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Killzone 2 review

Excellent

In the four years that we’ve known about it, Killzone 2 has been all but defined by one incident, so let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: yes, Killzone 2 lives up to the infamous “target footage” clip that roused legions of skeptics at the 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo. It even surpasses it, although if you’ve been following the game over the last few months, you probably know that already.

 

Above: You may even have seen this 2005/2008 comparison video

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’ll fight are just as beautifully rendered and animated, and it’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’s faster, prettier and much more chaotic than its predecessors. It’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’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’s one of the most important, make-it-or-break-it titles for the PS3, but it’s been met with heavy skepticism every step of the way. That’s not really surprising, given the game’s sketchy past. Aside from the spec footage, there’s the first PS2 game, which was hyped before release as a “Halo-killer” and instead turned out to be a slick but fairly slow-paced trudge through “realistic” sci-fi battles inspired by actual 20th-century warzones.


Above: The first Killzone. Average score on Metacritic – 70

Then there was the PSP sequel, Killzone: Liberation, which - despite improving on the original - wasn’t actually a shooter, and therefore didn’t say anything about developer Guerilla Games’ ability to craft one.


Above: Killzone: Liberation. Average score on Metacritic – 77

It also doesn’t help that “Killzone” is exactly the kind of ultra-generic name that uncreative cop-show writers use whenever they want to insert a “message” about “video violence” 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 “Sev” 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’ll see every second of the campaign unfold through Sev’s eyes, from the first moments aboard his army’s gleaming dropship to the final confrontation with the Helghast leaders. His story’s fairly predictable (assuming you’ve ever seen a war movie), but it’s well told, and the characters – simple as they are – are memorable and likable enough to keep it from ever feeling generic.

Speaking of those characters, you’ll be accompanied at nearly all times by at least one of your three squadmates: there’s Rico (the barking thug), Natko (the grizzled asshole) and Garza (the smart one), who you’ll be spending the most time with. All three are generally competent, tough and useful in a fight, although Sev seems to be the only one with skills other than shooting a gun; you’re the only one who revives downed allies, sets explosives, switches weapons, drives vehicles or turns valve-like switches to open massive doors. Skilled or no, your squadmates are also really chatty, and their f-bomb-laced banter is a big part of what strings the story along.

They’re so integral to the story and game, in fact, that it’s surprising that co-op play wasn’t included as an option. To ignore it when it’s become such a common feature in shooters is one thing, but a game in which you rely on teammates to watch your back, lift you over obstacles and open doors seems tailor-made for charging through with a friend.

But whatever. The action holds up fine without a real buddy along. Killzone 2’s a pretty straightforward shooter, and most of your time will be spent just perforating squads of Helghast as you jog between primary objectives, which usually involve blowing something up or clearing the way for everyone else (both done with near-flawless use of Sixaxis motion controls). Sometimes you’ll even get to commandeer a tank, warship turret or robot exoskeleton, all of which are a lot of fun despite only showing up briefly for short-range runs.

When you’re on foot, sticking to cover plays a big role, and when the action gets thick, you can duck behind any waist-high object and lean out to shoot. In general it works well, but not always; the first-person perspective sometimes makes it difficult to judge how well you’re actually hidden, and it also feels strangely incomplete, because everyone except you is able to blind-fire around cover, while you have to poke your head out to aim.
 
At their best, the game’s firefights are crowded, pitched set pieces, with Helghast pouring in from every angle and doing their impressive best to duck out of your line of fire and get the drop on you. (At their worst, they’re typical corridor shootouts. But what pretty corridors!) You can only carry one “main” weapon (assault rifle, shotgun, flamethrower, etc.) into battle at a time, along with a pistol, knife and a handful of grenades. It’s a pain in the ass, but it makes planning ahead and conserving ammo especially important. It’s also easier than you’d think, because as enjoyable as it is, the action can get pretty predictable.

Probably the key flaw in Killzone 2 is how meticulously scripted it is. For example, if a Helghast is programmed to run to a certain location and then start shooting, he usually won’t shoot until he gets there, even if you’ve ambushed him and are filling him with holes. When enemies show up for a big set-piece battle, they’ll tend to show up the same way in the same places every time, enabling you to anticipate and pick them off if you’ve died and started the battle over. Some battles, meanwhile, will only begin or end if you’ve walked to a certain point on the map, triggering a key event. Noticing this stuff can help savvy players get ahead, sure, but it can also ruin any sense of immersion the game might have built up.

