America - Front
America - Back
By Karl Koebke 08th Mar 2009 | 32,096 views
It has been a long time coming, and some thought it may never actually make it to retail, but Killzone 2 is finally available for purchase. I wish I could say that this game was perfect and lived up to every expectation ever put forth for it, but that would be a lie. What I can say is that a lot of work has been put into this title, and it is one of the best FPS games to come out this generation.
The default controls map the fire button to R1, grenades to R2, and close combat to L1. You also have the ability to crouch using the L2 button, which will also put your character into cover if he is near a wall or other suitable structure to hide behind in the single player. The cover system works well most of the time, but it can be annoying when you are simply trying to walk around crouched and you unknowingly walk next to a wall and suddenly you are stuck using it for cover and cannot walk away from it unless you stop crouching. This takes some getting used to, but overall the cover system works well to allow for larger fire fights and more dangerous situations then would be possible without it.
Other notable controls are pressing L3 to sprint for a short amount of time, Triangle to switch between your main weapon and your pistol, pressing Square to reload, and pressing R3 to use the scope on your gun. These controls can all be switched between six different button mappings, which is a nice addition and allows for most people to find something to their liking. I wish that there was an ability to just map any action to any button you cared to, but having several different options is the next best thing, and I personally find Alternate 2 to be just about perfect for my own gaming needs and seeing as it is nearly identical to the latest Call of Duty control set ups it should please most FPS fans.
Killzone 2 is a science fiction shooter that is set in the middle of a war between two different factions: the Helghast and the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance (ISA). The story is set 2 years after the Helghast invaded a colony of the ISA called Vekta and broke the tenuous peace between the ISA and themselves. The ISA has decided that they must take the fight to the Helghast, and proceed to invade their home world of Helghan. You play as Sev, a member of the Alpha Team which is a kind of Special Forces for the ISA and consists of a four man squad. As the invasion fleets come into the Helghan atmosphere many are shot down by strange lightning bolts that devastate a large amount of the fleet. Once within the planet’s atmosphere they proceed to put troops onto drop ships to transport them behind enemy lines so that they can deal with these strange planetary defenses. This is where you and Alpha Team come in.
The story is pretty standard Science Fiction FPS stuff. There were some interesting moments mainly dealing with the Helghast leader (Scholar Visari), which get into the mindset of the Helghast as a whole, as well as their esteemed leader. These thought provoking moments are few and far between, so the story is mostly just a medium to get you between points of actions, which is probably what most want out of their FPS games. There were a few noteworthy moments in the story, but mostly it succeeded simply by not directly getting in the way of the gameplay itself.
Playing Killzone 2 is all about finding cover. You can die extremely quickly if you decide to just run around, so it is always a better idea to remain in cover while only peeking out to take pot-shots at the Helghast around you. The controls take some definite getting used to in the single player campaign because everything has a feel of weightiness to it. When you press the right analog stick to turn or look in another direction you’ll find that there’s a perceivable “lag” between when you start pressing the direction and when your character actually starts moving. This is actually because the developers programmed in acceleration into the character’s movements to try and make it more realistic. This is an interesting idea, but I personally feel they might have underestimated the acceleration with which a person will be moving during a fire fight. That said, the acceleration aspect takes some getting used to, but I quickly found no trouble with it after around 15 minutes or so. The effect is decreased significantly for the multiplayer aspect of the game, which plays much more like the run and gun that most people are used to.
The single player campaign is a fun experience with some epic moments, but the real meat of Killzone 2 and the thing that will eat up most of your time is its online multiplayer. As I previously mentioned, the acceleration that was programmed into the campaign mode is much less noticeable in multiplayer and the cover system is completely taken out so that Warzone plays much more like the squad based FPS many are used to in an online multiplayer. What differentiates Killzone 2 from most other squad based FPS games is the ability to earn and choose between differing classes, and the way that battles actually play out online.
Once you choose to play as either the Helghast or the ISA for any given match, you’ll then have a choice of which class you want to play as. The classes in Killzone 2 are similar to those in Team Fortress 2. You have a medic that can revive those who are mortally wounded, an engineer who can create turrets, an assault class that has heavy armour, a tactician who can set new spawn points for troops, a saboteur who can assume the disguise of enemy players, and a scout who is a cloaked sniper. There are seven classes in total, and each plays significantly differently, which helps to keep the gameplay fresh since you have the option of switching classes each time you spawn. You won’t start with all of these classes, however, and instead they must be earned by gaining points and increasing your rank.
With each rank you achieve you will unlock either a new weapon that you can use with the standard rifleman starting class, or a new badge that will allow you to use another class. Once you start using your new class, you’ll find that you are given a single special ability, but don’t have the secondary ability that all classes are meant to have. This is because you have to unlock the secondary ability by earning medals. Here is a simple example: I just unlocked the medic badge, and find that I now have the ability to revive people whenever they are mortally wounded (they’ll appear as a cross on the minimap), but to earn the ability to throw health packs I need to earn the Trauma Surgeon medal. To earn this medal you have to successfully revive 5 players in a single match, which will earn you a Revival Specialist Ribbon. Earn eight of these ribbons and you now have yourself the Trauma Surgeon medal and the ability to throw people health packs. This method of earning unlockables is used often and will give you everything from the ability to mix and match primary and secondary class abilities to receiving more ammo and grenades each time you spawn. It can be tough for those just starting the game, but it adds an extra incentive to keep playing the multiplayer beyond the simple fun that can be had.
