When your cruiser hits terra firma the level begins proper. The transition is seamless and the game looks just as good from a first-person perspective as it does in the intro. The Legion charge into battle, running down a wide road scattered with debris, dodging gunfire from entrenched Helghast troops. A vehicle explodes and its driver spills out engulfed in flames and lightning bolts tear through the sky. It’s utterly chaotic, and the game’s 7.1 Surround Sound support makes it overwhelming not only for your eyes, but your ears as well.
It’s here that we begin to understand how Killzone 2 works. The player cautiously makes his way up the street, taking cover behind anything, slowly but surely making his way towards a commander up ahead to receive his orders. He safely makes it behind a barricade and “objective completed” flashes at the top of the screen, confirming that this is in-game, real-time, and with zero lull in intensity when you’re being given orders by lavishly animated comrades. You find the commander crouched over a map. He orders you to push ahead and take out an anti-aircraft gun called an “Arc Tower” that’s blasting ISA cruisers out of the air before they have a chance to land. It’s familiar first-person shooter fare, but the atmosphere and visuals make it a lot more interesting than another gloomy trudge through wartime Normandy.
You break cover and continue, only to be immediately confronted by a Helghast hopping over a wall. The animation is scarily realistic; with motion-captured movements so natural, you almost can’t believe he can be shot. But, as dazzling as it is, you have to ventilate the masked swine with your M-82 assault rifle. Zooming through the rifle’s emerald-tinged sights, the depth of field effects are amazing. Everything around the reticule blurs and it mimics the behavior of the human eyeball remarkably well. Fire the rifle and the muzzle flash lights up the walls around you, sending the Helghast tumbling backwards in a macabre dance of death, blood exploding from his chest. It’s some of the most vivid and intense FPS action we’ve ever seen. There are dozens of different Helghast types, ranging from the familiar black-helmeted variety to enormous heavy duty chaingun-toting guys whose hefty armor seems impossible to penetrate.It’s instantly clear how different Killzone 2 is from most other first-person shooters. Not in terms of concept or gameplay, but in that it’s so robust and dynamic. Surfaces shatter and crumble when your bullets hit them, characters move realistically through the environment with weighty animations and the levels are densely packed with detail and spot effects like power lines wobbling in the wind. While a lot of the set-pieces in Resistance and Call of Duty 3 were amazing, it felt like more like you were a spectator rather than actually taking part. Killzone 2 changes all of this.
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