It’s almost impossible to write anything on Killzone 2 without mentioning the infamous E3 trailer in 2005. That set a standard so high, few people believed it would be possible. To its credit, the game does look nearly identical to what was seen four years ago, an impressive achievement. Sadly, the game seems to hinge on its presentation while the rest of the game is entirely cut and pasted from the FPS school of generic design.
Immediately apparent are the controls. Killzone 2 feels slow, sluggish, and unresponsive. It’s as if the game is running a quarter of a second behind the players inputs, increasing the frustration of aiming and running through ammo as if it were water (and ironically it feels slow like you’re playing in water). It’s as if the game is trying for some form of realism, yet the game takes place on the Helghast home world after a space jump. Realism is the least of Killzone’s worries.
Once dropped into the world, players are immediately bombarded by gunfire. It’s an intense opening, one that makes you wonder how epic the rest of the game will be. Killzone 2 sadly lacks any major “wow” moments. Many of its battles increase their intensity by overwhelming the player with enemies, or throwing in additional waves. Levels are scattered with the typical red barrels and explosives that no one with any sense leaves around.
Level design does little to be spectacular. This is a game that loves steps and elevators, using them in every level (multiple times) to the point where it becomes tiresome. You know there’s a Helghast army waiting around the corner, so the tired ambushes stop being fun in the second level.
The best parts of this sequel are the subtle ones. A level set in a wind-swept wasteland is the game’s best, mostly because it doesn’t rely on throwing streams of enemies at the player. Foes and encounters are spread out, letting the player become immersed in the environment. The slower pace, both of the main character and the controls, are better suited to this as well. Instead, Killzone 2 goes for the gold and tries to compete with the best in the genre, falling flat in the process.
Weapons lack anything to set this franchise apart from the games sitting in the middle of the genre. The best, including a fun electricity gun, are only seen briefly before it becomes more assault and sniper rifles. A few turret sections are par for the course, although one late in the game harkens back to Star Wars with some fun results. There’s also a mech sequence that delivers some enjoyment, albeit brief.
It’s also a real shame there’s no co-op play at all. Despite the fact that a second AI character is with the player most of the game (and constantly getting in the way), the campaign is a solo affair. Multi-player versus supports 32 players for some hectic, engaging battles across numerous game modes, but there’s little for friends to do together.
You’ll end the game on an anti-climatic note, one of those shooter endings that throws a boss character at the player that can suddenly withstand a few hundred bullets without any reason. Killzone 2 tries to liven it up with a large scale battle beforehand, but the brawl ends up being frustrating and cheap. Of course, the ending cinema does nothing more than to set up a sequel, a shame since the prior cinematics are worthy of your time.
Is Killzone 2 a bad game? No, but it is the second game of this series to be overwhelmed by a hype machine it can’t hold up to. Thankfully, it’s not the technical mess its predecessor was, yet it’s blatantly obvious time was spent not making those same mistakes as opposed to making a shooter that could stand out in 2009.
This is the type of game that recalls Toshinden. Those that remember that dud of a fighting game will remember the high marks it received purely based on its technical aspects, not its gameplay. That’s what will happen to Killzone 2. This is a far better game at its core than the infamous Toshinden, but underneath the gloss is a shooter that’s scared to try anything new, or provide anything memorable aside from the initial visual pizzazz.