Killzone 2 Review

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I did not get the PlayStation 3 at launch but there were some games I really wanted to play that were exclusive to the system. Resistance and Killzone 2 being two of them. Other than that, most of the games I wanted to play were multi-platform and I already had them for Xbox 360.  Eventually I did buy a PS3 and I think Resistance was the first game I got for it. I think Killzone 2 was next and at that time, I had never played the first Killzone but I didn’t care. I remember everybody was talking about Killzone 2 and it’s often considered one of, if not the best first-person shooter for the PlayStation 3. Developed by Guerilla Games and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, Killzone 2 was released in February, 2009. The story takes place two years after the events of the first game, and this time, the ISA take the fight to Helghan, home planet of the Helghast.

Some characters from the first game return including Jan Templar and Rico Velasquez. Jan is now a colonel and is sent to attack Pyrrhus, the capital city of Helghan, with the goal of arresting Emperor Scolar Visari. One of the ISA units taking part in the attack is Alpha Squad led by Rico and serving under him is the protagonist of the game, Tomas “Sev” Sevchenko. So this time around, you’re playing as one character instead of multiple. Preventing Alpha Squad from reaching Visari, is Colonel Mael Radec, commander of the Helghast second army and you’ll traverse through a variety of Helghan locations pushing back enemy forces, eventually reaching Visari Palace for a final showdown. Killzone 2 is all about the war and less about the characters. Compared to the first game, the story is a bit more interesting here but I don’t think any of the new characters are fleshed out enough but the voice acting is decent. Brian Cox returns to voice Scolar Visari and gives the best performance even though the character doesn’t really have many lines throughout the campaign. The other stand out voice actor is Sean Pertwee who voices Colonel Radec. Interestingly enough, he voiced General Hakha in the first game. Most of the dialogue is okay, there’s a lot of swearing, and because I found it hard to get attached to any characters, most of the attempted drama falls flat. Killzone 2 is all about shooting Helghast and, shit, is it fun.

Killzone 2 includes four difficulty modes – Recruit, Trooper, Veteran, and Elite which must be unlocked. I have beaten this game before on Trooper so this time I completed it on Veteran and it does provide a decent challenge. Sev can walk, run, sprint, jump, crouch, man turrets, and perform a melee attack. Now you can snap to cover and lean out to shoot at enemies and iron sights is also introduced. Taking cover is essential in this game and is the only way you can really stay alive during hectic firefights. Instead of finding health packs, Killzone 2 employs a regenerating health system and now you can only carry two weapons instead of three. You’re always equipped with a sidearm, like a pistol, with infinite ammo and you can only swap it out with another pistol. This makes deciding what primary weapon you want to carry a little more important because some weapons are better for specific situations. Sev is also equipped with a knife and can carry multiple grenades including frag and electric grenades that electrocute enemies upon impact. This game utilizes the PS3 controller’s SIXAXIS motion-sensing technology and, honestly, I forgot this was even a thing. At several points in the game, you’ll need to rotate or turn the controller, usually to turn a valve or plant explosives. This feels more like a gimmick than anything because it really adds nothing to the gameplay. There are collectibles of sorts that you can find in each mission including intel and destroying Helghan symbols. Destroying all of the Helghan symbols rewards you with an achievement and collecting intel rewards you with unique content on Killzone.com which I don’t believe is available anymore. I tried launching the website from the main menu which took me to a blank page but I did log into the site on my computer and couldn’t find any unlocked unique content for the game.

Many of the weapons from the original Killzone return including the M82 Assault Rifle, StA-52 Assault Rifle, the LS13 shotgun which is now equipped with a flashlight, and the M327 Grenade Launcher among others. Unfortunately, the developers felt the need to remove the alternate fire modes and I’m not really sure why. There is wide array of new weapons including the VC32 Sniper Rifle which is also utilizes the SIXAXIS technology to keep your aim steady. You have one opportunity to acquire the VC5 Arc Rifle which can fire electric blasts and is easily one of my favorite weapons in the game. It’s just fun electrocuting enemies, watching them girate, and scream in agony. Another standout weapon is the VC21 Boltgun which fires high speed bolts that can pierce enemies, sending them flying, even pinning them to walls before finally exploding. You’ll also get your hands on a VC9 Rocket Launcher, StA-3 Light Machine Gun, StA-11 Submachine Gun, StA-14 Rifle, and even a VC1 Flamethrower and, yes, it’s fun burning enemies alive. Just like the first game, the guns feel very satisfying to shoot and have a chunkiness about them, making the gunplay feel awesome. But also like the first game, this is a very slow-paced game. Everything feels heavy. The way the guns feel, the way you move, the way the enemies move, but it also feels somewhat realistic. Enemies realistically spin, fall, and topple over after a few well placed shots, as their blood splatters all over the walls and ground. Combat can be very intense in Killzone 2, something the first game was never able to truly capture.

