Sunday, 22 February 2009

Killzone 2 Single Player Review

Overall verdict
Ladies, if you have a boyfriend with a PS3, expect little or no love from him when the 27th of February 2009 arrives. If he has any sense, he’ll have a copy of KZ2 slammed into the PS3 and he’ll be engaging with Helghast instead of engaging with you. The bad news is that this lack of personal engagement might last quite some time … you might want to find a new boy friend with a Wii or Xbox360 because never before has war or any console game looked so depressingly beautiful. If I had to compare the entire game to a film, it would be best described by the opening sequence of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ (complete with naff story and suspect dialogue). KZ2 is an in your face, relentlessly grim, non-stop, gory, violent and adrenaline filled ride of a game that’s huge fun to play. It sucks you in, spits you out, gets you hooked and I really struggled to stop playing it long enough to write this review. In short, buy it, play it and enjoy it! Get some!

Developed by Guerrilla Games (a subsidiary of Sony Computer Entertainment), KZ2 sends players hurtling into the midst of an ultra-realistic ongoing battle between the Helghast and the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance (ISA). How did we get here? Erm, I’m not sure. I played KZ1 when it first came out and I can’t remember. One of my niggles about KZ2 is that I’m not sure what is going on – a good story is one that engages you and has a beginning, a middle and an end and this is one aspect I wish the developers had spent a little more time on - making me care more about the characters and the ongoing battle. It actually took me a while to realise I was playing as Sergeant Tomas “Sev” Sevchenko - a war hardened veteran leading the assault on Helghast central. Call of Duty 4 managed to do this well building up the characters and making us care about them. It’s a small niggle as the game is so damn fine, but with a little more history, I think the game could have had a greater emotional connection with the player. My other niggle is with the dialogue. It’s corny, clich├ęd and, with the exception of the rhetoric spewed out by Emperor Scolar Visari and Colonel Radec, utter crap (not to mention their daft accents). So, we have an invasion, the grim reality of war, heavy losses on both sides … not like real life on Planet Earth then? Hmmm see why I think Guerrilla Games could have made a better connection with the gamer? There are real echoes with the current state of the World – something that COD 4 capitalises on.

A bleak, post apocalyptic world has never been so ball achingly good. KZ2 is jaw droppingly beautiful and sets a new standard for console games – not just first person shooters. The most remarkable aspect of the graphics is that they are so well done and so ‘realistic’ you almost don’t notice them – very high praise indeed. And all that beauty is in the detail, the small things that you almost miss the first time you play the game. I took more time the second time round to savour the details and finally realised why it has taken so long to develop KZ2. Guerrilla Games should be applauded for the lengths they have gone to make Helghan seem so convincing. Everything from the dust blowing across a barren waste, to the destructible environments to the way Helghans die … all poetry in motion. You will have more than a few ‘holy shit!’ moments throughout the whole game.

Game play
Graphics can suck you in and make you coo with delight but if the game play blows, you won’t play for very long. KZ2 is an assault on the senses and overall the game play is solid. I found the default control settings counterintuitive and needed to be changed (I use Alternate 2) and once I tweaked the sensitivity I was a happy little bunny. KZ2 also includes a cover system that works for the most part. The use of the cover system is integral to the surviving the game. You cannot just run at the Helghast shooting from the hip – they will obliterate you in a heart beat. A couple of times now the cover system has failed me and wouldn’t let me fire my weapon. I just moved along a bit and all was fine so it’s not a major criticism in single player mode – but in multi-player online, it has the potential to irritate me if it costs me my life.

Speaking of enemies, there are 14 different class of Helghast all of whom fight in different ways and carry different weapons (one class do a nifty little forward roll too and are as nimble as ninja warriors). They are also seemingly intelligent. Not your usual AI fodder at all. These Helghast work in packs like wolves. They retreat if they’re on the back foot and advance if they have you pinned down. They run away from grenades and will flank you if you give them the chance. It’s amazing to see in action. This makes me wonder why the buddy AI is so poor by comparison. Damn fools kept getting in the way at times and then complaining that I shot them! Pah! “Get out of the way you moron”, I found myself shouting at the screen a few times. It doesn’t break the game play but is does stand out against the exceptional enemy AI.

Weapons are varied and fun to use. Using the knife reminded me of Counter strike Source – which is a good thing. Other weapons, from the Bolt Gun to the Electricity Gun made me smile. The flame thrower made me feel really guilty – all that screaming and flailing around and the sniper felt solid and good in my hands. I’ll be using that online. A lot.

Replay Value
I’m on my third run through already collecting all the trophies. The single player mode is engaging enough for you to want to run through it a few times but, I suspect, it’s the multiplayer mode (not yet tested by me) where KZ2 will really shine. Criticisms have been levelled at the game for a lack of co-op but seriously, with such a well developed and considerable multiplayer mode available, who cares? Not me.

It’s a must have for the PS3 owner and, if you don’t have a PS3, you should seriously consider getting one. It’s not perfect but then no game ever is. People will tell you it’s not revolutionary, that it doesn’t do anything new. Maybe there is a modicum of truth in that but, KZ2 is huge fun so don’t let those petty arguments distract you from what is a solid, beautiful game well worth the wait and one that meets its very high expectations.

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