Killzone 2
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-03-17 PS3 FPS M (Mature) Guerrilla / SCEA

Payback's a bitch, and not just in the real world. After the events of the original Killzone, in which the highly advanced Helghast army invaded the (player controlled) Interplanetary Strategic Alliance's (ISA) planet of Vekta, in the newly released sequel, players get to return the favor and hit the Helghast where it hurts most, on their home planet of Helghan.

The story is told from the perspective of Alpha Squad, led by the returning Rico Velasquez, with players taking on the role of Sergeant Thomas "Sev" Sevchenko. Sev is a straight-laced military man, who feels it is his moral obligation to defend the planet Vekta by, in his mind, eliminating the enemy threat before it has a chance to mobilize a second strike.

Apparently unbeknownst to the ISA (or perhaps ignored entirely) is the fact that the Helghan army has had time to undertake multiple defensive maneuvers in anticipation of the strike. As one might expect, Alpha Squad is met with incredible resistance as they try to find a way to capture Scolar Visari, the leader of the Helghast, an outcome that is hoped to put an end to their destructive ways.

Apart from the continuation of the storyline, Killzone 2 is an entirely different beast when compared to its PS2 predecessor. Gone are the graphical bugs and gameplay issues found in the first game; they have been replaced by an intense mix of frenzied and strategic gameplay which in unison create a truly immersive gameplay experience.

At their core, the Helghast are feral, manic creatures who seem to only value order for the sake of war, and who have wholly adapted to Helghan's harsh conditions, creating what could be considered an ultimate breed of soldier that is consumed with nothing other than the thought of destroying anything even resembling humanity.

Though they are a formidable foe, the Helghast are far from invincible and can be eliminated in any number of munitions fueled ways, including the ever-satisfying headshot, or by using the environment itself as a weapon, and utilizing the various explosive canisters scattered throughout the planet.

The controls for this first-person-experience are by default adequate, but can also be customized to better suit your own play style. R1 is for primary weapons fire, with triangle allowing you to quickly cycle between your two equipped weapons (one of which is always a handgun with unlimited ammo), while R2 sets off grenades. L2 lets you crouch behind boxes for cover or cling to walls, square enables you to pick up new weapons and L3 lets you sprint.

While you always begin a level two weapons in hand, additional ammo and new weapons must be acquired on site, with various weapon stations being located at set intervals throughout each level, or by simply picking up the ammo and weapons left beside the many corpses you are sure to create.

That being said, there are two main strategies available when tackling Killzone 2. You can take the reserved approach and stick with your squad mates at all times, ducking behind cover at every available opportunity only to pick off enemies from afar, or you can fly by the seat of your pants, go balls to the wall, and melee attack (either pistol whip or knife slash) every enemy within three feet of you.

Obviously a combination of these tactics will be employed by most, as sitting in the back while your friends do all of the work is no fun, but neither is getting killed from a barrage of gunfire two floors above you, that you had no chance to avoid because you were too busy running around the battlefield like a decapitated chicken.

After you have completed the Campaign's 10 missions (each of which takes 45-50 minutes or more, depending on how cautiously you play), your vacation from hell on Helghan is far from over, as Killzone 2 also incorporates an incredibly robust multiplayer experience, supporting up to 32 players online, or allowing for offline gameplay against randomly spawning AI controlled bots.

When playing online, various gameplay modes are available as options, including Search and Destroy and Search and Retrieve, two modes that have you locating items scattered across the battlefield and either destroying them or bringing them back to a specific location, respectively. Capture and Hold has you locating areas displayed on the screen's mini-map (located in the top left corner of the screen) and claiming them as your own. All enemy presence in the area must be eliminated, and your command over the area must stand the test of time.

Body Count is the expected "kill everything in sight before time runs out" mode, while Assassination is more complicated, and assigns one player to be the "target," with the defending team hoping to keep their target alive for a set amount of time, while those on the offense try everything to bring them a quick death.

Aside from these multiple modes, clans can be created amongst like-minded individuals, and character classes can be assigned to your character to build upon your own preferred strengths and weaknesses (Medics can revive downed soldiers, while Scouts can tag enemies with locator beacons. Tacticians can call for air support; Saboteurs can plant C-4, and so on).

With all of the time you will undoubtedly be investing with such a masterful game, you will (eventually) be rewarded with up to 52 trophies, with trophies being awarded for completing both offline and online tasks, and will also find yourself subject to some of the most technically sound gameplay available today.

Killzone 2 is a proverbial feast for the eyes. From the opening cinematic, which contains a haunting monologue by Scolar Visari, it is obvious that an incredible amount of attention was paid to the visual quality, with Helghan itself being presented as a gritty, unforgiving landscape and each Helghan solider as the dark, menacing creature that it is, a picture that is made complete by the soulless glare of their red glowing eyes peaking out from the shadows.

Every technical aspect of Killzone 2 screams of forethought and attention to detail. What starts as an epic soundtrack is built upon as grenades and missiles squeal as they fly past your head and explosions send the entire screen and controller into a rumbling frenzy. Bullet impacts are audible and substantial. Everything from the dialogue (which is a pragmatic flurry of curses and military commands) to the sound of metal piercing flesh is convincing, dynamic, and altogether extraordinary.

In theory, no "normal" individual should enjoy listening to the gurgling last breaths of a dying enemy as they choke on their own blood, but Killzone 2 allows for such primal instincts to immediately come to the forefront. The game is violent, definitely not for the faint of heart, but is incredibly well put together and addictive in everything it offers. With its expansive multiplayer component and a truly satisfying single player campaign, Killzone 2 is a title every FPS fan simply must experience.

Special thanks to Tania Kingsrud and SCEA for providing a copy of this title.