Reviewer: Kailash Karkera
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you probably know about a little shooter named Killzone 2. As Sony struggles with PS3 sales, it begins the year with the launch of what might be the biggest project to come out of the platform maker’s stable since The Getaway. So we have Killzone 2, Sony’s great big hope for 2009, which they hope will turn the fortunes of its much criticised console. And now without wasting your time anymore, I’ll get to the point. Killzone 2 is an incredible title. Not only is it the best looking game ever made, it is also hands down one of the best gaming experiences currently available on the PS3.
One reason why Killzone 2 works is because the developers never resolve to using gimmicks around the core gameplay. You won’t get any fancy powers like controlling time, nor will your character get super human powers midway through the game. Its hook lies in the two things – the absolutely stunning audio-visual presentation and intense gun combat; and on both counts, Killzone 2 delivers an unmatched experience.
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Immediately on booting up the game you’ll witness a crisply edited pre-rendered intro video, which sets the tone for the gorgeous real-time graphics that follow shortly after. By now you probably know that this game looks good. How good? Simply put, by the time you complete the game, you will run out of superlatives to describe the graphics. If you are one of those, who were tricked into buying the PS3 after watching that CG trailer 4 years ago, then trust me, you won’t be disappointed. What makes it more impressive is that the game is filled with various small details like the winds affecting the trajectory of grenades, pieces of debris flying all over, and chunks of the environments being destroyed. Many such details bring the planet of Helghan to life. And even with all this going on, the frame rate remains rock–solid and never drops.
Taking place directly after the events of Killzone: Liberation, the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance or the ISA take the fight to the planet of Helghan to capture its emperor, Scholar Visari, and bring the long running war to an end. You play Tomas ‘Sev’ Sevchenko, who is accompanied by his Alpha squad buddies Rico, Garza and Natko. But they soon find that defeating the ‘Higs’ on their own planet might not be as easy as they initially thought. Not only do they make a formidable opponent, but they also use the planet’s extreme weather and other resources to their advantage. Truth be told, Killzone 2’s story, for most part, goes nowhere. It’s only towards the final few hours of the game that the story picks up, providing a couple of shocking twists along they way as the tide of war turns in the favour of the Helghast, and finally ends in a brilliant climax. It’s somewhat preachy, but the ending will stay with you long after you’re done with the game.
If you read our old previews, you should get a fair idea on how the game controls. Guerrilla have made a few changes since the last build, so the controls are a bit more free flowing (the addition of a toggle for iron sights) and the recoil has been reduced a bit and feels much better now. Killzone 2 has arguably one of the most intense and visceral gun combat systems ever to grace a videogame, complete with a cover system that remains in first-person view throughout. The heavier feel of the guns combined with momentum-based movement means Killzone 2 controls unlike any other first-person shooter currently available on the market. Love it or hate it, but in today’s time where every second FPS plays the same, Killzone 2 feels refreshingly different.
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The realistic nature of the game extends to its weapon selection as well. Sev is limited to carrying just one main rifle and a handgun. Most of the guns in the game are based on real world counterparts. The ISA assault rifle with the scope and its Helghan counterpart, the SMG, the shotgun, the rocket launcher, and the grenade launcher complete the standard weapons package. Then you have the cooler ones; a sniper rifle that makes some brilliant use of the SIXAXIS motion sensors, a flame-thrower and a nail gun that are incredibly fun to use, and lastly the Helghan electricity gun that you get very late in the game. It’s the only sci-fi gun in the game and once you lay your hands on it, you won’t want to drop it.
What makes some of these guns satisfying to use is the hit-response system Guerrilla Games have created. Each bullet you fire in the game will have its impact and this can lead to some gruesome over-the-top death animations. And just in case you missed our previous previews and forum discussions, whatever you do, do not play this game without a DUALSHOCK 3 controller.
