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Killzone 2

 

Killzone 2

ESRB: Mature - M
Platform: PS3
Category: First Person Shooter
 
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9.5
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9.25
 
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Developer: Guerilla Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Features

1 Player (Offline)
2-32 Players (Online)
HDTV 720p/1080i
Leaderboards
Clan Support
DualShock 3 Compatible
Headset Compatible

There is no doubt that leading up to the release of Killzone 2 that expectations were high for this Sony exclusive shooter. From the infamous video that was played at E3 in 2005 to Sony’s claims that it would be the next ‘big thing’ in first person shooters. I had a chance to preview the game on multiple occasions in different forms and I honestly had some hope that the game could live up to the lofty expectations placed upon it. My experiences with the game included playing through some of the single player campaign at E3 in 2008, participating in a multiplayer beta just prior ringing in 2009, and playing the available demo prior to the games final release. Since this time Sony sent us here at GameBoyz the final retail version. I have had the chance to take the game through its paces, both offline and online, and although it does not redefine the first person genre, I have to admit that I am impressed with the final product offers.

Graphics

The visuals in Killzone 2 are quite stunning to say the least. If there is one thing that Guerrilla Games can confidently say it is that they pretty much met the target video from E3 in 2005. What is evident from the start is that Killzone 2 it is not one of those games that jumps of the screen with eye pleasing colors. However, this is to be expected as the game is a dark and foreboding tale about revenge and war. The color scheme is very appropriate to the game and if anything, it helps to communicate the mood of the story.

In terms of the technical aspect of the graphics, they too are a remarkable feat. The one thing you will notice right off the get-go is how much happens on-screen at once. From the opening level right to the end of the game you will see a lot of chaos occur in front of you such as numerous explosions, large numbers of Helgast and ISA soldiers firing weapons at each other, enemies dying, and projectiles of various natures coming directly at you. The graphics definitely convey the notion that you are in for the battle of your life and the craziness of such is displayed, without a hitch, on your own HD Display.

As would be expected, Killzone 2 implements all the special effects you could desire. Particle effects are used to their fullest extent, as are the shadow and lighting effects found in the game. These are all implemented in such a way that it brings the world you are battling in alive. I had to chuckle on one particular level where I was running down a flight of stairs and I started shooting at something that startled me. I soon discovered that the target I was wildly firing at was my own shadow on the wall. Yes, I was caught in the heat of the moment, but it made me realize the detail of the game. I also was amazed how when battling the various Helgast soldiers a perfectly placed headshot could cause their helmet to fly off their head to which exposed their pasty white skin. It was yet another sign of the detail offered.

The detail found above carried over to the levels themselves. From tapestries blowing in the wind, dust flying up from the ground, to lightning illuminating the sky, the environments come alive no matter where you go. Each level is distinctly different too. Be it the center of a town square where you have to hold off repeated hordes of Helgast soldiers, the sheet metal walls of a shanty like town along the water, to the concrete setting of a university-like building that was the HQ for the general of the Helgast soldiers, each area has a unique feel and look to it. Add to this that many of the environments you find yourself in are destructible in someway (e.g. splintered boxes or shattered concrete pillars) and you have a realistic looking, and feeling, world of Helghan on your hands.

The characters found in the game animate very well too. Something that I was amazed with was with how many death animations that the Helgast soldiers have. From falling out of windows or balconies, to the way they collapse when killed while charging my position, I never found myself getting bored with the way they died. Actually, in a morbid kind of sense, I looked forward to seeing how many different ways some of the enemies would die.

As much as I rave about the good with the visuals, two things were somewhat negative in this area.

First off, I found that there was the odd occasion where a higher resolution texture would pop up over a low resolution one. This was evident a few times when objects or areas in the distance came into view. It was as if items just popped in, but in this case it was when the lower resolution items in the distance would become clearer and needed to be represented by a higher resolution as I got closer. What I noticed was when the higher resolution texture popped in. The other gripe I have, which I was somewhat mystified at, was how the game would pause for a few seconds at a time as the next part of a level would load up. It was during these instances that I actually thought my game froze up, only to have it start up again after everything loaded. These pauses can take you out of the experience somewhat and it happens quite frequently during the game. I really wonder if this would have been eliminated if they had you install the game onto the built in HDD. At least they could have made this an option. Anyhow, the only reason I speak about these two things is that they are the most noticeable deficiencies I can find in this visually stunning game.

