In the four years that we%26rsquo;ve known about it, Killzone 2 has been all but defined by one incident, so let%26rsquo;s get this out of the way right off the bat: yes, Killzone 2 lives up to the infamous %26ldquo;target footage%26rdquo; clip that roused legions of skeptics at the 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo. It even surpasses it, although if you%26rsquo;ve been following the game over the last few months, you probably know that already.
So, yes, Killzone 2 is a graphical powerhouse. No disputing that. Despite its dismally gray color palette, it renders the war-torn planet Helghan in meticulous detail, and the corridors, city streets and industrial hellholes you fight through feel like believable, lived-in environments. The gasmask-wearing, Nazi-like Helghast troops you%26rsquo;ll fight are just as beautifully rendered and animated, and it%26rsquo;s weirdly fun to watch them flail and jerk as you hammer their impossibly tough bodies with bullets.
More importantly, Killzone 2 is an excellent shooter that%26rsquo;s faster, prettier and much more chaotic than its predecessors. It%26rsquo;s also relentlessly gritty, and its weapons, vehicles and architecture are so low-tech and dingy that the action feels much closer to World War II than to your average space-marine shooter. In fact, it%26rsquo;s not a stretch to say that this is the closest thing there is right now to a sci-fi Call of Duty.
Even with that said, Killzone 2 still has a lot more to prove than the average shooter. It%26rsquo;s one of the most important, make-it-or-break-it titles for the PS3, but it%26rsquo;s been met with heavy skepticism every step of the way. That%26rsquo;s not really surprising, given the game%26rsquo;s sketchy past. Aside from the spec footage, there%26rsquo;s the first PS2 game, which was hyped before release as a %26ldquo;Halo-killer%26rdquo; and instead turned out to be a slick but fairly slow-paced trudge through %26ldquo;realistic%26rdquo; sci-fi battles inspired by actual 20th-century warzones.
Above: The first Killzone. Average score onMetacritic%26ndash; 70
Then there was the PSP sequel, Killzone: Liberation, which - despite improving on the original - wasn%26rsquo;t actually a shooter, and therefore didn%26rsquo;t say anything about developer Guerilla Games%26rsquo; ability to craft one.
Above: Killzone: Liberation. Average score onMetacritic%26ndash; 77
It also doesn%26rsquo;t help that %26ldquo;Killzone%26rdquo; is exactly the kind of ultra-generic name that uncreative cop-show writers use whenever they want to insert a %26ldquo;message%26rdquo; about %26ldquo;video violence%26rdquo; into the weekly murder plot.
All that stuff just makes what Killzone 2 has achieved that much more significant. Putting you into the boots of Sgt. Tomas %26ldquo;Sev%26rdquo; Sevchenko, a new character under the command of series regular Rico Velasquez, Killzone 2 throws you into the invasion of the inhospitable planet Helghan, which is roughly as significant within the game as marching into Berlin was during WWII. You%26rsquo;ll see every second of the campaign unfold through Sev%26rsquo;s eyes, from the first moments aboard his army%26rsquo;s gleaming dropship to the final confrontation with the Helghast leaders. His story%26rsquo;s fairly predictable (assuming you%26rsquo;ve ever seen a war movie), but it%26rsquo;s well told, and the characters %26ndash; simple as they are %26ndash; are memorable and likable enough to keep it from ever feeling generic.