partners might take damage constantly and have you revive them. This will make you step out of cover and be open to enemy attacks – it is a good idea to revive them as they do serve of some help. Other times they stand in your way whether it is the middle of a doorway or staircase; you will have to punch them for you to be able to proceed (think of online games when there is a player in your way and you can’t move – very annoying.) The enemy AI is quite efficient as well. This time around you have to take on different enemy ranks, and each of them has their own set of weapons and skills. For instance, a grenadier will stand from a far and unload his rounds on you to come out of cover. Assault troopers will take cover and try to gain advantage slowly. Shock troopers will throw smoke grenades, and will ran right in front of you as they take their knifes out for some close quarter combat. Since your enemy will most often have mixed ranks thrown at you, this will make you think about what tactics you should use to proceed through your mission – especially if you play the game on Elite difficulty.
Mastering the game in the harder difficulty levels is a tough thing to do, which is why cover is always important. Killzone 2 uses a very realistic cover system that doesn’t let you out of your first person view. The cover system is simple, just press L2 (depending on your controller mappings) and you are now taking cover. From cover, you can blind fire, pick some shots, cook grenades, and throw them. Don’t get too comfy though, some cover points can be torn apart by a firefight, so most often you will find yourself seeking for new cover – which is great since you need to keep pushing onward. I do have a problem with the cover system though; sometimes it can be really irritating when you take cover and are killed when solid cover was too short or small. The game doesn’t let you see if you are fully covered, so some shots may come towards you jeopardizing your life – which only tends to happen in harder difficulties. Other than that, the cover system is solid, and very well implemented. Remember this is not a run ‘n’ gun game; cover is your friend.
After you have completed the nerve-wracking single player (and have probably done some trophy whoring,) you have, must, need, to give the multiplayer a good play through. In a few words, the multiplayer is breathtaking. With up to 32 players in one map, the multiplayer is very profound; it pleasures every single need all multiplayer games should have, and then some. There are two parts that you can choose from, Skirmish and Warzone. Skirmish lets you play any multiplayer map with any class offline against bots. This is a perfect place to get some practice before manning up and joining the Warzone; Warzone is your online portion of the game in which you will find just about everything you would like on an online game. There are your standard online matches like: Body Count which is Team Deathmatch; Search and Retrieve being Capture the Flag; and Capture and Hold is a zone-capturing mode. Then you have your usual Search and Destroy, and finally Assassination; In Assassination one player in your team will be selected to be the target for the rival team to eliminate. Games can be changed to fit your many needs, but usually Warzone games include each type of match mentioned above. The great thing about the multiplayer is that you play all types of matches seamlessly on one overall match.
The online experience is very powerful due to the many ways you can tackle the competition. You start out as a simple soldier with limited ammunition and one grenade, but as you keep progressing through the online service you unlock many different classes to beef-up your playing tactics. There are six badges/classes overall, composing of Saboteurs that can disguise themselves as enemies, to Tacticians that can place strategic spawn points for your teammates to use as they push through enemy lines. In order to unlock both abilities of a specific class you must be rewarded with ribbons and medals. For instance if you are a Scout, your primary ability is your near-invisible cloaking suit. To obtain a Scout’s second perk, you must perform five kills while active on your cloaking suit; by doing so, you will be rewarded with a ribbon. Do this seven more times (one each match,) and you will get a medal that will recompense you with your secondary badge enabling you to invisibly mark and spot every on-screen enemy player, broadcasting their location to teammates. After doing so you will be once again be able to unlock more ribbons and a medal to the new perk, and your reward will be the ability to use your secondary badge with any other badge to be able to combine badges at will. The fact that receiving additional badges is medal based is something that will keep players playing for many years to come. The rankings and the badges are very well thought of, and all classes have their unique ability while maintaining a great balance for an intense fair fight throughout.
It doesn’t just end there; the online portion is tremendous in Killzone 2 as promised. You also have squads that you are able to form within your team to keep in contact with four people and be able to spawn near your squad leader. The clan support in Killzone 2 is remarkable. You can make tournaments and match events for clan matches using betting Valor – the currency of Killzone 2. The clan systems as well as all other online functions are phenomenal. It is also fascinating looking at the online maps. They vary from big to fairly small, but they are all unique and outstanding. This sets you for quite an amazing experience while online. One of the maps is presented with a very heavy dust wind, while others are close to the electric towers and you can hear the thunder strike with fierce force. All of these online components mixed with the cover of Killzone.com and the ability to watch played matches in their servers makes Killzone 2 the best online experience by far – very far.
Guerrilla Games definitely delivered one beast of a game. From the stellar graphics, the immersive gameplay, thrilling action, to the deepest multiplayer experience you will ever experience, Killzone 2 is a game you will need to get your hands on. Killzone 2 is truly a genre redefining game, and games after it will need to follow its strong points to withstand against this giant. We bow to Guerilla Games on delivering one of the best FPS exclusive titles to the Sony’s PS3. Now, what are you waiting for? Go play Killzone 2!