Your ammo is running low, and you're pinned behind a small pillar, slowly being torn apart by the shrapnel of explosions from grenades being lobbed your way. The smoke of gunfire blurs your vision, and you frantically look around, realising that most of your comrades are dead, shot down by the insidious red-eyed demons that surround your position. Lightning scatters through the thick, dark clouds, just barely silencing the loud gunfire and battlecries of blood thirsty soldiers, all aiming towards you. You're trapped, and a feeling of hopelessness engulfs you. You can do nothing but fight back, praying to whatever divine being you believe in, hoping they will hear you, and guide those last 20 bullets to your survival, and their demise.
Welcome to Helghan, a planet torn apart by the vengeful war machine that is the Helghast, and the setting for PlayStation 3's flagship title, Killzone 2. The first glimpse we were ever given of the game was way back at E3 2005, when the PlayStation 3 was announced. A trailer was released, showing Guerrilla's vision in what they wanted to create, and what they might be able to do with the technology behind the PS3. The trailer was intense, with immensely detailed character models, fantastic particle effects and incredible lighting. It looked too good to be true, and unfortunately, it was. After all, the trailer was not running real-time. But Guerrilla seemed adamant to defy the odds. No one thought it was possible that anyone could ever live up to that trailer. Killzone 2 was doomed from the start, never to live up to the immense detail the trailer showed, the intensity of battle and the feeling of war. But this time around, perseverance proved the victor, and the vision became a reality.
Killzone 2 lives up to its expectations, for many, many reasons, and overcomes its biggest hurdle, namely the visuals. If you think that a game could never look as good as the 2005 trailer, then you will be pleasantly surprised. The engine Guerrilla have developed is simply put, phenomenal. Textures are consistently high in resolution, character models are incredibly well detailed, and the lighting engine and post processing are astoundingly good. Everything simply looks immaculate; the attention to detail in every area should exceed anyone's expectations in terms of visuals, and the only game to outdo Killzone 2 technically would be Crysis, but believe us, that is a very close call. There is no doubt in our minds that Killzone 2 not only lives up to the 2005 trailer, but outdoes it in almost every way. This game shows the power of the PlayStation 3 in its purest form yet.
OK, but so what if Killzone 2 looks incredible? Just because the book presents itself nicely, doesn't mean it reads well, right? Thankfully though, the gameplay of Killzone 2 is viciously unrelenting, and one hell of a ride. The feel is different to most other FPS games, as there is a feeling of weight behind your character, making aiming feel a little unusual at first. Eventually you'll grow accustomed to it though, and movement will feel second nature. The gunplay has a realistic feel to it, where every weapon has a different level of recoil, making you first learn how to use the weapon in the most efficient way, rather than just pick up and go. Every weapon has a unique feel and different level of damage. The standard issue ISA assault rifle for example, is not the best for long bursts of fire, but short, controlled bursts are deadly when aimed at the head. Meanwhile, the Helghast's sub-machine gun can be used efficiently for hip firing, with its rapid firing rate and smaller level of recoil. Whether you prefer using the Sniper Rifle for deadly, precise aim (with a very cool use of sixaxis to boot), or the Helghast Assault Rifle for sporadic aim, but very high damage, there will be some weapon in Killzone 2 that you will hold close to you.
And you'll most certainly want it close to you at all times, as the Helghast are a force to be reckoned with. We played through the game on Veteran difficulty (the second hardest difficulty, Elite being unlocked after completing the game), and many a time the Helghast caught us off guard and had us killed before we even noticed what happened. Helghan Assault Troopers will jump from cover to cover, firing bursts of blind fire to keep you pinned, and cover their comrades with more precise aiming when fired upon. They will actively throw grenades at your position to flush you out, which in turn gives them a big opening to take you down. When their cover is destroyed, they'll roll or slide across the ground into the next form of cover, and call out to their squad mates to assist. They have an intelligent and aggressive pack mentality; they will watch and cover one another with deadly force. And this is just one of the many different types of Helghan soldiers fighting against you. Shock Troopers will rush you and roll out of incoming fire; Heavies will keep you pinned down while the Shock Troopers close in. There are several types, that all work together in cohesion. One Helghan soldier alone can be tough, but several Helghans can turn a routine piece into a very intense fire fight, and will force you to take cover and think quick. The cover system implemented in Killzone 2 really shows its worth in the higher difficulties, and will become a necessity in any fire fight, in order to live longer than 10 seconds.
