(I wrote this review quite some time ago for PlayStation LifeStyle. It's credited to Anthony Severino due to the fact that I no longer work with PSLS, yet the original author is myself)
What follows is as much a thank you letter to Guerrilla Games as it is a review.
Thank you for the extremely high levels of production value present at all times in Killzone 2. The attention to detail and the tender love and care given to every single facet of the presentation and gameplay has been something I’ve longed for in a cinematic First-Person Shooter experience since the very first time I played shooter games many years ago as a child.
Thank you for the volumetric effects; you spoil us PS3 owners with such wondrous visual fidelity and you give this game an overwhelmingly organic feel that is greatly appreciated. Never before has a game caused me to fear for my life only because I just plain can’t see what is in front of me. The step up to volumetric effects was a wise step indeed, and the 3D smoke really thickens the atmosphere beyond anything you’ve played before. The smoke doesn’t feel “rendered”, it most assuredly feels real because it lingers and completely cuts off your visibility, just like it would in real life. This allows for some very dramatic close encounters with Helghast soldiers; you’ll be wildly flailing your knife in the air with the hopes of hitting someone because you’re afraid of where they might pop out from.
Thank you for the lighting, Guerrilla. The subtle shift in colors and other more dramatic atmosphere changes between areas are really and truly a treat for the eyes. Your game is lit like a beautiful work of art, and it shows…everywhere; a lone dynamic light above a wooden walkway revealing deep browns and reds of dried blood and paint, or a cold industrial feel of greenish-gray being emitted from light bulbs in a tiled stone-and-steel building. Muzzle flashes cast eerie shadows on these dark and terribly beautiful environs, creating a sense of occupation or presence. The occasional dead soldier is on the ground with dried brownish blood all around him; a single bulb illuminates this, seemingly with the goal to bring the grisly scene to your attention. It’s another reminder that war is hell, and sometimes men are indeed left behind.
You’ve given us an above-average single player campaign with great soldier-acting (hey, soldiers aren’t Oscar winners, so you won’t see me complaining about hokey one-liners or tired cliches) and monstrous set pieces befitting of a Michael Bay action film. With such a wide variety of landscapes to traverse, there is never a bored moment, and it never really does feel scripted because of the great AI you’ve implanted into the minds of the Helghast. It’s always a challenge no matter what way we approach a situation, and I thank you for that. The enemy react very well, trying to flank me and flush me out, and work together to overwhelm me and create a sense of desperation and panic.
What sounds grace my ears in glorious full surround but the sounds of war, howling wind, screams of fallen foes and the thunderous booming of distanced artillery; in another instance…the low humming of industrial equipment, radio chatter of Helghast patrols, the mighty crashing of lightning as it streaks across the sky, lighting up your proximity with a flash of electrical intensity so bright that it makes you go “wow…”.
The aural quality and presence of Killzone 2 is evidently heard in every action you perform, be it reloading your weapon, firing said weapon, slashing your trusty knife, the crunch of the soil underfoot or the tapping of your boots on cold and hard pavement, the distinct sound of a rusty old Helghast assault rifle being reloaded from behind cover 10 yards away…regardless whether it’s voice, sound effect, music (an orchestral style which hearkens back to Michael Giacchino’s Medal of Honor days), or environmental audio, all of it was created and put to use in such a top-notch way that there is no ignoring the fact that you surely are jacks-of-all-trades, Guerrilla Games.
Building on your already popular multiplayer from your first effort, Killzone, your new system of ranks and upgrades is one sure to be cherished by any modern FPS fan. Any long-time player of the genre now expects there to be not just quality of actual gameplay, but depth as well. Killzone 2′s multiplayer component (replete with bots that function very well, mind you) is poised to put great numbers up on the board, and I believe it will be chock full of active clans and eager players. There are eight (!) beautifully rendered maps and several modes available (ranging from deathmatch to capture the flag types, and others) and all of these modes are playable within one map load (which eliminated going back to the lobby), and this clearly shows your intention, Guerrilla, of keeping the players together throughout their multiplayer experiences. I’m positive you will be thanked for that.
One final statement remains to be said. Your latest game is the very definition of redemption, Guerrilla. You have taken any issues you had with the first Killzone and totally turned them around, in fact making them your strengths. That is the perfect example of a fantastic developer, one that learns from past experience, applies knowledge gained and strives to listen to the community and their fans and give them what they want. Thanks for such an atmospheric, enjoyable, memorable, visceral, frantic and just plain fun shooter, Guerrilla Games. You and Killzone 2 really deserve any and all praise.