Killzone 2 (PlayStation 3) review
"Hereís a funny thing that happened when I rented Killzone 2 a year ago. I picked the game up early one Saturday afternoon and was finished with its campaign before I went to bed. The next day, I had friends over. We were looking for a decent multiplayer game to kill some time and my roommateís LittleBigPlanet disc wasnít working, so hey, Killzone 2! We popped the game into the console and were then dismayed to learn that Killzone 2 doesnít have local multiplayer. Well..."
Hereís a funny thing that happened when I rented Killzone 2 a year ago. I picked the game up early one Saturday afternoon and was finished with its campaign before I went to bed. The next day, I had friends over. We were looking for a decent multiplayer game to kill some time and my roommateís LittleBigPlanet disc wasnít working, so hey, Killzone 2! We popped the game into the console and were then dismayed to learn that Killzone 2 doesnít have local multiplayer. Well, shit.
So, as far as Iím concerned, Guerrilla Games forgot to put multiplayer in Killzone 2. I donít know why split-screen multiplayer is such a dying breed these days, why developers seem to think that if Iím forced to choose between playing with friends Iím sitting next to and playing with strangers over the internet, the latter would be the more enticing option. Never mind that my roommateís PS3 wasnít hooked up to the internet. Multiplayer is a situational ordeal, and in this situation, I had a reasonable opportunity to test out the gameís multiplayer component even without PSN. Killzone 2 had its chance; Killzone 2 blew it.
That simply means Iím forced to judge Killzone 2 based on its single-player experience alone, which is fine, because thatís usually what I do anyway. And as a single-player game, Iím struggling to think of a single contemporary FPS clichť that Killzone 2 isnít packing. Itís a sci-fi WWII fantasy about impressively muscled American marines battling a nation of futuristic neo-Nazis who all have British accents. (You know, because British accents sound evil.) Itís rendered in a color palette that consists almost entirely of shades of grey, with a few occasional browns thrown in to spice things up. Itís got a two-weapon inventory system. Itís got vehicle segments that didnít need to be there. Itís got a cover system. Jumped ship yet?
Well, the twist in this tale is one that I alluded to earlier: that I sat down to play the campaign immediately after I rented it and didnít get up until I was finished, eight hours later. Rentals at the campus video store were only two days long, so I got into a habit last year of racing through games as quickly as possible, but itís still impressive that a shooter as seemingly unremarkable as Killzone 2 managed to hold my attention for so long. And there was a World Series game that night! And the Phillies were in it! And I still didnít stop playing! Think about that.
Still, itís next to impossible to make Killzone 2 sound good, because in all honesty, it isnít. It embraces every clichť in the book, and some of them arenít even pulled off very well. The two-weapon inventory, for example, has been a near-staple of the genre since Halo, and with good reason. Killzone 2 misuses it, though, since youíre required to carry a pistol at all times. Not only does the pistol suck Ė because the pistol always sucks Ė but it means that you only really have one free weapon slot. The strategic undertone that is the very reason this system exists is suddenly gone, because why would you haul around situational stuff like a sniper rifle or rocket launcher when you can opt for one of several all-purpose assault rifles instead?
But while I could nitpick Killzone 2 to death with stuff like that, itís the controls that come through as the gameís most crippling flaw. There are plenty of questionable mapping choices Ė crouching and taking cover are both assigned to the same trigger, itís impossible to zoom from cover without physically removing your right hand from the controller, etc. Ė but the biggest issue is aiming. Namely, itís too sluggish. Yank that analog stick all the way to the left or right and youíll notice that your character has an incredibly difficult time turning himself around. So if someoneís shooting at you from behind, it may take a second or two for you to fire back.
So why donít I simply adjust the sensitivity, you ask? Well, you can, but then suddenly aiming isnít precise enough. Suddenly your reticle is flying past your intended targets. See, aiming with an analog stick is about more than simply giving the player the ability to adjust sensitivity. Itís about creating contrast between a full tilt of the analog stick and a slight nudge. I should be able to make a precise headshot and then do a quick 180-degree turn without having to fiddle with the options menu in between.
I guess what Iím getting at is that Iím grateful I never got the chance to give Killzone 2ís multiplayer a test run, because I couldnít imagine battling with these controls in a competitive environment. In the much more predictable context of a linear single-player game, though? Well, there were two bosses in particular that were able to relocate themselves very quickly (the final boss can literally teleport), and those instances were made unnecessarily frustrating by the fact that I couldnít turn myself around fast enough. Otherwise, meh, itís tolerable.
That, by the way, is my reaction to the entire game. With so many clichťs in one game and no new ideas of its own, Killzone 2 is to people who hate cookie-cutter FPSs what a game like Blue Dragon is to me. But I could see myself recommending Killzone 2 to people who accept that even the most generic shooters can be worth playing if theyíre handled with the right level of seriousness and dedication. With games like these, itís all about presentation. Presentation is the reason I beat Modern Warfare 2 in one sitting and, conversely, why I still havenít finished Black Ops. In this case, the gameís rather spectacular set pieces, brilliant sound design and almost overwhelmingly intense action Ė rarely is there a moment when you donít feel youíre in danger of being struck in the head by a stray bullet Ė make for an engaging eight-hour play.
And while Iíd still have to think for a moment before I called Killzone 2 the best-looking game Iíve ever seen, itís remarkable when a game leaves me unable to distinguish the CG cutscenes from the in-game ones, or wondering if there even are CG cutscenes, if itís possible that the game really does look that damn good.
And, I mean, even the story is fine. Iíve heard complaints that itís too generic, but Christ, look at what youíre playing. What the story does is give an appropriate context for this war-torn landscape, and the gameís set pieces almost feel like a futuristic and fully interactive version of the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. Plenty of shooters have done that with more skill and panache than Killzone 2, and I canít work myself up to recommend the game as a purchase. But then thereís no escaping the fact that I played it from start to finish without ever looking away. So hey, if youíre into this sort of thing, rent it, play it, enjoy it for eight hours, return it, and never think of it again.
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