Sound

The games audio is another strong point to the overall presentation. From the 7.1 surround sound, to the music and sound effects available, everything in this area is an awesome compliment to the great visuals.

I had a chance to take the game to my home office and put it through its paces in my media room. When I started to play, and I saw all seven speaker indicators light up on my A/V receiver, I was impressed by this fact, and I was even more impressed when I heard all seven speakers filled with audio content. At all times during the game your speakers will be filled with sound, be it gunfire, rocket explosions, bullets whizzing by your head, or the sounds of your fellow ISA soldiers yelling for help. Add to this the various chatter that comes from the Helgast soldiers, and you have a very realistic sounding environment that you will battle in. In addition, as for the quality of said sound effects, they are spot on. Each gun has its own distinct sound, certain areas provide echoes, the Helgast soldiers sound like they are wearing masks, and each explosion will rock your sound system, and even more should you be playing in a true 7.1 or 5.1 environment with a separate subwoofer. You can tell that a lot of work went into making this game come alive.

As for the music, it is very solid. It cues up at just the right times and manages to make the game come alive that much more. Sure, you won’t find yourself remembering what the music is after playing, but that being said it pulls you further into the game and compliments the on-screen action to a tee.

If there is any negative here, it would be the voice acting. It is not as bad as that found in other action games that I have played in the past, but you can tell that it is not ‘academy award’ quality. There is a lot of machismo found throughout, and some of the lines sound somewhat forced, but on the flipside there is some good use of humor and the story flows along nicely. Overall, if you keep your expectations a little lower then usual for the voice acting you will not be too disappointed.

Gameplay

Killzone 2’s story follows the events of Killzone: Liberation, which was released on the PSP after the original Killzone on the PS2. The ISA has gone on the offensive and, after repelling the Helgast on their home planet of Vekta, they take the battle to the Helgast home of Helghan with the eventual goal of defeating the Helgast army and capturing Emperor Visari. Once on the Helgast planet the ISA realizes that their fight is not an easy one given that their enemy more tenacious then before as they have a few special weapons not found in previous battles (or games).

In this latest fight against the Helgast, you take on the role of Sev who is part of a four-man squad simply known as Alpha Squad. For those who want to know what happened to Templar, the original hero from Killzone and Killzone: Liberation, he is in this game as well, but he has been promoted to a commander who is now in charge of his own fleet and troops, so you will not play in his role. For those who have played through all the other games, you will recognize the NPC’s that you come across and events in Killzone 2 will flow with the overall story. For those who did not play any of the other games, don’t worry, you will still be able to enjoy this game, it is just that some events or storyline elements will not be 100% percent clear to you.

For those who care, the story is pretty good. Sure, it is not going to win any awards for dramatic experiences, and as mentioned earlier in this review, the voice acting is a hit and miss affair, but the narrative that is put forth by the writers really does help compliment the whole experience and the overall dialog is solid enough that you will listen. Be forewarned though, there is ample, but not over the top, use of profanity, but hey, you are in the middle of a war so what did you expect, a love fest? There are some very overt themes found within the game too from revenge to all out aggression against an enemy that the main characters learn to hate even more. Overall, I think that most who play Killzone 2 will appreciate the work that went into the plotline(s) and that they will find that it blends in with the action that they control on screen.

Killzone 2 is definitely not a run and gun game, say like any of the COD series. I experimented while I was making my way through the single player campaign, and I found that it was very evident that I had to change up my strategies. There were times when I could stay in the open a little more then usual, but there were also many times when I had to implement the cover mechanic and take what time I had to pick off my targets. The reason I say “what time I had” is that the computer AI really offers a challenge as they make numerous efforts to try to dispose of you in so many different ways. This includes sniping, flanking, grenading, and even charging your position. Add to this fact that each 10 single player levels you play through is different from each other and you will need to adapt to your new surroundings as well as the different Helgast soldiers you come across. I found it somewhat interesting that after I would die on any particular level I would try different things just to see how the computer AI would react, and how it affected my progress through the level. It was cool to see that my change in tactics would change the way the specific section of the level play.

