The story picks up from the previous games, however, there is little attempt to fill in those unfamiliar with story. I haven't played Killzone or Killzone liberation; therefore I am left in the dark. Surely a recap would not have gone amiss. The setting is a future where man has went out into space and colonised many planets. Helghan and Vekta are neighbouring planets colonised long ago, long enough for the people to have diverged along different sociological and adaptive paths. Helghan is a harsh desert world and has resulted in a harsh Spartan fascist type society. On the other side of the coin is Vekta which though not shown much in this game seems more liberal.
The Helghast invaded Vekta in the last game and have been driven away by forces of the ISA. A kind of United federation. The Helghast, lead by President Visari, stole nuclear weapons from Vekta and are unable to use them at present due to codes built into the weapons. The Isa are understandably unhappy with Visari and he is to be taken into custody to answer for his war crimes. The ISA launch an assault on Helghan which has the primary objective of capturing Visari and recovering the nukes.
In an excellent scene setting movie at the start of the game we see Visari ranting against the injustice of the ISA's actions and watch as ISA ships launch and establish a beachhead on Helghan.
The character you play is named Sev, he is part of a squad under Rico and including Garza and Natko. There are also officer characters you interact with, Evelyn a scientist and Jan Templar the Captain of the whole expedition.
The Helghast are a faceless uniformed threat for the most part, however there are two main antagonists. Visari himself and his military commander General Radec, Radec is pure cardboard cut out villain, however he does give that boo, hiss, love to hate factor.
The squad are all believable distinct characters, however not enough time is spent with each to allow us to grow attached to them. When one of them is killed we are expected to care, which is hard to do.
The main thrust of the story sees you assist and escort a convoy of vehicles on the long hard fought road to Visari's palace. Along the way you will encounter many difficulties and are side tracked to disable a new defence system that Visari Deploys. Your team is stressed, Rico is hot-headed to start with and team mates are killed in action.
The story comes to a conclusion, which is within this games role as an ongoing series. You were never going resolve the story here; however main objectives are met along with the ISA getting a severe bloody nose.
There are some fairly tense dramatic moments in the story, I particularly enjoyed Radec and Templars scene together. The ending left me a little confused which I can't go into without spoiling the game.
Difficulty levels in games are essential, people of all abilities play games nowadays and there has to be that scalable difficulty to allow players of all skill levels to enjoy a game to the best of their ability. My complaint here is why are some, usually the hardest difficulty levels locked when you first play. If I want to play a game through twice I will do so if I enjoyed it. I don't need to be forced to in order to collect trophies. Too many games these days require you to play through the game before unlocking the hardest difficulty. This is transparently obvious as a way to keep people playing. I play a lot of games, if I want to be masochistic enough to play on elite the first time around why can't I.
Controls are fairly clunky on the default setting and there is a setting which emulates the Call of duty style. This should have been default. This isn't a criticism of Killzone 2 in particular. On PC FPS’s there are default keyboard and mouse layouts that rarely vary, why is this? Well, simply put these setting are comfortable for a great many people. The same goes for controller FPS and TPS layouts. The Call of Duty layout as its being called is simply the most comfortable for a large amount of people. Its common sense, not a failing, if you are making a shooter that layout is the one that works the best.
There is a cover system where you push against an area of cover and hold a button and move your stick around to peer out from behind cover. This is identical to Medal of Honour: Airborne. The cover mechanic is satisfactory, although I found myself using it less often than I should.
Where Killzone excels is peripheral activity, around eighty percent of the time there is activity going on around you that is not directly related to game play in any way. Its window dressing designed to make you feel that you are a small cog in a larger war machine, air vehicles fly and fight overhead and explosions rock the horizon.
The objectives are varied, destroy Apc's, AA guns, tanks, arc towers, buildings, open floodgates, take or defend strategic locations, also rescue missions.
The environments are expansive and detailed, in several areas there are small alternate routes or shortcuts which help you flank enemies. The environments are only destructible in a few tightly scripted areas, however, when they are they usually are blown entirely apart.
Sixaxis controls are used fairly often, the placing of detonation charges is a fairly simple manoeuvre, and is quite fun. On the other end of the scale are the large wheels which need to be turned at certain points, this mechanic does not work and should have been dropped.
There are some small puzzles which mainly involve cutting the electricity supply to gate force fields.
There are two sections of novelty game mechanics; you defend a cruiser using its emplaced guns at one point. There is also a mechanical walker/driving section. Both are fairly short and inoffensive.
