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Killzone 2

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Can it be that almost five years have passed since the arrival of the original Killzone? Hyped to a detrimental extent of being a ‘Halo-killer’, it was light-years behind the Bungie original. Has Guerrilla finally learned from its mistakes and delivered?

For all the criticism levelled at the original Killzone, it certainly did harbour some striking character designs and architecture. Beneath such startling visuals, it possessed a frightening ability to annoy and alienate players. Guerrilla was sent home to think again, developing the average Killzone: Liberation, and the haphazard Shellshock Nam ’67. Sadly matters have not improved with the long awaited sequel, which is certainly the best piece of work from the studio so far, but out with this context, merely an average first person shooter.

Annoyingly it all starts off extremely well, a rousing speech from the Helghast leader, Scolar Visari, ushers in the opening credits and underlines the fascist makeup of his military aims. This sets the tone beautifully, the ISA are striking back and launching an assault on the Helghast home world. The context of nuclear weapons and needing the launch codes is thrown in, but Gamestyle never played too much attention, with both races being extremely advanced, it seemed ridiculous that the Helghast couldn’t call upon such weaponry themselves.

The storyline is threadbare and sees you taking the role of Alpha team member, Sergeant Tomas ‘Sev’ Sevchenko, an elite squad thrown into the main thrust of the invasion. There’s plenty of swearing and testosterone on show to a laughable effect, as this not Gears of War, yet so wants to be. The overview promises that the planet itself could be the greatest enemy, given its hostile conditions, but this is never developed or even explored. The mystery of the Helghast is overlooked; visiting their home planet could have been an ideal opportunity to learn more about their origins, yet the only civilian you’ll ever see is a miner. By ignoring such potential avenues, Killzone must rely solely on its combat, and this is where the real problems start to arise.

The combat in Killzone is like being hit over the head with a big stick, repeatedly. It never changes, or develops, leaving you to clear a street or capture a strategic point, facing fanatical resistance, slowly moving foot by foot to your goal. Your movement feels sluggish and the frame rate never enables fluid combat. This is a war of attrition, a total slog relying on cover and dealing with erratic AI on both sides. What the Helghast lack for in tactical knowledge, they certainly make up for in numbers and withstanding bullets. The constant stream of enemy soldiers becomes a real chore. Your teammates love to live dangerously, crossing your line of fire or dying in vulnerable spots, forcing you to try and resuscitate them. Both sides also show a real tenacity for trying to shoot through walls. The control and aiming feels too loose, while the weapons really mirror the World War II feel to the combat. Very few distinctive weapons exist, neither side has the upper hand in firepower and you will struggle to find something really worthwhile.

As you edge forward, through the linear levels there is not much sightseeing to be done. Despite the industrial feel to the landscape, the story soon runs out of steam, as Guerrilla throw everything into the mix, trying to avoid the fatal flat line. Towards the end you will find yourself back in orbit, defending the spaceships from your cannon position. The level is clearly ripped from Halo, yet the cannon aspect is hopelessly implemented. Then back on firm ground, expect a Mecha style suit as you go around destroying Helghast positions. These are instantly forgettable experiences, implemented in desperation to break up the monotony of combat.

Visually Killzone 2 is impressive but never to a jaw dropping extent. The production standards are lavish, sound effects and music combine to provide the loudest experience we’ve ever heard in a game. The PS3 trophies have been well implemented; forcing players to return to the main game, when they arguably would prefer to remain online. Yes, the online mode is for many the main attraction and long overdue. For a game of this stature and billing, Gamestyle would expect nothing else as Killzone 2 supports everything you would expect in a first person shooter. Taking inspiration from Halo, Call of Duty and Medal Of Honour, combined with a wide range of options. This is the least we’d expect from such a title, but as Gamestyle has been playing such games online since Quake 3 for the Dreamcast, we’re a little tired of defending positions, or guarding doorways. The whole online experience for this genre is stuck in a rut and that’s not a specific criticism to Killzone 2.

The search for that great PlayStation exclusive first person shooter continues. While Killzone 2 continues to pull over the eyes of many, it won’t receive much time at Gamestyle. This is an average, generic experience. For all its lofty ambitions and hype it is an unbelievable failure, a real disappointment for all PlayStation 3 owners.