Killzone 2 is a great game. Unfortunately, that is all it is. “How is that a bad thing?” you ask. Well, it’s a bad thing because people were expecting Killzone 2 to be an amazing game, and it’s not.
When Guerrilla unveiled their target video for Killzone 2 back in 2005, the gaming community stood still. The video looked like any regular CG sequence; with the exception that it was projected in-game footage.
So, did it live up to 4 years of media hype? Is it the best looking console game released to date? Is it worth buying a PS3 for?
Let’s start with the first and most important question:
Is it fun?
We can almost guarantee that you will have fun playing KillZone 2.
Is it compelling to the point of being addictive? No.
Is it the kind of game you are likely to find yourself thinking about while sitting in an Economics Lecture or behind the wheel of your car on the way in to work on Monday morning? No.
It is simply the kind of game that you will be happy to fire up for an hour or two of mindless action packed gun play every now and then. While some might find it a bit disappointing, we can’t help but feel that Guerrilla made exactly the game that they were trying to make.
If you are of the opinion that first person shooters belong on the PC, then KillZone 2 is not likely to change your mind. The controls, and in particular the aiming is not easy to master unless you are a seasoned console FPS veteran.
The majority of the gameplay consists of the duck-and-cover, peak-and-shoot style action that was made famous in Gears of War. There are however a healthy variety of different tasks and encounters that help keep things interesting. Like for example, the chance to operate two different vehicles along the way (a tank and a mech) as well as different set pieces that require different tactics and weapon choices (such as the sniper rifle or grenade launcher).
There are a number of different enemy types in KillZone 2. Apart from your standard grunt type troopers, you will also have to deal with the “Heavy” – reminiscent of Bioshock’s Big Daddy but with less personality, the ATAC which is a sort of hover-copter with mini guns, tanks, snipers, RPG units, heavy machine gun nests and others, many of which will duck, dive and role at you wielding guns and knives.
The AI is one of the highlights of Killzone 2. Enemies will dive for cover, provide suppression fire for each other, lob grenades and generally employ fairly advanced tactics in the battle against the human marines.
This makes for a fairly difficult experience, often to the point of being frustrating. However, it is by no means too difficult. There were 2 sections in particular that required about 20 attempts to get past, apart from these the game was challenging and rewarding without being more than the average FPS fan can handle.
The majority of the game is played alongside an AI controlled friendly soldier. The team dynamic works well, with gameplay being noticeably easier and more fluid when working actively with your partner, as opposed to treating it like a regular single player campaign. A highlight was manipulating certain tactics to flank the Helgast troopers, giving the game a level of depth and fulfillment it is otherwise lacking.
Often my platoon would take the battle to the Helgast head-on, soaking up the majority of the fire and attention, leaving me to sneak around their defenses and attack from the side: a tactic which was incredibly effective and rewarding
The variety of weaponry in KillZone 2 could have been expanded on, with the majority of weapons falling into the generic-assault rifle category. There are however some decent alternatives that mix things up quite nicely.
This was initially a lot of fun. However, we found that it was surprisingly difficult to actually kill enemies with, as they would usually catch alight and then run off and smother the flames, before coming back for more. Campaign Kills: 1 – pathetic
VC Bolt Gun
Another cool concept weapon that was just a bit difficult to utilize effectively. It fires single bolts that stick into walls and explode after a few seconds. Unfortunately, the explosions are not very impressive and one must make a direct hit on an enemy to finish the job. Campaign Kills: 4 – poor
VC5 Electricity Gun
Undoubtedly the best weapon in the game. Unlimited ammo, automatic continuous stream-firing and the ability to zero in on targets as long as you get close enough makes it an arguably unbalanced weapon. It is a rare weapon that I only found once during the campaign, and only got to use for about 40 minutes before the mission ended and the game reset my weapon inventory. Campaign Kills: 97 – epic weapon of pure want.
STA 3 and M224- 1A Light machine guns
These are extremely similar weapons. Their high rate of fire is offset by their inaccuracy at any significant range. The biggest drawback is that their high rate of fire quickly exhausts ammunition, and their slow reload speed is likely to get the player into more than a few sticky situations. Campaign Kills: 17 – looks and feels cool, but is ultimately impractical.
VC9 Rocket Launcher
The problem with the rocket launcher in KillZone 2 lies not with the weapon itself, but rather with the enemy A.I. As soon as they spot a vapor trail headed their way they take cover, making it a tricky weapon to use effectively. One does get used to this, and it does play an important role in the game, such as clearing out enemy bunkers or congested corridors. Campaign Kills: 37 – it has its place.
