Killzone 2

Killzone 2
Killzone 2 Cover
Platforms PlayStation 3
Genre Hefty First Person Shooter
MtAMinutes to Action 5
Keep Playing? Maybe
Buy from Amazon

Back at E3 2005, Sony showed off two minutes of "in-engine footage" of a highly detailed military shooter. The visuals were unmatched by anything previously seen in a video game, and PlayStation fans went nuts. In the comings days, Sony eventually backpedaled from their initial claim and admitted that the footage wasn't pulled from any gameplay architecture, and was instead a target render "done to PS3 spec." In a matter of weeks, Killzone 2 went from the new standard of visuals to a fraud.

Sony knew there was some damage control to be done here, and a few years later, the same footage was shown with in-engine graphics. Amazingly, few could tell the difference between the CG target render and the real deal, and the hype train left the station for good. At its launch in early 2009, many media outlets were calling Killzone 2's graphics unparalleled.

My interest in the game had always been lukewarm, considering my waning affinity for military-style first person shooters. Several Call of Duty titles had already come and gone, and none had left a lasting impression upon completion. I hadn't played either of the two previous Killzone games -- who has? -- but I decided to give Killzone 2 a shot anyway. After all, I've got access to a pretty amazing HDTV and surround-sound system, so I might as well put them to use.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)

00 - After an introductory movie featuring a rousing war address from the evil Emperor Visari (all emperors are evil, right?), I choose a new game "Trooper" difficulty, as a player with "some FPS experience." I'm apparently stationed at Pyrhus, the Helghan capital, to bring down Visari. I crawl out of my sleeping cabin and look in the mirror over the sink. I guess I'm not too ugly.

01 - "Come on Sev, let's go!" I look out over the planet we're to invade from our capital cruiser. Some guy comes up to me and leads me through the ship.

02 - A soldier is talking to a scientist. They don't seem to be agreeing on whatever they're talking about. Voices over the public address system make it hard to eavesdrop on their conversation. Soldiers ahead make jokes about farts and mothers.

03 - I'm here with my squad, I guess. "Let's get this shit done!" I'm being loaded onto some sort of hovering troop transport.

04 - More trooper chatter. The big capital cruisers are now launching missiles down to the planet surface. We drop down out of our ship and my squad seems to be having fun on the ride. They're quite verbal and particularly enjoy four letter words.

05 - Other transports fly by and get decimated by lightning that seems to come from the surface. Our transport crash-lands on the beach. A big gun appears in the bottom right corner of the screen, so I guess I'm playing. Objective: rendezvous back with the squad. Standard FPS controls, R1 fires. The enemy is easy to pick out with their glowing red eyes.

Killzone 2 Blast

06 - You can hold L1 to attach to cover. Not a lot of first person shooters have cover systems. It seems to work well enough. I'm picking off Helghast soldiers sitting atop a wall with my assault rifle.

07 - If there's one word I can use to describe this game, it's "loud," with rousing orchestral music, booming sound effects, and battle commands all competing for dominance of my speakers. A commanding officer yells to use an RPG to take out the enemy on the bridge. I have no idea where the RPG is. I'm just trying not to die, really. I take cover to regenerate my health.

08 - There is nothing on-screen to indicate where an enemy grenade has landed. Good thing I have surround sound, or I'd have no idea which direction to run to for safety. I take out the soldiers on the wall by shooting the explosives near them. I'm getting flashbacks...

09 - The aiming in the game is sort of slow. I've heard this was intentional on the part of the developers, to make you feel as though you're weighed down by your combat gear. I definitely have that feeling, for better or worse.

10 - Tap R2 to throw a grenade. You can cook it by holding R2. Sev has a pretty weak toss compared to the likes of Master Chief or James Bond. Coincidentally, I'm taken out by an enemy grenade that I wasn't aware of. Time to respawn.

11 - My squad mates actually seem to be doing their job, unlike so many other FPSes where they either completely miss their targets or are shooting bean bags. They're getting almost as many kills as I am.

12 - Secure the beach, objective complete. My character is really short, my view is up to my squadmates' chests for some reason.

13 - A squad mate and I are going off to do our own thing. He gives me a boost up a ledge and I help him up as well.

14 - As I pop off headshots and get kills, my comrades in arms make snarky comments and shout encouragements. L1 triggers a melee attack, and I can do a short combo to hit an enemy multiple times in succession.

