Killzone 2 Review 10/05/2009


It’s excellent and flawless, but nothing unexpected.

At last, the much anticipated, PS3 only, Killzone 2. I say “much anticipated”, but it’s more of a “it took so unbelievably long to develop, that people long forgot anticipation for such a game and just generally forgot” kind of situation. Regardless, it is here and has it been worth the wait? Yes and no, but much more “yes” than “no”. It is yet another first person shooter (FPS) but this is a proper shooter, with guns, kills and explosions aplenty. It is weirdly the third instalment of the franchise, however there was a PSP production in between Killzone 1 and 2 called “Liberation”, so despite the deceptive title it is in fact the third. What happens is, way in the future a planet of warrior soldier types, called the Helghast (what a cool name) invaded an innocent little planet called “Vecta” that was looked after by the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance (ISA), a United nations (UN) of the future, but much more powerful. The ISA managed to fight them off (the story of Killzone 1) but now wishes to take control of the Helghast’s home planet, Helghan, to wipe out the threat at the source. Believing the Helghast have been hurt badly enough from the invasion of Vecta, the ISA invade Helghan hell bent on taking their inspiring commander, Scolar Visari, capture and subduing the helghast threat from the galaxy. You play regular ISA grunt soldier, Thomas “Sev” Sevchenko, as the invasion of Helghan commences. However, the Helghast are not nearly as badly damaged as the ISA believe and are definitely not going down without a fight. You are almost immediately thrust into the invasion of Helghan and it is a most epic struggle, hugely immersive and action packed.


What’s good?

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If you want to shoot guns, kill and blow stuff up then this is for you. Killzone is possibly the most accurate name for a game I have ever encountered, as that is exactly what it is – a kill zone. You have to kill, kill and kill again, and when you have killed everything that can be killed, make sure you kill them again, so that you know they have been killed, or you will be killed. The Helghast are numerous in number and heavily armed and they often pour out of bunkers and buildings firing away and you will always have to slaughter every single one of them. Even on the easiest difficulty setting every Helghast soldier will take a lot of bullets to put them down permanently, but it is a very satisfying process as they react to where they have been shot and blood splatters out of whatever part it is you have shot. You will fire with normal rifles, gun turrets, tanks and all sorts of rapid fire weapons as you race from set battle to set battle. You will very rarely have time to gather breath between fire fights as you are forced from fight to fight. It is truly action packed exciting stuff and if you’re a fan of any shooter, “Resistance: fall of man 2”, “COD4: Modern Warfare” or “Halo 3”, then this will be right up your street.



The cover system works very well. An interesting touch to Killzone 2 is the cover system which enables you to press and hold L2 when near a wall or something similar and your character will automatically snap to it. If you’re in open space you will simply kneel. This enables you to hide from gun fire, and pop up and shoot when you hit the fire button, or stay “popped up” by holding the left analog stick in the up direction. You can also do it on pillars or round corners and peek round and fire, using the analog stick in the appropriate direction. Plus you can literally do it to all surfaces just like a real battle field. It’s a bit weird at first but you get used to it quite quickly and start to wonder why the millions of shooters out there have never made such a system work as well before. You have to be careful though as you can take cover behind things that don’t really offer any cover and as a result you will get your ass shot off. You can’t really take this thing is a just a game as you have to anticipate all scenarios and contemplate all covering techniques, otherwise, as the AI is super intelligent, the Helghast will blow your head off. This is seriously real warfare so beware when poking your head from behind cover, especially on the harder difficulties.



The AI is very advanced and has scarily accurate human traits. The Helghast are not idiots. The AI of the enemy is more than ready and crafty to deal with anything you throw at them. They will always move from cover to cover, as you do, try to out-flank you, take up or move to the best positions for firing and generally act like real soldiers. The harder the difficulty the more crafty they become. They will scale ladders to avoid you if you set up a flank or strong hold, try and attack from behind and generally will act like proper soldiers. It is amazing and I have not ever seen it work as well. This makes it one of the most realistic shooters I have ever played, despite its setting/story, it is without doubt a proper fire fight and not very arcade like at all. Luckily, its not you vs. the Helghast as you have many ISA fellow troopers helping you out constantly. Plus they are just as devious as the enemy and will help you out as well as your human mate could. What makes it even better still as these two groups of soldiers will go at each other just like they would in real life, i.e., the Helghast don’t focus on you and are more than willing to duke it out with your AI pals and ignore you if you choose to cower somewhere until it’s over. You wont get very far if you do that though, as your fellow soldiers get hurt, so you have to heal them, and are not nearly as effective as you will be. This is one of the things that annoyed most about “Resistance: Fall of man 2”, a brilliant game, but the chimera would always attack you and only you, and ignore the hundred other troops shooting the crap out of them. It was just stupid. Further still, unlike Call of Duty games, the enemy will not re-spawn forever either as when they run out of reinforcements they are done for.



