by Videep Vijay Kumar
Killzone 2 is arguably the most hyped game of all time. Delayed by over a year, the game has finally hit the streets in a few 'select' countries before the official Indian release date of 25th February -- it is believed that this happened because of a few over- zealous retailers in an Asian country who broke the street date. As a result, gamers in the West are still watching gameplay videos, while in India, people are labouring through the uber-difficult singleplayer campaign -- since the game isn't officially out yet, there aren't too many multiplayer servers up and running. It's a very interesting reversal of roles -- and recession probably had nothing to do with it.
The protagonist of Killzone 2, Sev, sports a haircut only a mother could love.
So, does KZ2 live up to all the hype? Are the game's graphics anywhere close to the 'gameplay' videos shown at E3 2005 (and subsequent improved versions)? Is it a Halo-killer? Read on to find out.
The Hellghast. Someone should tell these morons that their glowing red eyes make them easy targets. D-uh.
To Helghan and Beyond!
Killzone 2's story takes over from the story of the previous (forgettable) games, Killzone (PS2) and Killzone: Liberation (PSP). The game takes place on the Helghast's (the game's bad guys) home planet, Helghan. You play Tomas 'Sev' Sevchenko (no relation to Andriy), and are part of 'Alpha Squad', a regiment of elite soldiers who are a critical part of the ISA's (Inter-planetary Strategic Alliance) invasion force of Helghan. The whole invasion thing is retaliation for a prior invasion by the Helghast on an ISA colony, with the ISA wanting to return the favour. Sev's ultimate objective is to capture Emperor Visari, leader of the Helghast and 'bring him to justice' (kind of like Operation Iraqi Freedom, come to think of it). Alpha squad and the rest of the ISA's invasion force realise that the Helghan are a lot harder to fight on Helghan, who have adapted to the hostile environment and weather conditions of the planet, and have created large contraptions which capture lightning, turning it into a weapon.
The game is set up well with an opening cinematic that is rendered in a modified version of the in-game engine, and the narrative is carried forward by a bunch of non-interactive cutscenes that occur in-game. The dialogue is largely run-of-the-mill, predictable and sounds like it has been written by the guys who wrote Gears of War 2's dialogue. Not a single piece of voice-acting stands out – not even the bad guys, who sound like they're from England. The script-writers have abused the words 'F**k' and 'S**t', and these words seem to be present in every single line of dialogue. However, If I were to pick one character with tolerable voice-acting, it would be Colonel Radec, who sounds like a camp-y mix of Darth Vader (he also looks like a Nazi Vader) and a Lord of The Rings character. All the other characters come off as being too generic and 'badass' for my taste (it worked for Gears of War, but is atrocious here), and most importantly, lack personality – particularly Alpha squad.
We just included this screenshot to reassure readers that Killzone 2 is indeed an FPS.
Load & Reload
The weapons in Killzone 2 are standard issue. You're got your assault rifles, side-arms, SMGs, LMGs, Shotguns, Sniper Rifles, RPG launcher and a bunch of grenades. You'll find yourself using the standard weaponry (the assault rifles, in particular) most of the time. The game does throw some surprises at you a few hours into the game, in the form of two really cool weapons: the bolt gun and the electricity gun. Both these weapons provide a much-required (albeit brief) change from the monotony of firing an assault rifle. Guerilla seem to have put these weapons in specific areas which would help you tackle some of the game's set-pieces which would've been too difficult to get through otherwise.
The bolt gun seemed similar to a weapon from the game Timeshift, but the Electricity gun was a different experience altogether -- the game gets a lot easier in the section with this weapon, so I guess it's a good thing that you only have it at your disposal for a brief period.
The shooting mechanics are brilliant, giving you both that sense of immersion and realism that only a console gamepad can provide. The game allows you to look down the sights of all weapons that have sights, or fire them from the waist position. The sniper rifle is the coolest in any game to date, with the game making terrific use of the sixaxis feature in the PS3 controller -- you can steady aim and control recoil by keeping the controller still. That, incidentally, is the best use of the feature I've seen so far.
Killzone 2's grenades can be cooked before being thrown (expect lots of grenades to be thrown at you as well), increasing the chances of catching some Higs (slur for Helghast) in the blast. Later on in the game, you'll get to unleash some of the Helghast's own electricity-based tech against them in the form of shock grenades. In other sections of Killzone 2, you'll get to drive a tank, an armoured Mecha and shoot an anti-aircraft cannon in an intense aerial battle. Can't wait to get your hands on this game, can you?
Illusion, Light & Magic
The game's AI can be a mixed bag. At times, enemies will seem hyper-intelligent, digging in behind cover, flanking and get off highly accurate shots from difficult angles and throwing grenades at you, while at times they can look utterly helpless, exposing themselves by taking cover on the wrong sides of a wall. They're also not very good at dodging cooked grenades and dealing with melee attacks. Friendly AI, on the other hand, is not a mixed bag. Your buddies are almost always helpless, and you'll spend a lot time reviving downed comrades in the heat of battle.
The graphics in Killzone 2 are, by far, the best in any console game to date. Everything from the spectacular lighting effects, the incredibly detailed animation, to the environments, level design and weapon effects are truly top-notch. It's going to be a while before Killzone 2 is displaced as the best in the graphics department. Due to the game's non-linearity, Guerilla have gone all-out in creating the most spectacular-looking and immersive levels possible. The game's sound (other than the dreadful voice-acting) is up there as well, and is sure to put your high-end home theatre setup to the test.
Killzone 2 is the first must-have title for the Playstation3 this year. It sports the best graphics we've seen in a console game and the game's single player campaign offers a high degree of immersion, a wide variety of weapons and some truly brilliant set-pieces. It's difficult, but ultimately rewarding.