Killzone 2 has a knack of making you work for your goals. There are many times that I found myself in a battle’s closing stages only to re-engage as enemies would once again take up the cause and fight for their beloved planet Helghan. There are well-timed breaks between battles, for such things as mission briefings or cutscenes, however once these finish the action heats up and the stress and tension starts all over again. Guerilla Games seems to have created a great mix of things to do, from balls to the wall combat in the trenches to manning a MechAssault suit or anti-enemy gun turret. You never know what you will be getting into at any given moment and it is this fact that helps the game feel so good.

As I started playing the game, both online and offline, with friends and without, I found that the game itself, for a lack of a better word, is somewhat realistic in its gunfire and movements. This affects how the game is played. Many first person shooters in today’s market really rely on straight shooting weapons as well as characters that seem to run really fast, even when not sprinting. In Killzone 2 these aspects are toned down quite a lot. Let me explain.

In terms of shooting, the recoil that can come from the weapons can be quite substantial, and this affects your accuracy. If you plan on ‘spraying and praying’ when you fire your weapon, you better plan to be disappointed. Should you wildly fire you will find that your accuracy will go out the window. However if you take your time, well as much time as the game will allow you, and compensate for the recoil on your weapon, you can be pretty accurate, just don’t expect to rule the land right off the hop. In terms of moving, and that includes running and jumping, your character is not a super sprinter or Olympic high jumper. Do not get me wrong, there is a sense of speed when running, it is just that it feels somewhat reasonable, as you are not speedy Gonzales running all over the map at super speed. The same goes for jumping, it feels like there is actual gravity when you try to hurdle things. Overall I think that Guerilla Games did a pretty good job in this area and I personally didn’t mind, however some of my friends did complain, so it may come down to personal preference.

Keeping along these same lines, controlling your on-screen movement is pretty intuitive and the PS3’s DualShock 3 is put to good use. Button placement is put pretty intuitive such as using the R1 and R2 buttons for primary fire and grenade use (in that order) and having such things as reload, toggle weapons, jump and revive squad member placed on the face buttons. Overall most of the DualShock 3’s buttons are used but they are used quite effectively. There are even some SIXAXIS scenes in the game. These are not overly used and quite easy to pull off. From turning valves, planting explosive devices, and even keeping your sniper rifle still, you will find that the SIXAXIS is used for quite well and not in an overly gimmicky fashion.

Now here is where I am going to catch some flack with this review. Although the DualShock 3 is pretty good for the task at hand, I just could not help but feel that the game could have played so much better with a controller akin to the Xbox 360. Now, before you PS3 zealots start to spam me with any hate mail, this is my opinion. However, I do know that quite a few of my online friends, who I played the game with in multiplayer, are of the same opinion as me. As we were wrapping up a multiplayer session on the first night of the game’s release, I noted to fellow staffer Trevor H that the actual controller, not the control itself, felt floaty. Maybe it is just that I am so accustomed to playing my first person shooters on the Xbox 360, but regardless of why, the DualShock 3 did not feel as comfortable as I had hoped for this game. However, as seems to be the way during this console war, this may just be my personal preference and I am sure that there are many people out there who are really enjoying the DualShock 3 for Killzone 2.

Depending on one’s ability, Killzone 2’s single player campaign can be completed in 7-10 hours. You will find that the various skill levels, from Recruit, Trooper (default), Veteran, to Elite (opened after you finish the game), offers up different challenges. It is very evident that the higher up the ladder you go, the harder the game becomes. I found that a lot of this was in the form of the AI accuracy and AI aggressiveness when engaged in a heated battle. One thing was very clear to me during my experimentation of the various skill levels, what worked on the easier levels definitely was not useful in the higher skill levels. So pick your skill level carefully and make sure it reflects that of your actual skill.

As this is a first person shooter, Killzone 2 offers a fully featured adversarial multiplayer component. For those looking for some multiplayer cooperative modes there is none. I think that Guerilla Games should have included this option as the four-player squad approach just screams for such. However, they did not and gamers are left with adversarial multiplayer only, which in itself is not a bad thing. The adversarial mode can be played both offline and online. Multiplayer has five main game types to challenge your skill, and these include:

- Search and Retrieve: Locate, pick up, and return a series of items to a specified location before the time runs out. To win, your faction must return the most items within an allotted time.

- Search and Destroy: Locate and destroy a target before time runs out. Attacking faction must destroy the target to win while the defending faction must stop the opposing team from doing such.

