Helghast troopers can’t be very smart. Why else would Killzone’s pitiless evil hordes not have realised that their glowing red eyes are a serious disadvantage in combat? The slightest glimpse of their two burning coals peering through the gloom presents the perfect target for a bloody headshot. Will they never learn?
This eagerly-awaited sequel of the PS2 and PSP games sees you taking control of Sergeant Tomas “Sev” Sevchenko. He is part of the human force invading the Helghast’s home planet for a spot of payback on the heartless warmongers who’ve been causing havoc across the galaxy. And this mission is no picnic because Helghan is an apocalyptic battleground; a grim industrial wasteland bathed in a perceptual grey twilight and filled with toxic dumps and soulless architecture.
Killzone 2 combines the best elements of a classic first-person shooter with some of the tactical subtleties of a squad-based military game. The action swings between tense room-by-room solo exploration and huge fire fights in open arenas where using appropriate team tactics to flank or outgun your opponents is the only way to progress.
Graphically, Killzone 2 is top-notch, packed with the finest detail and environmental effects the PS3 can muster to deeply immerse you in the game. I love how the eerie shadows of approaching Helghast troopers are sometimes distorted by tricks of light, making them appear like savage hunchbacked werewolves. The Helghast menace is also enhanced by the distant sound of their evil propaganda being pumped out from crackling megaphones.
Weapons are hardly revolutionary; you’re able to wield the standard collection on handguns, assault rifles, shotguns, rocket launchers and grenades. The flamethrower is worth mentioning simply because it’s such twisted fun to use. However, this fiery death-spitter is also such a horrific weapon that I almost started to feel sorry for the Helghast as I toasted them like oversized marshmallows and witnessed their desperate flailing of ignited limbs and pitiful wails of agony.
When Julie previewed early Killzone 2 code last issue, she had some grave reservations about the artificial intelligence of your comrades. After playing the final game code, I can happily report that these concerns were unfounded. Your squad members usually do the right thing at the right time: providing covering fire when you rush the enemy, watching your back when you’re pinned down, and retreating at appropriate moments to enable a strong counter-attack. Of course, your team-mates are not perfect; you’ll regularly find yourself rushing to their aid to revive them with a jolt of electricity.
After completing the 12-hour-long single player Campaign mode you’ll feel sufficiently battle-hardened to tackle the online multiplayer mode. And what an online mode it is – up to 32 people can inhabit a map at once, forming squads of four players or factions of eight players to test their skills against other teams. Eight multiplayer maps are included, with more promised as downloadable content at a later date. This thoroughly well-executed online mode is where the real challenge, and therefore the long-term gaming value of Killzone 2, truly lies.
The only disappointment of Killzone 2 is the shallow plot in the Campaign mode. The gung-ho antics of a bunch of muscle-bound macho men who swear constantly might appeal to teenage boys, but it definitely lacks the emotional attachment of a more sincere and thoughtful storyline. Compared to Call of Duty: World at War’s engaging and harrowing depiction of the brutal realities of combat, Killzone 2 feels like a cartoonish superhero fantasy. But that won’t be a problem for the majority of gamers who just want to disconnect their brains and blast the bad guys. Killzone 2 is a slick and atmospheric jaunt that delivers all the explosive rollercoaster thrills and spills you’d expect – and then some.