Killzone 2 Review
Killzone 2 boasts amazing visuals, an intense campaign, and extraordinary online play that will keep you coming back for more.
- Well-paced campaign keeps you in the thick of action
- Great online play constantly rewards you
- Intricate, balanced multiplayer maps
- Weapons are beefy and fun to shoot
- Visually stunning, both technically and artistically.
- Forgettable story and characters
- Tacked-on motion controls.
No one could have suspected that the sequel to 2004's Killzone would be this good. Killzone 2 is a tremendous package, offering an exciting campaign and terrific competitive online play, neither of which create new paradigms for first-person shooters, but rather set new standards in subtle but significant ways. From groundbreaking visuals to well-crafted multiplayer maps, most of Killzone 2's individual elements stand out in a crowded genre, making its meager attempts at storytelling easy to ignore. PlayStation 3 owners looking for a shooter to keep them busy for the rest of 2009 and beyond need look no further: The fierce action will keep you glued to your television screen for some time to come.
The M82: Is there nothing it can't do?
What makes Killzone 2's single-player campaign so much fun? First and foremost, the weapons are a lot of fun to shoot, even the standard assault rifles that form the core of your loadout. The M82's effective scope makes zooming in on your target a breeze, yet this rifle is effective at close range as well, establishing itself from the beginning as a formidable firearm. The LS13 shotgun is also powerful and rewarding to fire; though you may only shoot off a foe's helmet with other weapons, you'll watch entire heads explode with a single blast from this close-range powerhouse. The bolt gun is another favorite, skewering enemy soldiers onto surfaces and exploding a short moment later. Though you're traversing a sci-fi setting, your weapons are decidedly modern-day, from the sniper rifle to the vicious flamethrower, with one exception: the lightning gun. This mighty instrument showers enemies with overpowering jolts of electricity, and though it's not available for long, it makes short work of robotic and humanoid foes. Each of these weapons feels just right; fantastic spurts of blood, outstanding animations, exquisitely detailed weapon models, and explosive sound effects fuse seamlessly and give a satisfying sense of impact every time you land a shot.
That action is enhanced by groundbreaking visuals that elevate Killzone 2 to the head of its class. Both technically and artistically, this is a real stunner. You'll first notice the obvious expressions of its technical prowess: environments jam-packed with objects and textured architectural details, pipes and crumbling rebar jutting from dilapidated buildings, and gorgeous lighting that drenches market squares and sandy battlefields with an incandescent glow. As you peel away the visual layers, your appreciation will only grow. Soldier animations are the best in the genre: Enemies move so fluidly during battle, and shift from cover to firing stance so smoothly, it's clear that meticulous attention was given to making each limb move authentically. Even the smallest details are striking. Raging fires react to the wind as it blows through the level, lightning flashes across the gloomy skies, and billows of smoke so thick you could choke on them cloud your view--but never so much as to be a gameplay annoyance.
The eight maps included are exceptional, largely because they are flexible enough to make every mode feel like a natural fit for the precise layouts. Aspects such as the varying spawn points of the propaganda speaker in Search and Retrieve, and the vulnerable locations of capture points in Capture and Hold, provide focused hot spots and send you to every nook and cranny of the maps. Be prepared to think vertically because the pathways wind up stairwells, through hidden tunnels, and across balconied walkways. The addition of techniques available to each of Killzone 2's seven classes makes the ensuing action even more dynamic. An engineer's turrets can make Pyrrhus Rise's natural chokepoints even more treacherous, whereas a cloaked enemy may pounce on you as you navigate Tharsis Depot's constricted walkways. All the while, visual flourishes such as floating embers on Visari Hammer and distant artillery fire on Salamun Market keep the mood oppressive.
Additional features flesh out the robust online play. You can join other teammates in a squad, a la Battlefield 2 and Enemy Territory, a feature that lets you coordinate attacks with ease. Full support for clans and clan challenges should make Killzone 2 a natural destination for competitive teams, and you can use killzone.com to schedule clan matches and tournaments. But whether you're a lone wolf or a clan enthusiast, you'll be happy to find a mostly smooth online experience, with only rare and short bouts of visual slowdown and online lag. In light of this extraordinary suite of online options, it's a pity that there is no cooperative play, and the single-player campaign seems ripe for such an addition, given that you're usually accompanied by an AI teammate.
You'll have to look to the inevitable Killzone 3 to find out if developer Guerilla can dig any diamonds out of this series' rough narrative. Otherwise, Killzone 2 is an exceptional first-person shooter, not because it does anything particularly new, but because it does everything extraordinarily well. There's certainly no doubting its graphical superiority, but though its moody visuals invite incessant superlatives, it's the tight, electric action that will make this an off- and online haven.