- Capture and Hold: Locate, capture, and hold a target before the time runs out. The target is in a neutral location and each faction has an equal chance to find and hold it.

- Assassination: Locate and assassinate a target member of the opposing faction before the time runs out. The target has to stay alive within a specific area of the level for a period of time for their faction to win.

- Body Count: Basically a Team Deathmatch mode where you just need to kill as many opponents as possible within the time allotted.

The offline component for the multiplayer mode is called Skirmish. Here you can play any of the aforementioned game types against up to 15 AI controlled bots. The bots skill levels are dependent on the skill level you set them at. The AI uses the same skill levels as the single player campaign, so there are four different skill settings to choose from. I found that the Skirmish mode was useful in allowing me to become accustomed to the online game modes, and as with the single player campaign, the higher the skill level the more challenging it became. Your computer AI teammates allowed for a feeling of actual online play, the only thing missing was the actual chatting with them, and their innate ability to forget that they could revive me when I was hurt.

When taking Killzone 2 online you will find yourself playing Warzone. This is the meat of the online multiplayer, and the mode that will take up a lot of time for those who really want to push themselves. What is interesting about Warzone is it is not just one game type. Here you will find the game types that I mentioned above changing within the match as they seamlessly meld into each other for one heck of an invigorating game experience. That being said, players can choose to host their own room which can be customized to their liking including such things as game type(s), length of match, game maps, number of players, the rank of players allowed in the room, and they can even password protect the room for privacy.

What Killzone 2 brings to the table is a rank-up system that challenges your skill and rewards you with specific items and skills. You will start out as a standard soldier with a very limited set of weapons and abilities. As you play the various game types you will be rewarded for your actions. Such things as placing bombs, holding a checkpoint, or getting a specific number of kills will give you points at the end of the game. An added bonus is that these points are multiplied if you win the match you are playing as well. The points you earn help you climb through the 12 available ranks that Killzone 2 has, from private to general. As you climb the ranks you earn more weapons, more abilities and most importantly, you unlock additional player classes.

You will eventually be able to choose from a total seven different classes including Rifleman (default), Assault, Tactician, Medic, Engineer, Scout, and Saboteur. Rifleman is the most basic of the classes and does not have any special abilities. That being said you will have access to some damage inducing weapons when you choose this class. The Assault class is equipped with extra body armor and can extend your life given you can take more damage. The Tactician class is more for support as you can place colored smoke grenades to act as spawn points for your team. You can also call in aerial support from a flying sentry robot. The Medic class is pretty self explanatory. The Engineer class can repair most damaged goods such as auto turrets and even ammunition creates. You can also set automated turrets to fire upon unsuspecting enemies. The Scout class allows you to ‘blend’ in with the environment you are playing in and you become invisible to enemies. This class is really geared towards those who like to play stealthy. Finally, the Saboteur class mimics your enemy including looking like them and even displaying their name. This is the true secret-spy class and can be pretty effective.

One of the key elements to the separate classes is that you can mix and match them, as they each have a primary and secondary badge. So, as you open up the various classes, you earn experience within each one by completing specific class tasks. Each set of tasks that you complete earns you a ribbon, and by getting multiple ribbons you will start a new path as you open up new abilities within that class. Eventually you will be able to combine your class skills allowing you to mix and match the types of soldier you want to be. Trust me, I have seen some pretty interesting soldier types online, and there is no doubt that people have logged in a heck of a lot of playtime at this early juncture in the game’s life. I figure that the leveling up system and the class ribbon system will keep online junkies playing for quite sometime.

Killzone 2’s online gameplay comes with eight maps out of the box. They range from size and shape, and they can accommodate the various game types offered. The game supports up to 32 players online at once, and this size of a crowd on some of the smaller maps can be pretty crazy to say the least. In terms of any lag, I did not find any to speak of. I played both as host and as guest, and the connections seemed pretty solid. For those who want to play with friends online, there is the aforementioned ability to password protect a room. However, should you wish to head online with a group and play publically, you can use a squad feature, which you have to open up, and this allows you a constant line of communication with your friends throughout the whole match, no matter where you are on the map. You can also spawn to the spot where your squad leader is during the match.

If I had any issues with the gameplay online, it would be the controller issue again; however, as I mentioned earlier on, this is my preference and not attributed to the game itself.


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