Weapons are varied as you would expect, pistols, machine guns, rifles, rocket launchers, grenades, all the usual cast. The flamethrower is fun, as is the lightning gun. As with most overpowered weapons they are rationed heavily, however, their little time to shine is fun. You can only carry a limited number of weapons at a time which makes for some strategic decisions at times.
Enemies wield different weaponry and this serves as mostly the only distinction and difference in enemy types. There are armoured heavy troopers which need to be shot in the face and then shot in their gas canisters carried on their back to kill. There are bugs and spiders in some sections that attack you. Snipers have telltale red line sights to warn you of imminent demise. There are also laser trip mines left littered around.
The squad A.I. deserves mention, they are fairly usual in their behaviour, what annoyed me often was their knack of getting in your way at critical moments and getting you killed. I ended up melee attacking them whenever they got in my way.
The greater portion of the game employs a fixed amount of enemies in an area; once they are dead you know there won't be any more. At two or three stages in the game they change this system for the Call of Duty style infinite respawning enemy mechanic. I personally dislike this system; it rewards recklessness and punishes tactical play. It is also at odds with the slow and steady cover mechanic which is used in eighty percent of the game.
The final stage of the game deserves special mention for game design; it throws out the corridor shooter mechanic used so far. It brings in a sandbox type area with set objectives, which, can be taken out in any order. If only the rest of the game had used this system it would have made for a better experience. As it stands it's a reminder of what the game should have been throughout.
There are two real boss battles, the first with the flying ATAC is fairly traditional with you learning to survive and work out the pattern and tactics used to destroy it.
The final boss is a horrible almost game breaking experience. You basically end up in a square room with a balcony running all the way around it. You are forced to fight wave upon wave of heavily armed soldiers before facing off against Radec himself, who uses a cloaking device and his trademark knife attacks. I played every stage until this one on the hardest available difficulty. On reaching Radec I had to yield after much cursing and swearing and knock the difficulty down a notch to finish the game. This boss battle was just hell, not even fun. I know last battles should be hard, this one just felt cheap, mean and unfair.
Helghan is a dark industrial world a colony built with function in mind over beauty. The Helghast are portrayed as faceless fascists impassive and menacing behind their masks with their trademark red eyes. The levels are thematically similar, slums, shanty towns, industrial plants, cities; some of the indoor environments are imposing and reminiscent of Nazi German grandeur. For the most part the areas are believable as places built for a function other than gaming.
Graphically Killzone 2 is an impressive game, it runs at a good frame rate which very rarely dips below 25-30 frames per second. There is little to no screen tearing. Lighting is particularly good in most areas, while not true dynamic lighting for the most part gives a good impression of it. The character modelling is good if slightly less detailed than most. Textures are adequate if a little muddy in places. I have tried to put my finger on what is improved here over say Resistance 2. The answer is smoke and mirrors.
There is lots of particle and fog effects going on, not I stress to hide draw distance, simply to provide grime and constant movement. Dust storms howl, explosions and smoke billow, camera shakes, flashes and bangs, blood sprays. It's all a peripheral system to the actual geometry and textures. It's this atmosphere, grain if you will, that sets Killzone apart. With that basic understanding it will be easy for other shooters to emulate Killzone. I expect developers have known this since they first saw real game play and have been working to insert these weather and environment effect into their own games. Expect to see a lot of games set in dusty smog filled windy environments. There are little freezes that make you fear for your PS3's stability until you realise that these are loading pauses.
The game is mostly glitch free, for a flagship game it should be as the competitors eyes are on this game watching for a sign of weakness. There are few flaws, I did once get run down by an ally jeep as I stood on a bridge listening to instructions. Once I saw Rico wading chest deep through the metal deck of a train as if it wasn't there, on the whole though it's a very stable bug free game.
The animation of the characters is superbly motion captured; only Call of Duty 4 is in the same league and it's a tough call to make between the two. The characters seem to have good weight and grounding in their environments, essential for believability and immersion.
Music is stirring and militaristic, explosions and bangs are all present and correct. The voice work is above average.
The game employs the checkpoint system well, with only the aforementioned dog of a boss battle spoiling the perfection.
Trophies are implemented, with the usual level completion, collectible and difficulty awards. There are a good portion of online trophies to be earned for those wishing to put in many hours online.
The multiplayer game is given a lot of weight as it should be in a serious first person shooter. There are spins on the usual game modes with a rank up system which unlocks abilities. I am not a huge online gamer and didn't play too far into the online mode. I don't rank games on their multiplayer component. Sorry if you were looking to read about the online. I am afraid my reviews will never really take multiplayer into account.