Most of the enemies, especially in the early missions, are made up of Assault Infantry Troops but as you progress you’ll come up against a whole roster of different enemy types. Shock Troopers, snipers, rifleman, commandos, pyro troopers, and the heavier types which can be seen as mini-bosses. Unfortunately, there’s only two heavy-type troopers and they both require the same strategy to defeat. They’re both heavily armored and require you to shoot and blow up the tanks on their backs. The Heavy Trooper is equipped with a chaingun and the Arc Trooper is equipped with the VC5 Arc Rifle and that’s the only real difference. The Arc Trooper seems more like a traditional boss character since you only need to fight one of these guys and it’s in a small arena. Another boss type enemy is the ATAC which is this large flying drone equipped with a machine gun or chaingun and can even fire rockets.  Later in the game you’ll have to deal with Sentry Bots which are like smaller versions of the ATAC but don’t fire rockets. Now the enemy AI has been significantly improved since the first game and enemies now pose a real threat. They’ll do the basics like shoot at you, snap to cover, shoot from cover, blind fire, and they seem very grenade happy this time around which does become a little irritating. But now enemies will actively try to stay out of harm’s way, they’ll advance on your position, suppress you, and sometimes even flank you. You’re always outnumbered and usually have to deal with waves of enemies so you’ll be moving from cover to cover often. Unfortunately, the friendly AI is really annoying. Most missions have you fighting alongside one or more allies and they just get in your way which becomes really fucking annoying, even resulting in your death, at least on the Veteran difficulty. They’ll shoot at enemies but I’ve seen them run past enemies, repeatedly take shots without moving, and they just become nuisance. They will divert attacks away from you but they can also go down and you have the option to revive them, that is if you can get to them. I would suggest you do, otherwise you become a bullet magnet. Now I do have an issue with the directional hit indicator. It’s one of those games where when you take damage, the edges of the screen fill with blood splatter and everything slowly turns to black and white the closer you are to death. Given how dark the presentation can be at times, this isn’t always a good thing. Even though the HUD will indicate what direction shots are coming from, it’s not always clear due to the color change and increase of blood on the screen. It can just be distracting and becomes annoying because you might not know what direction to move to get to safety. There’s several times where I died and I really couldn’t tell you how or from what direction the fatal shot came from. There’s also no grenade indicator and I guess that’s fine since I can see it as a form of immersion. Plus, grenades usually make a beeping sound and if you’re close to one, you’ll hear it.

All the missions in Killzone 2 are pretty linear but you can bring up a waypoint to your next objective at any time during gameplay. And checkpoints are plentiful. One mission lets you drive a tank which can be used to blast enemies and enemy vehicles to hell, another mission has you manning an anti-aircraft gun to repel attacking enemy ships, and another mission has you piloting an Exoskeleton which is like a mech that can fire rockets and is equipped with a machine gun. As exciting as these sequences are, it’s the on-foot combat that really steals the show. You’ll navigate through a Helghan village, refinery, Visari Square, and even across a bridge which is one of the standout missions in the game because you need to escort a convoy across it and push back enemy forces. There’s actually a few sections where you need to advance and push enemies back and it’s not a matter of just killing every enemy to proceed forward, at least in my experience. They’ll just keep coming. You need to slowly move forward because if you just hang back and pick off enemies one after another, they’ll just keep spawning. This can become frustrating, especially if you’re not aware of this and you’re sitting there for twenty minutes blowing away hundreds of guys before realizing you actually need to move forward during the fight. But the cool thing about these missions is that they all contain memorable and intense battles. These large scale battles turn into insanely hectic war zones and the firefights can become really intense with bullets flying everywhere, grenades exploding, some enemies may be firing rockets, and you’ll also need to watch out for enemies manning turrets. Enemies may come pouring out of various locations, they’ll be deployed from drop ships or other vehicles, you may have to deal with tanks, it’s crazy. Many objectives require you to activate something or simply reach a location, however you’ll also be defending areas, destroying enemy vehicles, destroying artillery, and other typical military stuff like that.

