Killzone 2 (PlayStation 3) review
"Because the game rewards you for playing, you never feel that your time and efforts are being wasted. ďSo I got my ass handed to me and only made 10 kills in an hour," you might think. "Big deal. Thatís still 10 kills closer to my next rank.Ē With that said, you'll never just have 10 kills in a match of Killzone 2. The game is designed for heavy casualties. Itís not uncommon to get over a hundred kills in a single match."
Generally, itís about a week between the time that I receive a game and the time that I produce a review of it (RPGs notwithstanding). When things take longer, I usually blame the delay on the weather, Satan, Capcom or any other of the mysterious forces in life over which we have no control. In this case, though, the fault lies entirely with Killzone 2 itself. Iíve simply been too busy making kills online to spend time writing about it.
If all of the big first-person shooters got together and had an orgy, Killzone 2 would be their love-child. It features all of the latest FPS goodies, including limited carrying capacity (one handgun, one big gun), recoverable health, an unobtrusive HUD, un-killable team mates who repeatedly shout annoying phrases and a cover system lifted straight from Gears of War. The only thing missing from the package is a crowbar. I guess Gordon Freeman wasnít invited to the party.
For prospective buyers, the online mode is all that really needs to be considered. Though Killzone 2 as a single-player game does feature solid mechanics, the mode gets old fast. But youíre not really expecting me to talk about the single player experience, are you? Iím telling you, itís totally skippable and any time spent describing it is time that I could be spending in another online match. Ah, hell... I suppose I am contractually bound to mention it.
Historically, the first-person shooters which have aged well have done so by incorporating other elements, such as puzzles (as in the case of Portal). A good FPS will often transcend its genre by focusing heavily on story and presenting a detailed environment, like Bioshock did. Even the most basic FPS usually takes care to include some kind of twist in the gameplay that differentiates it from its inbred cousins, like Deus Exís RPG elements or Half Life 2ís gravity gun. In contrast, Killzone 2 uses tested mechanics that work (but are nothing original) in linear environments within the scope of what might be the blandest story ever to hit the PS3. The gameís not particularly bad; it just doesnít stand out in any way amongst all of the other ďkill the invading aliensĒ games (though to be fair, in this case itís the good guys doing the invading, and the aliens are just outcast humans who watched Jin-Roh one too many times).
Ignore the single player. Go straight to the multi-player instead.
It feels funny to be saying that because Iím not really an online shooter kind of person. Mostly, I hate the trash-talking. The only thing I hate more than the trash-talking is getting killed within two seconds of spawning... by a trash-talker. Especially when that trash-talker is fourteen. Generally, Iíll play a few online rounds of a game when I first get it, but eventually I hit that wall where I have to start devoting some serious time to the game if I want to get better, and rarely do I have any reason to do so.
Killzone 2 goes to great lengths to provide those reasons.
Probably the most obvious draws are the ranks and medals. Ranks are rewarded when you make a lot of kills, while medals require you to meet certain conditions (such as 10 headshots in a single round). Beyond just being markers of your achievements, the ranks and medals give you new abilities and weapons with which to wreak havoc on your opponents. Unlocked jobs and skills are well thought out and offer a lot of variety in play style. The starting class has no special ability beyond generally kicking ass, but the later classes have highly useful powers. For instance, the medics can revive downed team members, and the tacticians can create new spawning points on the map. Once you progress far enough, you can even mix any two abilities to make your own custom class.
Because the game rewards you for playing, you never feel that your time and efforts are being wasted. ďSo I got my ass handed to me and only made 10 kills in an hour," you might think. "Big deal. Thatís still 10 kills closer to my next rank.Ē With that said, you'll never just have 10 kills in a match of Killzone 2. The game is designed for heavy casualties. Itís not uncommon to get over a hundred kills in a single match.
Running into a room filled with enemies, unloading a clip of your machine gun, trying to take out as many guys as you can before getting popped in the head, and spawning to do it all again... this describes pretty well the basic Killzone 2 experience. No matter how low of a rank you possess and no matter how low the number of jobs youíve unlocked, youíll always have access to enough firepower to kick some ass. You donít lose points when youíre killed, either. The only penalty for dying is that you have to work your way back to the action after you re-spawn. Even this has a workaround, though; groups of players can form squads that provide them with their own dedicated chat line, and basically make the squad leader a walking spawn point. Thus, if a leader is a solid player, he can hold down a strategic point and have reinforcements spawn on his position, taking the fight closer to the enemyís front. This system means that thereís a place for any kind of player in Killzone 2. Players who like to hang back a bit to pick guys off from a distance make good team leaders and medics, while those who like to rush in will find that the game is more than willing to accommodate them with a good selection of shotguns, machine guns, and explosives. Thereís also something to be said for medics on the front lines and for leaders who push forward the spawn points. Killzone 2 doesnít restrict its players in terms of strategy and that means that anything can happen.
What stands out the most about Killzone 2 is its ferocity. Matches are played out like a series of missions between two teams. Options include all of the classics, like Capture the Flag, King of the Hill, Assassinate the Target, and Team Death-Match. When one mission is complete, the winning team is awarded a point and the next mission immediately begins on the same map. No matter what the mission is, it always feels epic. Grenades explode. Rounds ricochet off the metal and dirt surroundings. Groups of soldiers charge into enemy lines, leaving clouds of dust and the screams of the fallen in their wake. Teams desperately call out for support and lone soldiers curse as they reload in the face of an encroaching army. Every moment is filled with pumping adrenaline. After a while, you just get addicted to the rush. And then you canít stop playing.
The player base is strong, the lag is non-existent, the maps are well designed, the graphics are amazing... I canít praise Killzone 2 enough. It's just too bad that the single-player is lacking so much, because otherwise this would be surely remembered as one of the FPS giants. Even so, thereís still more than enough online awesomeness here to secure Killzone 2ís place in the shooter hierarchy.
At least until Gordon Freeman shows up again and crowbars the shit out of it...
Freelance review by Jonathan Stark (March 14, 2009)
Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.
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