Despite the fictional story it’s incredibly realistic warfare. Another thing that struck me is that this is in no way an arcade style action game as it is way more advanced. On your first play through you will quickly learn that you will not ever be able to simply be “gun-ho” and run into combat screaming and firing. You will be killed instantly, even on the easiest difficulty, and I think it’s a good lesson to learn. A lot of other shooters lull you into a false sense of security that you can jump in guns blazing but this is real warfare. You will quickly learn to not ever reload unless behind cover, not to ever leave your team mates side, not to ever try and fight out of a situation if you’re covered from an elevated position and all sorts of realistic proper warfare tactics that would serve you well in any reality battle.



The graphics and sound are absolutely top notch. Are these the best visuals I have ever seen? Yes and no (more on the “no” in a bit) but they are definitely up there with the best. It’s the character detail and animation that stands out the best as it is practically flawless. Every one of your soldier pals has his own distinguishable facial features that contort and move incredibly realistically, as do the Helghast soldiers, as do all the vehicles. Every level you traverse is brimming with details and I did not experience one bit of lag or slow down. It pauses very briefly occasionally to load but it’s so short you really don’t notice. You can even see your shadow cast on to walls and floors when sun light hits you from time to time, and look in mirrors. It’s crazy. You really can’t fault them and they are some of the best I have ever seen. Added to this you have excellent background music and sound effects. The orchestral back ground music will increase and decrease in intensity depending on your current fighting situation and really adds to the drama. All voice acting is excellent, particularly Scolar Visari who is voiced by the brilliant Brian Cox, if at times they do say something stupid (if your fellow drop ship is blasted out the sky by a missile would you really feel the need to shout out “this is fucked up!”? I’m not so sure). The Helghast will shout things like “die invaders” and “burn Vectan scum” while shooting at you and have panicked shouts when you lob grenades in their vicinity. Its all very well thought out and detailed.


What’s bad?

The thing that stuck out the most for me was, although it’s technically brilliant, it does absolutely nothing new what so ever. There are no crazy weapons, the enemy are just people, the story is pretty basic and the cover system, despite it working very well, has been done before. If you have played any shooter you will have fired all these weapons, driven these vehicles and fought these fire fights before. It is a little disappointing and not as engaging as other titles. It depends what you are anticipating but I feel I should warn anyone expecting any unique combat traits, as it really does not have anything.



Despite the fantastic graphics it never really challenges itself, visually. Don’t get me wrong the graphics are very good, but you never view anything spectacular enough to be truly appreciative of them. You spend almost the whole game mooching around industrial looking buildings, alley ways and desert and you don’t really get to see anything that blows the mind, as you would expect. In “Resistance: fall of man 2” you view giant fleets of space ships, monsters the size of building’s, and several scenarios that will make your jaw drop, but this just doesn’t have anything like that. Maybe that’s why they are so good as there is nothing particularly challenging for the processor. The cut scenes are good and there a few small scenarios in the game that are awesome, such as a level on the ISA flag ship, the “New Star” towards the end, but, despite the obvious brilliance of the visuals, there is nothing to see here that will blow your mind. It’s a case of what is there is excellent, but there really is not that much there.



You can only carry one gun at a time and they take an eternity to reload. You can only have one main weapon and a pistol at any time and you cant plonk your pistol down to pick up something else, so you’re sort of stuck with it. It sucks a bit because there are a lot of situations where you need a rocket launcher but you really don’t want it as your main weapon. It would have been nice to have two main weapons and a pistol so you could have a main rifle/machine gun of some kind with maybe a shot gun or sniper rifle as back up, with the pistol for emergencies. I’m pretty sure a soldier could handle that in reality couldn’t he? Nothing is ruined except you regularly get stuck in situations where you are stuck reloading and have blown all your pistol bullets, as it is not very effective, and you will inevitably be killed. You have a knife that is possibly the most useless weapon I have ever encountered in a game. It will often take several slashes and stabs to bring down the enemy and there is not a single stealth aspect or level in this game. Plus considering you have a pistol and the ability to smack them with the butt of your gun which are far quicker to use, it does seem a little pointless. The flame thrower is also rubbish in terms of killing Helghast and it looks awful as well. I’ve seen flame effects much much better than this and in much older games as well. It’s surprisingly terrible. Furthermore, it takes so unbelievably long to reload some of the weapons, especially the shot gun. You will have to learn that you really can’t ever make a break for cover, or do anything really if it requires you to reload half way through. To be fare though, that is fairly realistic and I doubt anyone could reload as quickly as they do in some shooters I have played.