The second thing that makes Warzone special is how online matches play out. Two sides are pitted against each other with a maximum of 16 players on each side. The goal of each match is not simply to kill the most people on the opposing side, but instead to succeed in missions that are given to you as the match progresses. There are five different missions that range from assassinating a computer chosen player from the opposing side to taking and holding positions on the map. After you succeed or fail each mission another one is assigned to your team and your team is awarded a match point. The team with the most match points at the end of the match is the winner. This means that you are constantly being given new goals that you must achieve as a team, and gives the gameplay of each multiplayer match a lot of variety as you switch from defense to offense, to just trying to survive as the assassination target.
Points for increasing your rank are earned by killing members on the opposing side, but you’ll get more points if you kill people while helping to achieve the current mission. This means that you’ll get a single point for killing someone in a random firefight, but you’ll get two points for killing someone while you defend a zone, or five points for taking out the assassination target. The points system helps to reward those who help the team as a whole, but does not force you to do so if you would rather just go around killing everyone you see. You can also gain points by fulfilling your primary class role, such as resurrecting someone who is mortally wounded as a medic.
The visuals in Killzone 2 are quite stunning, and anyone who has played it will tell you, it has some of the most technically impressive graphics currently on consoles. Everything looks amazingly realistic and there was not a graphical hitch in sight other than when loading new sections of the campaign. My only real issue with the graphics is that there is not enough variety in the environments. The areas are different enough that you can easily tell them apart, and I understand that when you are invading a planet that is meant to be a desolate wasteland you probably aren’t going to go strolling through fields of daffodils, but I still would’ve liked to have seen some variety beyond urban and desert areas.
Killzone 2 is full of little graphical details that impress. Character models, for example, are nicely detailed and there are some superb lighting and shadow effects. One thing that particularly sets Killzone 2 apart from other shooters is the use of rag-doll animations. Enemies (in both the campaign and online) recoil with pain in the exact spot that the bullet that enters them, and blood splatters around every single bullet hole, it makes the experience truly engrossing because your enemy actually looks like he’s being hit by bullets. You also feel the effect of bullets yourself. There’s a red blood effect that comes up on the screen when you get hit, and as you approach death a strange blue-grey lighting effect takes over the screen.
Killzone 2’s audio is surprisingly well done. I wasn’t expecting much from the tracklist of the campaign, but there were actually some very fitting orchestral numbers that worked well with the action on screen. During multiplayer there is no music on default, but you can play any music that you happen to have on your Playstation 3 through the XMB. This feature is not allowed in the campaign however, presumably because the developers didn’t want you drowning out all the hard work they put their composer through. The voice-overs in Killzone 2 are well done from the aspect that they convey what they are meant to very well and the voices themselves were never cringe worthy. What is cringe worthy are the idiotic lines they had these poor guys spouting every hour or so. I understand that these guys are meant to be battle hardened veteran bad asses, but is there really a need for them to all sound like stereotypical fratboys? I got to the point where I wanted the other members of my squad to kick the bucket so I wouldn’t have to here another joke about Garza’s mother or Natko’s homosexual tendencies.
The gameplay in Killzone 2 varies from the incredibly fun and full of variety Warzone online multiplayer, with its mission based matches that constantly keep you on your toes, to the campaign which has some epic moments, but is also much more repetitive. The controls take some definite getting used to (especially in single player), but once you get beyond that 15-20 minute stretch you will find this to be an extremely fun experience. The campaign was probably my only real issue with the gameplay, as there wasn’t enough variety in most of the objectives I had to achieve for me to feel it was all that different from your standard “kill people and get here” missions. There are some fun vehicle sequences which I wish had been used more often, and the atmosphere of the campaign helps you feel like you are a part of a much larger and very real war. ISA members are almost always fighting and dying beside you. Unfortunately your squad members have the same tendency to die, but they are not necessary and can be easily revived if you see fit. The gameplay online is very balanced, to such an extent that 1v1 draws are quite common, which is highly unusual in FPS games. A lot of the time if you go up against someone 1v1 you will end up killing each other. Again, it’s something that makes Killzone 2 unique and fun to play.
Value in this title is hurt by the campaign, which is only a six hour play through. There are collectibles, as well as multiple difficulty levels to give this a bit of replay value, but it is still quite short. Luckily for Killzone 2, it also comes with an extremely well done multiplayer with unlockables that will keep people playing for a very long time. Everything about Killzone 2’s multiplayer seems to be designed to keep people coming back for more, and the easy clan implementation makes it simple for people to get a group of friends together and start facing off in epic battles for the honor of their clan and Valor points that you can bet with and determine your ranking as a clan. The website for Killzone 2 also functions well with the multiplayer, giving each clan their own dedicated forum and allowing you to watch tactical replays of any official match. There are also bots available for those who want to practice their multiplayer skills offline, or for online matches that need a few extra bodies to even things up. Bots would probably be more significant if there was splitscreen available in the game, but it is still a nice addition.
Killzone 2 has been the brunt of jokes and the hope of many Playstation fans for three and a half long years, and I’m happy to see that the game pulled through and brought us a great package that surpassed my previous expectations. The visuals are in the top class of console games from a technical standpoint, the multiplayer is a constantly shifting affair that borders between order and chaos that never gets boring, and the campaign contains some very memorable moments that were also a lot of fun, but the script was at times horrendously juvenile and the campaign was unfortunately short. Killzone 2 does not reinvent the first-person shooter by any means, but it is a fantastic example of the genre which no FPS fan should skip.
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