Review: Killzone 2

Can Killzone 2 save the PlayStation 3?
By MITCH KRPATA  |  March 17, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

VIDEO: The trailer for Killzone 2

Killzone 2 | For Playstation 3 | Rated M for Mature | Developed by Guerrilla Games | Published by Sony Computer Entertainment
For fans of the chronically underperforming PlayStation 3, each new exclusive title is a potential savior. The latest great white hope is Killzone 2, the sequel to a not especially beloved PS2 game. Since before Killzone 2's release, Sony fans have been confidently predicting the PlayStation's answer to Halo. This anticipation came to head in early February when the Web site PSXExtreme took issue with a review posted by the British magazine Edge that had awarded the game only 7 points out of 10. Huffed PSXExtreme editor Ben Dutka, "We all know that Guerrilla's title is one of the best FPSes ever made; anyone who knows this industry and has a functioning brain will admit to this."

A heated defense of a game that, at the time, hadn't even come out. Now Killzone 2 is on shelves, the multi-player servers are packed, and we consumers can decide for ourselves. Pardon my non-functioning brain, but I think Edge had it about right.

Killzone 2 is a solidly executed FPS without an original idea in its head. It's as though several other shooters had been thrown in a blender and pureed. The grim æsthetic is pure Gears of War, the firefights owe a lot to the overwhelming sound and fury of Call of Duty 4, and the one-button cover system is identical to that of Rainbow Six Vegas. Hey, if you're going to steal, you might as well steal from the best.

So the final product goes down smooth, but Killzone 2 brings nothing new to the table. The lean, mean gameplay keeps things moving, requiring players to drop into cover and then displace at a frenetic rhythm. It's a graphical powerhouse, with sharp textures and stunning draw distances that are offset by the generic brown-and-gray art direction. Add the obligatory turret-and-vehicle sequences and a perfunctory storyline with dialogue like "Don't you quit on me!" and you've got a single-player campaign right off the assembly line.

It's clear that the emphasis is on multi-player. Killzone 2 supports matches of up to 32 players divided into two teams. Although the multi-player maps aren't especially big in terms of square footage, they're designed to give players lengthy sight lines and plenty of vertical space in which to move; the result is battles that really do seem epic. Despite early complaints of server instability, I can report only rock-solid network play.

And yet the multi-player component is designed so as to keep its most intriguing features well hidden. Players begin at the rank of Private, earning experience points to move up through the hierarchy, all the way to General. Each new rank offers perks, usually in the form of additional weapons or abilities. Different character classes become available only after you've racked up hundreds or even thousands of points. The game is so stingy with the goods that after several hours of play, the most exciting thing I'd earned was a shotgun. Having something to strive for is great, but this is ridiculous.

Even given the slow progression, the on-line play is addictive. The different game types include your standard team deathmatch, some capture-and-hold scenarios, and "Assassination," in which one player is randomly designated as the target. Scenarios segue smoothly into one another without pausing the action. Your commanding officer barks new orders and off you go. The variety keeps things interesting from one match to the next. So though I don't know that Killzone 2 is one of the best first-person shooters ever made, I'm willing to hear its case for a while longer.

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