Let me start in a quite blunt fashion. Killzone 2 is brilliant. It's an amazing game and certainly one of the better first person shooters there has ever been, certainly in the last few years. And yet it has several glaring flaws that stick out like a sore thumb, blemishes that tarnish the otherwise outstanding gameplay experience. Are they enough to ruin the game? Read on and find out. Or you could skip to where I give the answer, but that's cheating. Don't do that. Cheater.
The premise of Killzone 2 is simple, the story basic and unimportant. You are a good guy, going with other good guys to a bad guy planet to kill bad guys. Along the way, things happen. Obviously it's not exactly as simple as that, but it's not far off it. Some extra work on the story would have been welcome, but gameplay is much more important and this game has truckloads of it.
This games visuals can be summed up in one word, though most people are rendered speechless by the graphics, unable to utter that single word, the summation of their amazement at the sheer beauty presented onscreen, too much for them to bear. A word that sums up the game experience better than a twenty page review ever could. Wow.
Sparks fly from explosions all around you, bullets whizz by and erupt on whatever surface they make their final contact with, smoke billows into the air, lightning streaks across the sky in massive arcs, dust bursts into the screen, clouding your vision.... All small graphical touches that give so much to the game, adding a layer of depth beyond that of the larger objects that make up the majority of the game world visuals wise, the buildings, weapons, vehicles and characters, all which look gorgeous. Everything from the animation to the textures, the backdrops and the pre-rendered scenes have been polished to a freakish level. It's as if the entire development team are obsessive compulsives, pure perfectionists. In my time on the Helghast home planet, I don't think I've seen a single graphical hiccup, except for some very light clipping problems which are so small and infrequent as to almost not even be worthy of mention. Overall, Killzone 2 is the most visually impressive console game of it's (realistic) type that there has ever been.
So as not to repeat myself, I've broken out the thesaurus and looked up 'wow.' Doing so proved fruitless, but rather than give up, I've gone and invented my own word. Zeergoedinderdaad. You see my friends, zeergoedinderdaad is a wonderful word that allows me to express how great the sound in Killzone 2 is. With any normal, TV speaker set up, it isn't anything outstanding at all, being the usual fare for the most part. Where the aural aspect of this game really comes into it's own is with a 5.1 or higher audio setup. If you're lucky enough to have such a set up and a copy of Killzone 2, prepare for some serious eargasms. (Thanks Big Boi.)
As with my Halo 3 review, I'm going to... I shouldn't have mentioned Halo 3, now I'm going to have to compare the two games aren't I? Shiiiit. More on that later then. Anyway, as with the aforementioned review, I'm going to have to say that on the sound effect front, there isn't anything that stands out from other shooters, but that's not important. What is important is the way it's all put together. The sound of a bullet ripping through a Helghast soldier is nice alone, but add in the sound of your fellow soldiers screaming at each other, some of them dying, one lying on the ground calling for help, the enemy soldiers roaring orders at each other of the din of fifty guns being fired at once, thunder in the sky, an enemy APC rolling into position near you, and explosions far off in the distance, an anti aircraft gun blasting rounds into the air and two of your squadmates arguing gives you a truly immersive experience, when coupled with the visuals. (I mentioned they were pretty rad right?)
The voice acting is passable, sometimes verging on being pretty damn good, but never quite making it there. The cardboard characters aren't much of a help to this, the writing isn't great at all, with all your squad mates being about as stereotypical as they could possibly be without one of them wearing a beret, calling himself Charles and stopping mid-battle for a sip of tea and a crumpet on the side, perhaps a McVities Digestive on the saucer, in case he beings to feel peckish.
Disappointing too, is the music. I found myself turning it off early on, so annoyingly bland was it. I've fared much better with my own soundtrack playing in the background, though I suspect I may just be a bastard when it comes to music in my games. Overall, the audio is still fantastic, no amount of shoddy acting or music could take down the brilliant compostition of the sound effects. To put simply, it's zeergoedinderdaad.
Ahh, now we have reached the truly important stuff. Killzone 2 is a wonderfully fun game to play. While it offers nothing new gameplay wise, it has still done a pretty good job of crafting a great experience, amping up aspects of gameplay that other games can make seem boring. The weight behind everything is highly worthy of praise. Other games are often content with allowing a soldier outfitted with hundreds of pounds of gear to complete a 360 degree turn in a millisecond, but Killzone 2 scowls in the face of those games and makes your character turn more slowly than a pig on a broken spit. This is a good thing, adding realism and further adding to your immersion, something the developers were keen to focus on, never breaking from the first person. (Unless in a vehicle. Way to stick to your guns devs.) The guns too feel suitably weighty, reloadings are scarily interesting, with your character, Sev, almost seeming to struggle with the weapons sometimes. Perhaps it's an illusion, perhaps I'm imagining it, but I'll be damned if it doesn't seem like Sev truly feels the pressure during battle. But really, it doesn't matter. Because your immersed, so it can seem like that all it wants and you'll love the game all the more for it.
Speaking of illusions, I'm going to go against the common belief that the AI in Killzone 2 is intelligent. It isn't. It only seems like it is. While enemies can sometimes do things that make you think they're pretty smart, they still do things that enemies in Halo: CE didn't do. (Sorry, sorry) Running out in front of a rifle barrel is never smart. Never. Getting caught on scenery, or running in circles? Not smart. Never. That being said, these are rare occurences and the AI does display a suitable level of competency, sliding along cover often, meaning you never really know where to look for them.
Speaking of cover, the cover system in Killzone 2 is quite good. Instead of pulling back for a third person view of Sev, taking cover is completely first person and works very well. There are some times when you won't fully be covered, which can be annoying, but again, it's realistic. You can't be expected to see the enemy and fire at them, if not partially uncovered.
The action in the game very rarely lets up. Time after time you'll find yourself right in the middle of a massive firefight, which depending on the difficulty level of the game, will determine not if you die or not, but how many times you die. Indeed, many of the sections are frustratingly difficult, while some are far too easy. It's inconsistent, but does mean that the player will often have some time to relax, engaging in smaller battles.
The missions quite frankly never amount to anything more than kill everything in your path from A – B planting some explosives or turning a valve with clever SixAxis control sometimes. Despite this, the game never really feels stale, thanks to some radical changes in location on several occassions and some conviniently placed flamethrowers here and there. The weapons themselves are overall quite standard, but as stated earlier, have a fine weight behind them and feel like they could really f**k some **** up big time. It's quite empowering actually, wading into battle, slaughtering everything in your path.
In the game of course.
Go on, compare it to Halo 3
Oh all right, the comparisons are inevitable and everyone else is doing it. Compared to Halo 3, this is overall.... not a better game. I know there is a lot of hate for H3 and as such, I won't bother explaining myself. Suffice to say, Killzone 2 has radically better Visuals, sound effects and immersion, it just isn't always as well put together as some other games. But do it's flaws make it a bad game? Not nearly, not nearly at all. (Cheater) Because while they detract slightly from the game, you'll find yourself not caring at all. This is why writing a review for this game is so damn hard. It has to be experienced to truly know what it's like.
Anyway, I highly recommend it for purchase and this will likely be a strong candidate for game of the year '09. If you own a PS3, you really do need to have this. It's an experience, a war that draws you in and demands you do your damndest to beat back the Helghast until your last breath or theirs. And when that screen-obscuring dust settles, you'll see a beauty that goes deeper than anything you'll actually see in the game. Because in Killzone 2 what you feel is much more important than what you see and hear. It's you in this war, not Sev. And in the end, when the last Helghan falls before you, you'll have been through an often hellish experience. But you'll be all the better for it.