The iconic baddies of the series, the Helghast, come in various shapes and sizes. Most of the enemy classes you’ll face might look the same, but they use different tactics. While once class of Helghast will try to get close to you and melee you with their knives, others engage you with long range firefights or use short range weapons like the shotgun or SMG to engage you in close quarters combat. You’ll also run into classes from the multiplayer like snipers and assault troopers, who won’t hesitate to use heavy firepower against you and your squad.
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There are also the occasional mini boss fights like the Big Daddy-inspired heavy soldiers and the ATAC flying drone. The game’s only real boss fight is against General Radec, and he’ll make sure that you won’t forget this battle anytime soon. Backing them up is the excellent AI. Even on the easiest difficulty, the game provides you with a good challenge. Pump the difficulty anything above Normal/Trooper and Killzone 2 can be a very unforgiving game.
Once you’re done with the single player campaign, you can jump right into the class-based multiplayer, which borrows heavily from the likes of Team Fortress 2, Call of Duty 4 and the ribbon system from Sony’s own Warhawk and Resistance. You start off as a basic grunt and as you gain more points and rank up, you’ll unlock more classes and weapons. You can even mix and match class badges to your liking so you’ll never run out of options.
The main game type here is called Warzone, where your objectives will change on the fly, so one moment you might be defending something and a few minutes later, you’re part of an assassination mission. It works brilliantly without breaking the flow of the game or going into the menu every few minutes to start a new game. Killzone 2 supports up to 32 players online and in case you don’t find many people playing online, you can always add bots to liven up the proceedings. If you don’t have an internet connection or can’t use it for some reason, then you can select Skirmish mode, where you can play with 15 bots of variable difficulty offline. The game also has some cool integration with the Killzone.com website, tracking all your stats, etc and a very deep and robust clan system.
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There are a couple of downers in this otherwise excellent package. Firstly, the game lacks a co-op mode. Does it hurt the game? No. But it would have been an excellent addition to the already excellent campaign, especially on higher difficulties, where the game’s AI can be pretty ruthless. The game also might be criticised for the lack of variety in its missions, but then again, Killzone 2 was never meant to be a revolution for FPS games and, as I pointed out earlier, the developers avoided using gimmicks to differentiate their game from others. It also shows the tremendous confidence the developers have in the game’s shooting mechanics.
Killzone 2 is a triumph on many levels. For Sony, their wait for a flagship shooter that can compete against the Halos and Gears of Wars has finally ended. For the internet fanboys, they now have more ammo in the on-going battle of console supremacy. For gamers like us, we get to experience one of the finest shooters of this generation, and for Guerrilla Games, who have been under tremendous pressure ever since that infamous E3 trailer, Killzone 2 is their moment of reckoning and they couldn’t have asked for a better result. For people who don’t own a PS3, Killzone 2 is one of the strongest reasons to get one. If Killzone 2 can’t convince you, then nothing ever will. If you already have a PS3, mark your calendars and get ready to be Killzowned.
(+) Amazing audio-visual presentation
(+) Sweet campaign and excellent multiplayer
(+) Superb AI
(-) Steep learning curve can be overwhelming at times
(-) Lacks co-op
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Reviewer: Sameer Desai
Up until three months ago, Killzone 2 didn’t interest me at all. It looked colourless and besides a flurry of explosions going off everywhere, nothing about its initial videos really seemed to separate it from a dozen other first-person shooters already out. Then I saw (but didn’t play) an early build at PlayStation Experience in November, and it grabbed my attention.
Three months and a beta hands-on later, I have now finished the final game and can only look back at my initial comments with embarrassment. I don’t play too many shooters so you could say I’m easily impressed, but Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was my personal benchmark for what a shooter in this generation should be, and I’m happy and surprised to say that Killzone 2 has surpassed it.
What straight away set this game apart from others is how clever the AI is. Sure, they may seem a little dull in close quarters combat, but most of the time you’re going to be shooting at them from a distance; and they won’t make it easy for you. For starters, they constantly switch cover positions and flank you when possible. If you lob a grenade at them, they’ll run for their lives as they see it coming, so the only way to kill the enemy with a grenade is to cook it.