Then, there’s the business with Sev’s one-hit-kill knife that we reported earlier, which hasn’t been changed in the final version of the game. When you’re faced with a small squad of Helghast, no matter the difficulty level, it’s often easier to just run up and stab them all to death than it is to shoot it out with them. They usually don’t know how to deal with it and will almost always go down in one slash.


Above: This still applies, interestingly

Thankfully, none of that is a problem in multiplayer, in which 32 players can pick a team and fight over eight medium-sized maps. Each lengthy match cycles dynamically between up to five customizable game types:  Search and Destroy (base defense), Body Count (team deathmatch), Search and Retrieve (capture the flag), Assassination (one marked-for-death player must be defended or killed) and Capture and Hold (control points).

Cycling between these gives each match a sense of being an actual full-scale battle, instead of just an aimless skirmish. Moreover, the Call of Duty-like ranking system, which enables you to form squads and use job badges (medic, sniper, etc.) as you accumulate points, will go a long way toward helping you forget how much of a slog playing through five straight game types on the same map can be. 

If you'd like to get some reward-free practice in before going online, there's also a skirmish mode that'll enable you to play with up to 15 bots, which are surprisingly smart even on the lowest skill setting. 



Halo 3? That depends on what you’re comparing. If it’s the campaign, then absolutely yes; for all its flash and epic scope, Halo 3’s razor-thin plot and candy-colored weapons feel flimsy next to Killzone 2’s urban grit. On the other hand, its endlessly customizable – and endlessly fun – multiplayer modes ensure that Halo 3 hangs onto its 10 score when faced with Killzone 2’s more straightforward offerings.

Call of Duty: World at War? Yes, but it’s a tight race. Killzone 2 is prettier, its characters are more interesting and there’s very little trench-fighting, which is fine with us. Also, its flamethrower is substantially more useful than CoD:WaW’s.


Gears of War 2?
No. This one’s going to raise a lot of hackles, but Gears 2’s extreme brutality, imaginative level design, over-the-top weapons and wealth of (admittedly buggy) multiplayer options still manage to surpass Killzone 2. Killzone 2’s a purer FPS experience, but even rifle-butting legions of Helghast into submission can’t compare with the singular thrill of melting monsters with the Hammer of Dawn.


Resistance 2? Yes. Resistance 2 might be a little more colorful, and the weapons are definitely more imaginative, but the pieces don’t gel into an interesting whole quite as well as Killzone 2’s, and the Chimera just aren’t as compelling an enemy as the Helghast.


 
So there you go. Although it’s not everything we’d hoped for, Killzone 2 does live up to most of its hype, and it’s unquestionably the most important PS3 game of early 2009. Throw in some obligatory collectibles (intel briefcases and breakable Helghast symbols), a wealth of Trophies and a couple of ridiculously difficult boss fights, and Killzone 2’s compelling story and tightly paced action (maybe a little too tightly paced) make it a game that no PS3-owning shooter fan should be without.

Feb 2, 2009

More Info

Available Platforms: PS3
Genre: Shooter
Published by: SCEA
Developed by: Guerrilla Games
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language
PEGI Rating:
18+

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135 comments

  • D0CCON - July 6, 2011 9:52 p.m.

    I love going back to these older games and looking at the comments. Why on earth would Microsoft pay Gamesradar to give KZ a 9 out of 10? Sony would be the ones to pay for a review like that and of course they didn't either.
  • CreeplyTuna - January 9, 2010 2:35 a.m.

    people- gr is owned by nbc(or some company like that) that's owned by Microsoft which can/does lead to some of the bias. i own both consoles and i halo 3 was soooo bad. i loved the first halo, but the 2nd was meh. this game is so much more gritty and intense... kinda like the saving private ryan of video games. dont play halo, buy this!
  • MAG101 - August 29, 2009 6:18 a.m.

    Looks pretty good....
  • JohnnyMaverik - August 16, 2009 1:53 p.m.

    However 9 out of 10 is a brilliant score so all you people bitching can stfu. Sure maybe Halo and Gears are over-rated, personally I'd say Halo certainly is. But Killzone 2 a 10/10? Don't think so. 9 is about fair.
  • JohnnyMaverik - August 16, 2009 1:51 p.m.

    "multiplayer modes ensure that Halo 3 hangs onto its 10 score when faced with Killzone 2’s more straightforward offerings." Bollocks. If a game has a thin single player campaign the multiplayer however good cannot make up for that in terms of securing a perfect score.
  • gangjute8 - July 31, 2009 3:23 p.m.