15 - Still fighting in this little warehouse. The enemy seems quite smart and aggressive and tries to flank us a few times.

16 - Apparently we like to call the Helghast "Higs" and "Red Eyes." The latter is pretty appropriate.

17 - I take it back about the smart enemy AI, one just ran right into a wall in front of me. On the other hand, they like to blind-fire a lot from cover, so I guess they are smart enough to value their lives, anyway.

Killzone 2 Peek

18 - I'm turning a valve by pushing the shoulder buttons and rotating the SixAxis controller. I wish they'd explained how to do so before letting the Helghast shoot at me.

19 - My partner is pretty skilled, he just took out three enemies in a row for me. I switch my fancy green-sighted assault rifle for an enemy weapon. It has traditional iron sights. Otherwise it seems like the same gun.

20 - I picked up some sort of briefcase. It appears to "unlock content on" That's not exactly the best incentive to find hidden objects in the environment. Anyway, some enemies have rocket launchers. The rockets move very slow once fired, it's kind of funny to watch.

21 - I'm not sure if this actually just happened, but I think I just shot an enemy rocket out of the air right when he launched it...and it blew up in his face. Neat. Now I'm on a gun emplacement and am cleaning up the last of the enemy.

22 - Exploring the environment doesn't seem to lead to anything but debris. Highly detailed debris, but still just debris. You can have a waypoint show you where to go if you need to, and I use it frequently to navigate these dark environments.

23 - It seems like the enemy likes to peek around cover every now and then between blind-fire and such. Makes sense to me. I've destroyed a Helghast symbol. I guess destroying them might lead to an achievement later.

24 - The screen froze...about ten seconds later, it finished loading. My buddy and I emerge from a building to find a swarm of Helghast ready to destroy us, but they're destroyed by a missile launched by a troop transport. The transport then gets destroyed as well. Mission objective: elminate all hostiles. That's all I've been doing anyway, but now they're all concentrated in the building across from us.

25 - I start to take out the thin columns of the three-story structure, because the building looks like it's falling apart. It unconvincingly blows apart once I take the columns out. My squad is much more impressed than I am. Next objective: Secure the crash site.

27 - Uh oh, that enemy had a trenchcoat. I guess that makes him a tough guy. He had a bolt-action rifle as opposed to a submachine gun. I'm told to grab a rocket launcher and shoot the weak spot on a door.

28 - I'm having trouble finding the rocket launcher among all the debris. It's all so gray. Eventually I find it and blow open the door. My partner and I are wanted at the next battle zone. It is "a shit-storm."

29 - I have control taken away from me for a brief second. There are RPGs on the tower and I have to stop them. Why is it always me?

31 - The enemy death animations are quite good. Their death cries are a little over-the-top in some instances, but at least it's amusing. My partner and I have found a way to flank the enemy and are attacking them while our squad attacks from the other side. Looks like the Away Team has the advantage here! I kind of like being the alien invader for a change...

33 - An enemy tank! I'll need an RPG to take it out. I guess rockets solve all our problems in the Killzone universe. Now I've got to look for the's sitting right next to a few of my allies. Why don't they grab it and take the tank themselves? Lazy bums. Anyway I made the tank go boom, and there was much rejoicing.

34 - And now I get to use a tank! I've got machine guns and rockets. I take out a few other tanks and plenty of enemy soldiers, safe inside my metallic womb.

Killzone 2 Tank

35 - A full armored unit is heading our way! Guess the higher-ups are just going to mortar this area, so we should probably get out before they do.

36 - Or not. Nobody seems to be moving out. Whatever, I'm getting back in the tank and taking out some soldiers. Our commanding officer says we're done here, and Alpha Squad is needed in Visari Square.

37 - We get in our floating troop transport and head over. Some guy named Narville needs our help. The other troops are impressed with our performance as the mission ends. Loading time..."Corinth Ribbon" trophy acquired. Apparently we're going to take out the Helghast lightning-makers that are shooting down our air forces.

38 - It's the scene from the CG trailer that blew people's minds at E3 few years ago. Our transport flies into Visari Square. A nearby transport chats with us a bit, then gets destroyed. Seems to be a regular occurrence on Helghan.

39 - We've crashed onto the ground, and are jumping off and heading for this Narville guy. There is plenty of cover, and good thing: the enemy is hitting us pretty hard from the high ground.