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Even on the lower difficulties, this is not a run-and-gun shooter; that approach would be suicidal. Instead, you are required to use the game’s intuitive cover system. The AI makes taking cover all the more necessary, because every now and then, the enemy will go on the offensive and come after you if you decide to camp or play it safe. One thing I really loved about the enemy AI system is that they don’t keep spawning until you cross an invisible line on the map. There are a fixed number of enemies in an area, and knowing that, you can take your time picking them off one by one. It’s so much more fun this way.
The environments themselves aren’t really out of the ordinary; most of them have the industrial wasteland feel to them. Since this is a planet neither of us have ever seen, I wish they would’ve taken more artistic liberties with the Helghan environment. But there are a couple of levels that will make you sit back in awe and these do somewhat take away from the otherwise drab environs of Helghan. Most of the levels allow for multiple paths to the next checkpoint but this also means that the enemy can and will flank you, leading to more adrenaline-pumping gun battles.
While combat is thrilling and thoroughly satisfying, every now and then the game will throw boss fights at you. These boss fights, simple and fun, may have received a lot more appreciation if the regular weapon combat wasn’t so brilliant. As they stand, they serve to mix the gameplay up a bit and are anything but boring. You also get your hands on some really, really cool weapons, which I’ll leave for you to discover. Early in the game, you will be asked to man a Helghast anti-aircraft gun. If there was ever a reason to own a DUALSHOCK 3 controller, this is it. And there are a few more reasons later in the game as well.
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You don’t really expect much in terms of a story from a military shooter, and there isn’t much of a story here either; not until the last few levels at least. But you’re never made to feel like a soldier without a purpose either. There’s also something very cool about playing a soldier, who may not necessarily be fighting for the good guys. And since it’s almost certain that there will be more Killzone games on the way, it’s a relief to see that this one doesn’t end in a cheap cliff-hanger. The ending didn’t shock me, but it brought a smile to my face and made me look forward to Killzone 3. And I think that’s exactly what Guerrilla were going for.
My past experiences with shooting games usually ended when the credits rolled on the single-player campaign; maybe a stab at some co-op, but online multi-player never interested me. And despite all the praise Killzone 2 had been receiving for its class-based multiplayer system during the closed beta, I didn’t think this time it would be any different. But having played it now, I’m hooked.
Besides moving up through various classes, you’re also handed out ribbons for clearing various personal, team, and mission objectives. It’s all quite addictive and the main Warzone mode is a mix of various match types, including variations of assassination, search and destroy, team deathmatch, and capture the flag. In the few hours of multiplayer that I tried, not once did I notice any lag (there are some delayed death animations, but nothing that affects gameplay or makes you feel cheated).
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If you don’t have a good enough connection, you can always try Skirmish mode, where you can take to one of the multiplayer maps along with 15 bots. Bots can also be used online in case you don’t have enough players. Playing with bots may seem an unattractive proposition now, but these bots are no pushovers. Even on normal/trooper difficulty, they travel in packs, cook grenades, protect assassination targets and guard target zones by the numbers. In short, they are great substitutes when you don’t have enough human players to fill up a map.
Fans of shooting games probably don’t need my opinion on Killzone 2 to decide whether they should get it; they can read KC’s review for that. But for those like me who aren’t crazy about the genre, but want to know what all the fuss is about, here’s the deal – Killzone 2 is a game that you just have to play; not because it’s a great shooter, but because it’s a great game period; one of the best available on the PS3. It looks fantastic and there isn’t an adequate superlative in my vocabulary to truly justify the visual quality. Co-op is sadly missing and the campaign is on the short side, but everything else more than makes up for it. Buy Killzone 2; it is incapable of disappointing.
(+) Intense gun combat; stellar enemy AI
(+) Visually unmatched
(+) Deep, addictive multi-player
(-) Lack of co-op
(-) Rather short campaign
IndianVideoGamer Verdict: 8/10 (Buy)