Is Killzone 2 the game for which PS3 owners have been waiting? Will its arrival ease the sting of every SIXAXIS scandal, PR opprobrium, and slapdash port?
I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t care.
I’ve adopted consoles of all shapes and sizes as my own, and like any proud parent, I wish all my charges nothing but success (even when they start wearing faceplates and embracing alternative high-definition formats). When I look at them, I don’t see colors or corporate logos; I see beautiful hunks of plastic and circuitry, all of which I cherish to an equal degree (or maybe, like some parents, I merely pretend to in public, on the rare occasions when I find myself there). When one console goes through an awkward phase, I lavish my attentions on another. I realize that this isn’t an option for everyone, especially in an economy where consoles may soon become more valuable as doorstops (after all, doorstops work for free), but if you can raise the cash, you’ll recoup the initial investment during the time you won’t be spending defending your purchase on message boards.
I won’t venture an opinion on whether Killzone 2 is a “Halo-killer”-the gaming landscape is big enough for both franchises to coexist peacefully. However, I won’t hesitate to report that it’s worth every penny of the hard-earned $60 you’ll be asked to exchange for the privilege of playing it. If you harbor a fondness for well-designed games featuring disembodied arms clasping high-powered weaponry, you’ll enjoy this one immensely.
Feb. 27, 2009
If you haven’t played the original Killzone, be prepared not to follow its sequel’s plot (I’m speaking from experience here). Shortly after selecting “New Campaign,” you’ll find yourself invading the planet of Helghan, the homeworld of the (presumably) alien Helghast race, as part of a massive Interplanetary Strategic Alliance taskforce. Your motivations for doing so are only vaguely alluded to, but all indications are that the Helghast had it coming. Any qualms you might feel about attempting to, uh…finish the fight in this manner are quickly quelled by their standard issue, villain-class British accents, fascist ideology, striking resemblance to RotJ-era Anakin Skywalker, and frequent attempts to kill you and the rest of your squad. Think The Forever War, without the moral ambiguity (or, if you’d rather spend less time imagining, and more time playing, just think “Starship Troopers”).
It’s a shame that developer Guerrilla Games didn’t demonstrate the same ingenuity in crafting a narrative that it did in honing its product’s gameplay and technical underpinnings, but the cookie-cutter sci-fi plot doesn’t detract from the action, and you won’t have much time to dwell on the lost opportunity once the bullets start flying. Just don’t expect to get to know your enemy before you mow him down.
You’ll spend most of the game fighting to occupy the decimated Helghast capital, Pyrrhus (based on the name, take a wild guess at what sort of victory the successful completion of your mission would represent), an urban center composed of labyrinthine shanty towns, interspersed with imposing, monumental edifices that only a Speer could love. Killzone 2’s level design might be its crowning achievement. Throughout the first half of the game, you’ll be escorting a sluggish convoy through the winding streets of Pyrrhus, which might sound like the antithesis of an action-packed assignment. But the vulnerable column’s reliance on your efforts provides a coherent rationale for all your objectives, and ensures a focus on the collaborative aspects of combat. Though Killzone 2 presents only a moderate challenge on the “Trooper” difficulty level, its inspired level design imparts a genuine sense of accomplishment to be savored after gaining each piece of ground, as well as a palpable sense of fighting on unfamiliar territory against an entrenched foe. On multiple occasions, you’ll spend an entire level taking a roundabout route to a fiercely defended position that was visible from your starting point; often, these extended sequences are followed by exhilarating breakthroughs, when the terrain grows more open and the firefights increase in intensity.