In addition to the campaign is the online multiplayer which is called “Warzone” here and there’s also Skirmish which is multiplayer with bots. I believe the multiplayer severs are shut down but I never really played it anyway. However, I did get a chance to play the Skirmish mode. You can choose the map, how many bots, and bot difficulty. Those are the only options you get and it sucks. I know people rave about the multiplayer and I’m not sure what’s different about creating a game in multiplayer compared to creating a game in Skirmish, but the lack of control your given in Skirmish truly blows. A Skirmish session will cycle between all of the different game modes including Bodycount, Search and Destroy, Search and Retrieve, Capture and Hold, and Assassination. Each game mode is timed and you cannot change anything about this. I don’t like that at all. I think it would make for an interesting online multiplayer experience but if I’m playing with bots, I want control. Before a Skirmish begins you have the option to choose your faction, ISA or Helghast, character class, and if you want to create any squads. During a skirmish, you have limited health regeneration and a stamina meter and motion tracker are both visible on the HUD. Now there’s multiple character classes to choose from each with their own unique ability, which I think are both referred to as badges, as well as access to weapons. You can actually choose a specific class as well as choosing a secondary ability from other classes. The Rifleman class is like your standard soldier and I think it has access to most primary weapons. However, this class does not have any unique abilities. The Medic carries a reviving device to revive fallen allies and its secondary ability is healthpacks. The Engineer can deploy a Sentry Bot which will attack enemies and engineers can also repair things like broken emplaced machine guns and ammo boxes. The Tactician can throw spawning grenades which allow teammates to spawn wherever the grenade lands and it’s secondary ability is a drone beacon which summons a drone to fly around and shoot at enemies. The Assault class provides you with fifty percent more health and you can also equip boost pills that provide a large speed boost and small health boost for a brief time. The Saboteur can disguise itself as an enemy and lay down C4 Proximity Mines that trigger when enemies come near them. Finally, there’s the Scout which is equipped with a cloaking device to turn invisible and it can also utilize the spot and mark ability to mark all visible enemies. In multiplayer, you can actually rank up by acquiring points and certain ranks unlock new things like the ability to create squads, clans, and access to new weapons. I have no idea if you can rank up in Skirmish since I never actually finished a session due to boredom and it kind of blows that everything isn’t unlocked from the get-go. In multiplayer you can earn ribbons for kill streaks and unique kills and medals are awarded for acquiring a specific amount of ribbons. I have no idea if you can earn these in Skirmish. I never did and it’s very possible that I just suck. I would say the bot AI isn’t anything special. Most of the time, a medic would never come rushing to me if I was critically wounded and I saw some issues with their path finding. However, they do make an attempt to complete all objectives. I noticed that enemy bots always manage to throw grenades directly at my feet. They never underthrow or overthrow, it always lands right at my feet.

Every Skirmish session will cycle through all the different game modes. I’m assuming a session ends when you complete every mode but I’m not sure since I never finished a session. If you win a match, as in whatever game mode you’re currently playing, that adds one point for your team and the team with highest number of points at the end, whenever that is, wins. Bodycount is just team deathmatch. Search and Destroy requires you to defend your team’s objects or destroy the enemy’s objects. Search and Retrieve involves your team acquiring the propaganda device spawned in the center of the map and taking it to the collection point. Bring home the set amount of these devices and your team will win the match. Capture and Hold requires your team to capture and hold onto towers scattered around the map. Assassination requires you to kill the enemy target within the time limit or defend your team’s target before he or she is killed. Ultimately, I would say Skirmish sucks. It lacks a lot of customization options and the bots are not smart enough to be fun.  It really sucks that you have basically zero control over game modes and time limits. If you just wanted to play a match or two of Bodycount, you can’t do that. I understand Killzone 2 was the ultimate multiplayer experience for many people and I won’t comment on it since I didn’t play it. With that said, I assume the Skirmish mode is not a good representation of the online multiplayer because honestly, it blows and could have been a lot better. Killzone HD actually gave you more options when it comes to creating bot matches. The only upside in Killzone 2 is the bots are bit smarter.