40 - Our objective is to fight our way up the right flank of the battlefield and destroy the Arc Tower. I arm an explosive charge on a door to blow it away. There are motion controls involved. It is kind of gimmicky.

41 - Running down a back alley now, trying to get a jump on the enemy with a stealthy surprise. I blow it and a small skirmish erupts.

42 - There are bits of destructible terrain, but it all seems to be for show. Most cover objects seems to withstand any number of bullets.

43 - Still heading through the labyrinth of buildings, fighting my way through when I need to.

45 - Cutscene: one of our comrades is shot, and a huge armored enemy with a gatling gun waddles in. "How do we stop it!? It's built like a truck! Maybe the helmet's weaker, go for the head!" I do so and it turns around. There are tanks on its back. I shoot them and the enemy is lit on fire by his own fuel.

46 - I got an achievement for defeating that enemy in less than a minute. It took all of ten seconds. It was rather underwhelming after everybody said how tough they are.

47 - If there's one idea that the game conveys, it's that war is chaos. Everything is shaky and gritty and booming loud.

Killzone 2 get out

49 - We hold off the enemy at another standoff and move on. Narville reminds us we have to get to the Arc Tower. So we keep moving.

51 - The enemy is perched atop a small building with turrets and plenty of cover. Some smart sniping with my assault rifle keeps them from getting too comfy behind those blazing guns. I grow bored of sniping and rush their positions, taking out the last few with a spray of machinegun fire.

52 - For all its linearity in practice, the battlefield at least looks enormous. Still, even the smallest things are highly detailed.

53 - A short conversation with my partner reveals that the environment here isn't exactly ideal for human life. I wonder why we don't wear masks even though the Helghast do. Maybe we're just stupid.

54 - We're on street level now, taking the battle out of the buildings. I go past an alley on my right, and someone must have been waiting there for me because he killed me very quickly. This time I go right for that alley and spray him right back.

55 - Some of these Helghast can really soak up some bullets. I guess it makes sense, they have all that thick clothing and armor on. I take an underground tunnel past the enemy and flank them, pushing this skirmish in our advantage.

57 - I'd be lost without the waypoints, but they lead me to the Arc Tower. Nobody knows how to take it down, so we have to figure it out.

58 - We'll leave that for later. Right now, it's time to defend our position as the enemy tries to reclaim their Arc Tower. I sure wouldn't let my lightning machine fall into enemy hands, so I can't blame them.

59 - Pressing a button on the Arc Tower opens up some compartments with electric cells in them. A few rifle shots take out the cells easily. Objective complete.

60 - Cutscene: some congratulations from our commanding officer are cut short as a crazy-fast gunship chases us away from our victory. We barely escape by shutting the door on this cool new attacker. The first hour ends.

Killzone 2 Ruins

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 5

What I liked: It's definitely the game to show off your enormous HDTV and surround-sound system. The war on Helghan is loud and has plenty of detail to make good use of all those pixels.

What I didn't like: I guess this whole Military FPS thing just isn't for me. The first hour of Killzone 2 certainly didn't lack for action, but not much of it lingers in my mind afterwards. The standout moment seems to be the disappointment of how easy that armored guy went down.

Video: It's gorgeous. In that gritty, mostly-gray way.

Audio: It's a chorus of raucous gunshots and explosions. And I think there was an actual chorus at a few points, but I had trouble hearing it.

Story: Not terribly compelling yet, though I missed out on prior Killzone games so I might be missing some context. What was compelling, though, was the speech that the evil Emperor Visari gave in the game's introduction. Can I defect? Please? I'm getting flashbacks...

Gameplay: Assault rifles. Head shots. Rocket launchers. Aiming down the sights. Occasional vehicle sections. Regenerating health. Testosterone-fueled comrades. Chances are, you've played something a lot like this before.

Challenge: Things seem pretty fair on my difficulty level. A few dumb decisions got me killed, but otherwise I managed well enough.

Pacing: There's not much else to do in this infantry war but shoot people, so you'll be spending a lot of time doing just that. Short load times bookend each level and occasionally pop up within.

Would I keep playing? Maybe. In just that first hour, everything started feeling sort of repetitive and dull. That speedy drone enemy may provide the spice to keep things interesting later, but I can't say I'm feeling compelled to pick up my DualShock 3 again. I've heard good things about the multiplayer, though, so maybe I'll have a go at other humans online sometime.

Killzone 2 Visari