By Kailash Karkera
Killzone is one of those unlucky franchises that has always made gaming headlines for all the wrong reasons. The original title was billed as Sony’s answer to HALO and rode on tremendous pre-release hype before it fell flat on in its face on release. The sequel, Killzone 2 also made a controversial debut when Sony tried to pass of a CIVG target render as actual gameplay footage for its then upcoming PlayStation 3. Ever since that infamous trailer, Amsterdam based developers, Guerilla Games, have been under tremendous pressure to deliver, and having played a big chunk of the single player campaign recently, I can safely say that Killzone 2 has all the makings of a fine, fine shooter. If the game’s second half is as good as its first, then Killzone 2 has a great chance to deliver on all the promises the developers made half a decade ago.
Initial impressions can be very misleading; at first glance Killzone 2 might appear to be a futuristic version of Call of Duty. But it’s when you actually get down to playing it that you realise how different both are. For starters, Killzone 2 controls nothing like Call of Duty or any other shooter for the matter. If you read our PlayStation Experience preview, you’ll know that weight plays a big role in both the movement of your character and the handling of the guns. This unusual control mechanism can take a while getting used to and may feel sluggish and unwieldy at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be lining up for those headshots in no time. The controls do have their problems though, like holding the shoulder button to crouch or to go into cover and using the iron sights from that position. The somewhat complicated control scheme, along with the little to no aim-assist and the punishing difficulty can make Killzone 2 a very intimidating experience not only for the newer players, but also for FPS veterans and that might turn to be the game’s biggest problem on release.
This time around it’s the ISA that has decided to take the fight to the helghast on their own planet. Already weakened by the events of the previous two games, the ISA plan to capture the helghan emperor Scholar Visari and finish the fight once and for all. The developers use a very muted colour palette to capture their vision of the war-torn industrial world of Helga and make some excellent use of the different weather effects to convey the harshness of the alien planet. Most noticeable of this is the lightning, which plays an important role, not only as a visual gimmick but also as an integral part of story. The levels we played were not only diverse in the way they looked, but also in the way we get to play them, offering both close corridor encounters as well as set pieces that took place in open warzones. While the levels themselves were fairly linear, it never feels that way, mainly because the game never holds your hand and points you towards your next objective. This can lead to moments when you truly feel like exploring the unknown planet, but on the downside, it can get extremely frustrating at times. Thankfully, the developers have confirmed that this will be fixed before the final release.
One marked improvement over the older build is the A.I. The enemy A.I in the game is not only smart, but is also very aggressive. The helghan soldiers make excellent use of cover, changing their positions quickly and covering their soldiers trying to flank you. They’ll also chase you down if you stay hidden in cover or a position for too long. What makes the skirmishes more fun is that they are completely dynamic and never feel scripted, so for example, you can approach a scenario and the helghast solider will use a different tactic every time. Another area where it succeeds is that there is no constant re-spawning. Waves of enemies don’t keep coming till you cross an invisible line. This allows you to play the game at your own pace and can make battles extremely engaging, since you don’t have to worry about finding the next checkpoint. At any given point of time, you are accompanied by one or more members of your alpha squad. There are also moments where you’ll fight along with dozens of friendly NPCs. Sadly, the friendly A.I at this time feels unfinished; they are either too defensive or go all guns blazing and end up getting killed. The game also lacks an online co-op mode which is a big, big downer. Guerilla has hinted that they might patch it post-release, but it might end up being a case of too little, too late.
As you may probably know by now, Killzone 2 looks absolutely stunning. Without going into each and every detail, I can tell you that even if you have seen the screens, watched all the videos and played the PlayStation Expereince demo, you will still be completely blown away the first time you see the game running on your system. It completely obliterates everything available on the PS3 or any other system for that matter. Every facet of the visuals is striking and painstakingly detailed, be it the excellent smoke effects, the lightning that illuminates the sky at regular intervals, or the cables swaying in the wind. The frame rate is rock steady and it doesn’t suffer from either screen tearing or texture pop-in. Audio is this build was clearly un-optimised. There were numerous issues with dialogues and music would cut before completion. On the other hand, the sound of the different guns and the various other environmental effects were extremely well done.
By Amol Katkar
Another impressive aspect of Killzone 2 is its multiplayer. In this day and age, it’s not easy for a multiplayer shooter to set itself apart from the crowd, unless it has that hook. And the hook here is the class-based combat and ranking system. Killzone 2 combines the best aspects of TF2 and COD4’s Perk system in a way that’ll keep you occupied for a very long time.
You start off as Soldier, which is the lowest rank of all. You’re pretty much locked out of all the abilities and forced to learn stuff like the layout of map, various objectives and see how other players use their classes to complete each objective. It sounds a bit harsh and you do die a lot during your first few matches, but soon, the player starts memorising his way around each map, knows which areas are most travelled, where the chokepoints are, and which are the hiding and camping spots. It’s a brilliant system, because it teaches the player how to use each class on a particular map for a given objective, and which ability has the upper hand in a given situation. For example, on Blood Gracht map, which is mostly made up of narrow alleyways, an Engineer is the most important class for ‘Capture and Defend’ objective, because he can set up turrets around all the chokepoints and stop the opposing team before your team even has to use its guns. On Salamun Market, which is a big open map with numerous hiding spots, a Sniper class with cloaking ability can dominate the entire game, while on Radec Academy, where you have to cross a wide open courtyard before entering the enemy base, a tactician with his ability to call in air support and throw portable spawn points can tip the balance of combat. Knowing the layout of a map and strength and weakness of your class are the key to getting the upper hand, and it doesn’t matter if you’re slow and clumsy when it comes to actual aiming and shooting.
What separates Killzone 2 from other class-based multiplayer games, however, is the ability to mix and match class specialties. Each class has a secondary function, which you can unlock by properly using the class and getting enough points. You can then combine that secondary ability with any other class. So you can have a Medic that can repair turrets and ammo stations, or you can have Sniper who can throw a beacon and call in air support, or a Tactician who can set up C4 around his spawn point so that his team doesn’t get butchered by spawn campers. It’s up to the player to decide what best suits his style, and adds the kind of flexibility which goes beyond unlocking costume colours and custom emblems. And even with so much stuff to unlock and use, the combat is surprisingly balanced for most part. And the lack of a cover system in multiplayer really gives it that fast paced tactical feel without turning it into run-n-gun gameplay.
Technically the Killzone 2 multiplayer looks and sounds as good as the single player game, which makes it the best looking multiplayer game on PS3 till date. There are some instances of slowdown and occasional lag when the action gets too frantic, and there are some delayed animation glitches which results in way too many double KOs. But considering this is the early beta, most of these issues should be fixed by the time of release.
Despite some small niggles, Killzone 2 is shaping up nicely. It’s very rare for a sequel of a mediocre game to generate as much hype as Killzone 2 is doing, but this time around, the game actually deserves it.