M327 Grenade launcher
One of the more enjoyable weapons in KillZone 2, it packs a decent punch and does what any self respecting grenade launcher does – blows stuff up. Campaign Kills: 31 – it’s a grenade launcher!
VC32 Sniper Rifle
We had a lot of fun with this one. One level is particularly well suited to this weapon, allowing the player to run amidst the chaos of a moving battlefield, find cover and strategically pick off RPG infantry from a distance. It is defiantly not for console FPS noobs, as it requires a fair degree of control and ability in the aiming department.
I am generally a big fan of shotguns in FPSs, especially in confined spaces. However, I found the LS13 a bit I disappointing, as it did not pack as much punch as it should have, often taking two shots to the chest at 5m to take down an enemy. It also has a slow rate of fire which can be very frustrating when you are being rushed by a knife wielding Helgan trooper.
M82, STA 52, STA14 assault rifles
These three weapons were virtually indistinguishable in terms of their practical application. Aesthet differences are about as far as it goes, with very subtle discernable differences in accuracy, range, damage and rate of fire. This was a noticeable flaw, as the majority of the game is played with these weapons. More imagination could have gone into what are essentially three generic weapons. Campaign Kills – 197 the “Mcdonalds” of the Killzone II armory.
There is also a healthy assortment of grenades, a handy combat knife and two different pistols.
As is becoming increasingly popular with modern FPSs, KillZone 2 lacks a health bar. This is not a bad thing nor do we see it as a good thing. Like the Call of Duty series, the player will die if they take too much damage in a short period of time. Simply duck behind a wall for a few seconds in order to regenerate, and you are good to go. While this is not realistic, it is no less believable than the concept of stumbling into a generic health pack and using it to instantly repair that gaping hole in your chest. Most importantly, the system works, and it keeps things moving without being too forgiving.
Without getting into too much detail here, I will say that KillZone II will not win any awards for its storyline. Having said that, it does an adequate job. You are most likely to enjoy it if you simply let the cheesiness slide and go with it.
Let yourself get caught up in the ridiculous concept of a human army invading an alien planet seeking revenge, and you may just have some fun. It’s like a Vin Diesel movie; ridiculous, but if you are willing to give in to it, then you may actually be able to extract something worthwhile.
Graphics, physics and sound
To be honest, it does not look as good as I had hoped.
The visuals lose points for lacking imagination or creativity. However, the level of detail is excellent, and so are the various effects such as explosions and reflections etc.
It is undoubtedly a very slick exterior, if a little bit bland. The locations all look alike, giving the game a sense of sameness throughout, which essentially ties in with KillZone 2’s Achilles heel – It plays it safe and lacks imagination.
The character animations are very tight, with realistic facial reconstructions and detailed armor plating and weapon designs. To be frank, in game character rendering has never looked better.
The game also feels very good, with an excellent physics engine holding things together. Guns recoil and react with a realistic sense of force. Explosions will shake the ground causing your movement to stagger and your controller to vibrate, actually making it difficult to aim.
Headshot an enemy and it is likely that you will remove his helmet. He will then duck for cover, as the helmet is projected into the battlefield. Shoot a running enemy’s legs out from under him and watch as he cartwheels with a realistic sense of weight, it’s all very exciting stuff really.
The sound is also a standout feature of the game, if you can forgive the ridiculous amount of swearing. The use of adult language is abused, it’s that simple. It lacks impact and almost feels like a 50 cent video shoot at times. The sounds effects are brilliant though, with mighty bassy grumblings pushing the force of every explosion deep into the player’s chest. The guns will rattle off with unique and convincing vigor and the earth will groan with unyielding realism.
The music was also well selected. Deep orchestral compositions help set the tone for what is ultimately a fairly epic single player campaign.
KillZone 2 is a technical masterpiece that unfortunately lacks imagination. It does however make up for this short coming with a solid action packed thrill ride that is not likely to disappoint anybody with realistic expectations.
I finished the single player campaign in 9.5 hours, making it a bit shorter than I would like. There is however a decent multiplayer element which I explored briefly, but was limited by the fact that the game has yet to be released.
We are eagerly awaiting the launch of the multiplayer servers, and will update the review as soon as we have sufficient hands-on experience with this element of the game.
If you own a PS3 and have been jealously resenting Xbox 360 owners for Gears of War, then Killzone 2 is what you have been waiting for.
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