Guest Author - James Shea
A military sci-fi first-person shooter for the PS3, Killzone 2's semi-futuristic look attempts to appeal both to the Halo crowd and the Call of Duty crowd. As a whole, it has plenty of its own merits, but doesn't really live up to the legacy of either series.
Killzone 2 depicts a war between the "good guy" ISA and the "bad guy" Helghast. The former are conventional-looking space marines, while the latter are clad in gas masks and bulky gear. Really, though, the storyline acknowledges that there aren't many differences between the two sides morally; both sides are guilty of various war crimes, and so on. Otherwise, the story is completely standard for a space-based game. In single player, you play as an ISA special forces soldier fighting through waves of enemies to try to capture the Helghast leader. In multiplayer, you take on the role of a soldier on either side of the conflict.
The game's FPS system is nothing particularly special. Killzone 1 made an effort to show the player's body, for example when climbing ladders. This was meant to be different than older games that treated the player like a box with a gun strapped to it. In Killzone 2, that spirit is alive, but it's no longer "unique", so it just feels like a standard FPS. The weapons handle somewhat poorly, but not in a badly-designed way; rather, it feels like the game is trying to emulate the difficulty of actually handling weapons. The player moves and turns slower than many other First Person Shooter characters. Additionally, for whatever reason peripheral vision is poorly represented in the game; playing online, I was often ambushed - and was able to easily ambush others - from their side, and generally nobody attacked from the side noticed they were being shot at until they had already died. There is also a cover system available in single player mode, where the player takes cover and ducks out to shoot; oddly, this system is not usable in multiplayer, and players must make do with ducking behind cars or walls.
The game has a fairly standard complement of weapons, with a few more unique guns in the single-player mode. Both the ISA and Helghast have a standard assault rifle (though the ISA's rifle has a better sight than the Helghast one), and there's the usual assortment of shotguns, submachine guns, sniper rifles, and rocket launchers. In the campaign, more exotic guns are featured; flamethrowers, bolt-guns that staple enemies to the wall, and lightning guns. All of these guns have fairly detailed reactions from their victims, which is at least more interesting than the standard "shoot them and they die". Finally, there are two types of grenades: frag grenades, which can be "cooked off" to detonate on impact, and lightning grenades, which shoot out tendrils of lightning instead of exploding. Neither is thrown particularly well, and they usually seem to fall short of where they ought to go.
Multiplayer is one of the main attractions of the game; its primary feature is how it handles game modes. When you go into a game, each map is divided into multiple rounds. Each round is a random game type (depending on the server), so you can have a regular Team Deathmatch followed by a Capture The Flag round followed by a Bomb-Planting mode. This makes for a more fun and dynamic mix than most games, where you end up playing the same game mode all the time. The game modes also do a good job of staying reasonably in-character, rather than being outlandish or ridiculous; the "capture the flag" mode is actually grabbing a single propaganda speaker and putting it in a safe location, rather than stealing an enemy's flag from their base. Multiplayer also contains a class system, similar to Battlefield or Team Fortress. At the start, the player can only use the Soldier class armed with a default assault rifle. As they play the game, they gain points that grant them levels. Leveling up grants new weapons for the soldier class and entirely new classes. The soldier class is the most widely armed class, as it can be equipped with an assault rifle, a shotgun, a submachine gun, a light machine gun, or a rocket launcher. The medic class can only be armed with an assault rifle, but is capable of reviving near-dead allied units. The engineer class has a shotgun and can build sentry turrets and ammo boxes. The tactician class can set new spawn points for allied units and call in air strikes. The assault class runs faster and has more health than a normal soldier, but can only be armed with explosive weapons (not good for close-combat situations). Saboteurs can disguise themselves as members of the enemy team and throw C4. Finally, scouts are the only class capable of wielding sniper rifles; they also have the ability to cloak themselves and mark enemy units with data that's transmitted to allied units (so that everyone can see where an enemy is).
In addition to direct leveling-up, there are certain actions that give permanent rewards. For example, having ten games where you score more than ten kills grants you an extra frag grenade on every spawn, while having ten games where you score 20 points and don't kill yourself or any allies grants you more ammo. These kinds of bonuses are primarily useful for longevity; that is, they don't affect actual combat, but just allow you to get more done without having to go back to an ammo resupply (which is useful in and of itself).
The multiplayer maps are probably the game's best point. Ranging from urban environments to military bases to remote wasteland villages, the maps are huge without being overwhelming. They add to a feeling of having an entire battlefield, and combat will generally move around to different points of the map based on objectives. Therefore, it avoids what a lot of games have where combat always ends up being in the same spot. It's also a lot less linear than a lot of FPS maps, allowing keen players to sneak around the enemy lines and take them from behind.
As a whole, Killzone 2 is a solid game. There's nothing new or unique about it, but it works and it's fun. Currently, it doesn't have a lot of competition on the PS3 (whereas with an Xbox release it would have most likely been overshadowed by Halo 3), so PS3 owners owe it to themselves to buy this. However, by itself, it's not worth buying a PS3 for.
We purchased Killzone 2 with our own personal funds.
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