Killzone 2 review
Years later and I'm still waiting for the punch line
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Killzone 2 was a game that was hyped up to kingdom come by PS3 fans. Well, not myself, because I was figuring that this would be as mediocre as the first game. Remember, the first game started by wowing us, then it finally became available for play, and it ended up rather average. Not shit, but not good, either, and at the back of my mind, I thought Killzone 2 would be the same thing - an extraordinary amount of hype for an otherwise average shooter. Well, surprise surprise, Killzone 2 is not the world's greatest shooter, nor is it the second coming of Jesus, but it's not horrible either. It's actually reasonably well made (with some exceptions), but at the same time, it is so *bleep*ing boring! Nothing exciting ever jumped out to give you a punch in the nuts, nothing overly endearing grabbed you by the chest to rip your heart out, and lastly, nothing really stood out, except for the masks of the enemy, the Helghast. That's it. That's all I remember of this game! So... I guess you're all ready for me to expand on all of this...
There is a story in here somewhere, but the way its treated, it's basically filler. Two years after the first game, the ISA land on planet Helghan to take down Helghast leader Visari, but shit happens to make their journey harder. To make their lack of care more obvious, there are barely any cutscenes. There are maybe 12 minutes worth of cutscenes in this 6-8 hour campaign, and all they do is detail some event that is not worth caring about. Ooh, some people die... which could be emotionally gripping for the player, but as the dead are characters that are barely explained and have almost no personality, you're left with this feeling of "who cares". Basically, the story is your typical first person shooter affair - shoot first, ask questions later. No, it's not like any other first person shooter has defied that tradition.... coughbioshockcough
Let's just start with the major gripes, because you should all know how a first person shooter works - first is how it controls. The movement feels like you're wearing the Helghast's armor, because whenever you move, it feels so heavy and stiff. I suppose it's meant to be realistic, but it just ends up falling flat on its face as you often find yourself feeling slower than you should, and coupled with being easily incapacitated whenever Helghast are anywhere near you, well, this is just becomes a bit of a pain. Another thing that sucks is the sensitivity of the aiming. On the lowest, it takes forever to move the cursor along... but even when you adjust the sensitivity a millimeter higher, you'll be spinning 360 degrees before you're able to get your target unless you gently move the right stick about a centimeter from the center towards where the enemy soldier(s) is/are. Suffice it to say, it gets rather annoying after a while. There are some other quirks like having to hold the crouch button while in cover instead of being able to snap to it, but it's not even remotely irritating. Maybe it's not the best, but it's something, and at least there's cover system in a first person shooter. Same for the control layout - maybe it's not the best... after all, one size does not fit all, but there are many different control schemes. Please look into the options menu before typing out a review of this game to bitch about the control layout, because at least one scheme will suit the average player.
The other major gripe I have with this game is just how boring it is to play. I understand that it's not supposed to be arcade-y, nor is it meant to have thrills every ten seconds, but at the same time, every second of this game feels like another minute, and shooting the same soldiers ends up putting me to sleep. Most of the levels require you to go through linear pathways with barely any nooks, you're basically just doing the same objectives over and over again (go here, kill Helghast, blow this up), and... well, it's hard to explain without it looking like I hate first person shooters, because I like them (although I prefer the classics over today's shooters, but that'a aside the point)... it's just that Killzone 2 never surprises me, nor does it ever do anything to break the mould, go against tradition, or even make that what has been established forever a little more exciting! Maybe I'm getting burned out on doing the same exact crap over and over again, but there's just nothing fun to experience here.. in the single player mode.
I'll give Guerilla this, though - the Helghast are pretty tough. They can flank you at any moment, take cover at times that seem most convenient AND intelligent, and will shoot you in the face as soon as they see you. In fact, they may be a little too smart, as they can shoot through your cover if there are any gaps, regardless of size... at least this disproves the fact that they're just regular humans with badass masks. At the same time, especially on the higher difficulty levels, it encourages you to play smartly. You can't just rush in and expect an easy kill, unless the Helghast soldier has its back turned - in which case, it was asking for its head to be blown off, anyway. But if his stomach is facing towards you, umm, cover is usually a good idea. It doesn't opt to be a cover hell shooter like Gears Of War; it prefers that you just play smartly, and head into cover until you can get a clear shot. Unfortunately, your comrades are stupid. They aren't above taking bullets for the Helghast, or running towards them when they are clearly shooting them, meaning you'll need to revive them quite a lot, risking your own life in the process.
But here's where Killzone 2 actually grabbed my interest - the multiplayer. Although it's not about to drag me away from Counter Strike or Warhawk, it's still pretty solid. I won't get into too many details, because if I did, I'd be here forever, and I got other things to do. But anyway, at first, it seems like standard first person shooter multiplayer affair. Modes include Assassination, Search And Destroy, Bodycount, Search And Retrieve, and Capture And Hold - all of which are fairly self-explanatory. The maps range from expansive with scenery for obstacles, to smaller and inside buildings, so getting the general feel for each of the maps is required. As you play matches, you'll gain experience points - obviously, doing a lot of work and winning nets you more than doing bugger all - and when you earn enough, you'll level up, so to speak. At certain intervals of the levelling up process, you unlock more classes, like medics, engineers, tactitioners, spies, and snipers.
So far, so typical, but here's where it gets interesting. The perks - wait a minute, Call Of Duty has this!! Ahh, but here's where Killzone 2 decides to do things a bit differently (which is strange, because up until now, it's done nothing but everything else that's been done before without an ounce of innovation or improvement)... the actual perks are... oh hell, what kind of reviewer would I be if I spoiled those little surprises? All I'll tell you is that, in combination with the classes' default perks, these can make for some interesting soldiers...
So yeah, the online multiplayer is pretty good. But that's the problem - the online multiplayer, and ONLY the online multiplayer is good. Enemy AI aside, the offline single player, unfortunately, is not, and the deciding factor in the long run for video games are the offline components, as there will be moments when the internet is shut down, or the PSN servers will shut down completely, and then what? You got yourself a pretty run of the mill single player without an ounce of that element that causes you to give a crap.
But we all know where the money went - the graphics. Yep, these graphics are beautiful. Gorgeous, even. I know that they're mostly grey and brown, but these artists look like they know how to make them seem vibrant and exuberant. The textures are very detailed, managing to give the illusion of realism with no problems whatsoever. Some animations, however, may look a bit stiff, but for the most part, they're good enough.. really, it's like an anime in that while it looks fantastic, animation is mixed between stiff and half assed, and fairly fluid, but it doesn't make the overall presentation suffer much.
The soundtrack is also fantastic. There are many typical "epic" scores throughout in a vain attempt to make the game out to be more epic than it actually is. In saying that, it does a wonderful job of being awesome... it's tough to describe it, though, because none of the tracks are particularly memorable. They just have a whole lot of ambience that draws you into the game, giving your ears quite a treat, as does the voice acting, which is not only a complete waste given that the story sucks, but also... just mostly top notch. The Helghast have the better voices... I don't know, the ISA just seem to come across as run of the mill while the Helghast range from unintentionally funny (soldiers) to stuff that is made of awesome (Visari and his right hand man, General Radec). Not much else to say here...
Killzone 2 meant well, and it accomplished its job - it made the PS3 a system worth buying for those who didn't want Metal Gear Solid 4 or LittleBigPlanet. Believe it or not, this game managed to move quite a number of units... Just a shame that the end result is a very mediocre game. It has gorgeous graphics and an epic musical score to go along with a fairly strong multiplayer component, but everything else ranges from phoned in to just plain terrible. I suggest that, if you're still considering purchasing this game, don't. There are far better first person shooters out there.
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