But there's not much else to the gameplay of Killzone 2 really. Aside from some very cool weapons which we won't speak about, and some awesome set pieces, While it doesn't bring anything exceedingly new to the table, that's not necessarily a bad thing. What Killzone 2 does, is it brings to the table is console FPS gameplay that we've all grown up with and learned to love, but refines it to a whole new level. It does not 'redefine' the genre - it simply defines it in its most polished form yet. And this is why Killzone 2 succeeds as a First Person Shooter.
The narrative of Killzone 2 is probably its weakest point, though it's not so weak to cause disinterest. Your main characters are a typical macho-man bunch, with the main character that you play as, Sev, being a man of few words, which gives you a sense of intrigue as to what kind of person he is as you progress through the 10 hour long single player. The people of planet Helghan are also a fascinating kind, and as you play through the game you come to learn why they invaded the ISA's home planet, Vekta in the first place, and you also begin to question the ISA's strength in the seemingly never ending war. It's not a complicated story, and it won't blow anyone away, but it does the job decently enough to keep you glued to the seat. This is thanks largely to the phenomenal voice acting of Brian Cox, the voice of the leader of the Helghan people, Scolar Visari.
Once you're done with the single player portion of the game as well, you'll have Warzone and Skirmish to look forward to. Warzone being the online multiplayer component with up to 32 players supported, and Skirmish the offline equivalent with up to 15 bots. Both modes feature similar gameplay as the single player portion, though the cover system has been removed, and aiming is made easier to pick up the pace. Warzone features a class based system much like that of Team Fortress 2, where you can be the typical soldier with the default assault rifle, or several others such as the sniper, the medic, engineer and tactician. These all need to be unlocked before use, so everyone online begins with the same weaponry and progresses from there as they level up through victories and frags. Once you've unlocked all the different classes, you can further unlock more features, such as the ability to merge two classes together, with one being a main class and the others ability infused into it. Eventually, you can have snipers that can cloak and heal themselves, or engineers that can plant turrets and call in air strikes. Nice. At the time of writing, the servers weren't open, so we didn't get the chance to properly experience the level up system, though the bot matches seemed like a good fun warm up.
Another high point in Killzone 2's arsenal is sound. With a decent enough surround sound system, you will be utterly blown away by the games outstanding directional audio, outputted in DTS. Bullets will zip by your ears as you're fired upon, and explosions will almost drown out everything else around you because they're so loud. It's crisp, clean and fantastic. The surround sound is put to great use around the games end too, which makes for a memorable (and very intense) experience. The only gripe we had with the sound was that some of the voice acting can be a little overcooked, where expletives can be used to a rather large extent for the sake of being used, and rather than make the mood of the scene feel serious, makes it feel more amusing than anything. Thankfully though, you'll be too busy shooting Helghan's to listen to the sound of people swearing, so it's nothing too distracting.
Killzone 2 first of all, does not kill any game that has ever been released. The reason for this is that, well, you can't kill something that isn't alive. Seriously though, a game is a game and they are developed around the prospect of entertaining us. And Killzone 2 entertains in a big way. Guerrilla have defied the claims that they could never reach the visual clarity of that infamous 2005 trailer and they defied claims that gameplay would be lacking. They haven't done anything really 'new', nor have they made a game that redefines the way we play FPS games. They've made a game that sets the benchmark for what level of quality FPS games should aim for, and stands strong against this generations biggest FPS games, proudly presenting itself as a vicious shooter that will grip you by the throat, and won't let go. With superb aesthetics, a hugely polished single player component, and a deep, class based 32 player Multiplayer component, there is no reason why you shouldn't go and pick up Killzone 2.