Killzone 2 looked pretty amazing in 2009 and, honestly, the visuals still hold up today. It still looks really good. Facial animations are stiff, some textures appear blurry up close, and the game does lack in color which I think is intended, but this is easily one of the best looking PS3 games, period. Overall, the Killzone 2 has a very dark tone in terms of the story and it’s also reflected in the visuals. Everything is kind of dark and it’s got this whole vignette effect going on with dark corners at the edges of the screen. Character animations during gameplay are smooth, reload animations look fantastic, and weapon models are exceptionally well detailed. Speaking of details, the environments are filled with little details that both emphasize the combat and add to the gritty tone the game is going for. Dust, debris, and smoke fill the air. Sparks will fly, bullets will rip parts of the environments like walls and pillars to shreds, lightning will rip through the sky, drones and aircraft will be flying around overhead, and the environments do an amazing job portraying a completely war torn world with destroyed buildings, fire, and rubble all over the place. Bugs will populate the Helghan wasteland, you can shoot the helmets off of enemies, and this is all complimented by the amazing audio work. Not only does Killzone 2 do an amazing job visually depicting this fictional war, but the sound work is what really drives it all home. All of the weapons sound incredible, you can hear bullets whizzing past your head, booming explosions will surround you, soldiers will be constantly shouting, and it all just turns into mass chaos but in a cool and awesome way. When you’re finally given the chance to breathe, you’ll often hear gunfire and explosions in the distance, especially in the more urban environments. Now the music is also worth mentioning. The soundtrack is full of orchestral scores that all sound cinematic and dramatic in nature and really do a fantastic job at building up tension. There’s also some memorable tunes here and there, including the music heard at the main menu. Now Killzone 2 normally runs at thirty frames per second but it doesn’t always do a good job at maintaining that frame rate. I noticed it dip quite often, usually when things get hectic, but it doesn’t really bring down the gameplay, given how slow-paced everything is anyway. I heard some characters repeat dialogue in a rapid loop several times and there’s also the annoying pauses for several seconds while the game loads. I actually thought the game froze at first. But, luckily, there is nothing game breaking and these issues can easily be overlooked.

I feel like Killzone 2 is everything Killzone one should have been and more. In our review of the first game, I had stated that it felt like the developers had all kinds of neat ideas that were gimped or not implemented due to technical reasons. Well it looks like the team at Guerilla Games went all out for the sequel and thanks to the new hardware, the conflict between the ISA and Helghast is finally fully realized. I had a lot of fun with this game and it’s aged very well. I guess I would say this is easily one of my favorite first-person shooters for the PlayStation 3. All encounters become intense, hectic, crazy gun battles with tons of explosions, bullets, and screams to make it all feel realistic and immersive. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t really grab me and maybe that’s just because of my personal preferences. It’s a shame because I enjoyed the backstory and potential of it all but I don’t find most of the characters interesting and I can’t say the plot does a good job at making any of them memorable. I like the Helghast enemy designs, the weapons, the gunplay, and the entire presentation. I would replay the campaign just because the gunplay and amount of detail put into everything is so incredible. But outside of the multiple difficulty modes, there’s not a lot of reasons to return unless you really care about the collectibles. Unlike the first game, there’s no multiple characters or different paths, and the Skirmish mode is kind of a let down. But the gameplay is just so much fun, you may want to experience the campaign all over again. The gameplay and the presentation driving it are what really steal the show here. I should mention that Killzone 2 includes single player stat tracking which I love. It’s just one of those things I really love seeing in games. I enjoy looking at a breakdown of my performance, especially if I play the game religiously.

Killzone 2 is a huge step up from the previous game in terms of gameplay and detail and unless you’re a hardcore Killzone fan or really care about the story and lore, I would say skip the first game and start with Killzone 2. Even if you didn’t enjoy the first game, give this a shot because it’s like a vastly different experience. I would highly recommend Killzone 2 to fans of shooters, action games, and fun in general. This is often considered one of the best shooters on the PS3 and I would have to agree. I have never played game that manages to capture the intensity of a gunfight so well like Killzone 2 that you truly must experience it to understand it. It’s a shame the multiplayer servers are shut down and the Skirmish mode sucks but the campaign is still great fun. Even if the collectibles don’t mean anything to you, the replay value not only comes from the multiple difficulty modes but the fact that there’s no other shooter I can think of that provides immersive gunplay quite like this.

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