Your AI pals can get you into a lot of trouble. Despite how necessary and effective your fellow soldiers are in Killzone 2, they can often get you into stupid situations that result in your death. When your comrade takes too many bullets he gets injured and drops to the floor whilst wearily calling for help. This is where you have to run up to him and press circle which blasts the poor bugger with some sort of electrical bolt that revives him. This sucks as they often don’t get hurt unless they try some ludicrous kamikaze style sprint towards the enemy whilst shooting wildly. The Helghast are prepared for this and gun him down leaving you to run into the same baptism of fire and try and revive him before you’re turned into a human colander. As it does not really take too many bullets to put you down you will almost certainly die trying to do this. It doesn’t happen frequently but often enough, especially in the later levels, that it becomes annoying. You can just leave them there to die but you often require their help, so it is not advised. Plus, when you reach a check point or load screen, and you have left them to perish, they suddenly spring back up and are absolutely fine and ready to integrate into the cut scene. Nothing is ruined, but it’s bizarre and slightly pointless.



Finally, it is really quite hard. Even on the easiest difficulty there are going to be lots of situations that you will need to have a several goes at, particularly the final battle where you are ridiculously outnumbered for a very long time. You are stuck in one big hall fighting off a constant supply of Helghast for which seems like forever. As an example to emphasise this, you receive a trophy for completing it in less than 20 minutes! For one constant fire fight it’s a hell of a long time. The levels towards the end, when you storm the palace of Scolar Visari, are proper hard as they are huge and Helghast are absolutely everywhere, which makes it really difficult to find cover and not be outflanked. Then there is large heavily armed flying robots called ATAC’s that are really best to be avoided. You don’t encounter many of them but they are lightning fast and will constantly blast you with machine gun rounds and missiles. There is a stage where you have to fight one single handed and as it is so hard I really think the ATAC could have at least one or two weaknesses to give you a bit of an edge. It doesn’t though, but maybe that just makes it more satisfying when you do blow it up. ATAC’s are nothing though when compared to the end of game boss, one of the Helghast commanders, Colonel Radec. He is a seriously tough bastard, with deadly accuracy, super toughness, blistering speed and “Predator” like stealth. He is a most formidable foe and you will need lots of goes at him before your done. You never really encounter a scenario that’s impossible, despite how it may seem, but you will need to have a lot of attempts at some stages even on easy. Be warned.


Conclusion:

With games that take so long to produce, such as this, you do often wonder whether it’s worth it. But with Killzone 2 it makes sense as it really is pretty flawless, showing full detailed development and production. The fighting is intense and action packed, the enemy are heavily armed and highly intelligent, the visuals are excellent, as is the sound, and it really will teach the art of soldiery properly. If you don’t treat it as real warfare you will be killed a lot. There really isn’t anything new or unexpected here, but honestly, the only negatives pointed out are really just “nitpicking” so I wouldn’t take them too seriously. This is because overall it is a most excellent game and anyone who is a fan of shooters or action games would be wise to spend their cash on this. Personally, I reckon “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” threw the gauntlet down for all shooters last year and I have not seen a game top it yet. Killzone 2 comes seriously close; however, I reckon most have COD4’d them selves to death by now leaving Killzone 2 to take the crown as today’s king of the shooters. Buy it PS3 owners; it is easily the best shooter out right now. CA.


Summary:


Is it user-friendly/easy to get into? – 9.0

Everything is easy access here and simple to use. The controls are not the best ever but you will quickly adapt.


Is the story any good? – 8.5

The story is not the most engaging ever either but there are still a lot of heart string tugging and dramatic scenes.


How does it look? – 9.5

They are almost perfect, some of the best ever seen, despite not challenging themselves to hard.


How does it sound? – 9.0

It cannot be faulted. Excellent voice acting, especially Brian Cox, with dramatic background music and sound effect’s of battle.


Is it good to play? – 8.5

It’s fast paced, action packed, realistic and very entertaining. Cover system works very well. It can get a little repetitive after many weeks of play and it is quite tough, however.


When will I get bored? – 8.0

You will definitely have several goes at this, as the better you get at fighting the more you will like it. Lots of online stuff for those who like it. As I said, it gets repetitive though.


OVERALL – 9.0

Review created by C. Armstrong.

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