    I, for one, find this review to be informative, fair, and quite helpful and amusing. Seriously, guys, stop arguing and look at yourselves. You are bickering over a game. I mean really, just enjoy the game and stop complaining about each other. *Looks at comment* Oh, wait...
  • xxxCr00k3dxxx - July 17, 2009 8:21 p.m.

    all you ppl who are bitching about them being unbiased probably dont even have a 360.I have both a PS3 and a 360 and i must say while Ps3 does have some good games the 360 has better ones.Befroe you ppl disagree with it at least try the games and compare them.
  • TheWebSwinger - July 7, 2009 5:32 p.m.

    Having had the game for about 4 months now, I can honestly say I would have given Killzone 2 a 10. Since we're far removed from the ridiculous hype/fanboy bashing that defined its release, I can love the game on its own merit. But ya know what? A 9 is a perfectly reasonable score, and Mikel had every right to give it that. Difference of opinion is difference of opinion.
  • LittleTaco - June 19, 2009 12:54 a.m.

    I was surprised when GR gave it ONLY a 9 i mean come on now...
  • w40kfanatic - June 18, 2009 11:48 p.m.

    i got killzone 2 a few weeks ago. wow. this game is amazing. the only problem for campaign that i can see is how accurate rocket launcher enemies are. by the time i beat campaign, id been head-shotted by rockets 10 times. the online is fun, but this game just wouldnt be worth getting if you dont have online.
  • Dill - June 6, 2009 12:25 a.m.

    Just listened to TDar 40 or so where you guys talked about releasing this review early. Then you went on to say something along the lines of "Killzone is not the greatest game ever made, it's the greatest THING ever made." "It was made for you." (Not for Japan or child molestors or something.) I'm very interested in playing this game, now.
  • Demonflare - May 11, 2009 8:54 p.m.

    Killzone2 looks cool i guess. When I saw the title: Killzone2 War Made Beautiful. That title sounded pretty cool. But idk if ill buy it.
  • StupidTownColonStupidStateColon - April 29, 2009 4:58 a.m.

    Nice review, fair score Killzone 2 would need something big to get a 10. Games really have to be a little more revolutionary and inventive for the consoles these days. My xbox red-ringed due to AV problems, RIGHT when I said It wouldn't happen to me. Time to spend some time with the PS3.
  • r00sterb - March 28, 2009 1:46 p.m.

    i just can't believe that so many people would make such a fuss about a video game
  • unclemitso - March 14, 2009 11:22 p.m.

    I've lost faith in gamesradar for reviews.I love the site, love the features but(forgive me for saying it)they seem very xbox centric, they tend always to lean in that direction and sometimes it gets annoying. Before people start calling me a fanboy ill make it clear that i LOVE both consoles and if either one was discontinued tommorow id be heart broken. But that said to give anything favor just because it is your personal preference is just sad. The scores tend to be very off too, GTA4 got a 10 even though having major flaws and better more inovative games like saints row 2 get marked down drematically for no apparent reason. You cant really compare gears of war 2 with killzone on any level other than how much fun you personaly had playing through them as games and if the person who wrote this review thinks GeOW2 is better then he or she is entiteld to express that but they have to understand that 360fanboys are going to try to take your word as gospel and profess that it is better just because you say so.
  • danw1997 - March 7, 2009 5:47 p.m.

    i love killzone 1 so looking at the review its gonna be awsome!!
  • anduin1 - March 4, 2009 10:10 p.m.

    bias bias bias, seriously if you guys want to read good reviews go to kotaku.com, no number scores because seriously thats archaic now. It just gives the pros and cons of the game to see if you like/dislike the same things. gamesradar is good for comedy articles but your reviews are usually ass. The cons are subjective to the max, rather than giving actual faults you make shit up.
  • Drumdoctor - March 4, 2009 12:43 a.m.

    I played this game at a friend's house and it was pretty cool. I like how the multiplayer isn't just a deathmatch or capture the flag, but how it combines the 2 and creates a more war-like feeling that is much more immersive than COD offers. the only thing that screws me up is aiming, it might just be me, but i'm not used to activating the scope with R3, but that's probably just me. Otherwise it's a pretty sweet game, I'd give it a 10/10
  • Cane - March 2, 2009 8:28 p.m.

    KZ2= First Person Shooter GoW2= Third person Shooter So why compare them.....hmmmm......a little bias maybe???????? Yes Gears is good (played the first and enjoyed it), the second however....more of the same imo.
  • Jason.Darksavior - March 1, 2009 7:34 a.m.

    Looks good.

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