I like playing shooters, but I try to not look at them. Halo is too shiny and colorful with art direction that mixes G.I. Joe with Battle Beasts. Gears of War seems to take design tips from Iron Maiden album covers. And Call of Duty lays down realism when all I want is a space gun.
Enter KILLZONE 2.
I love this game’s look: the red-eyed fascists with their blue lightning magic. The burgendy skies full of smoke and particles. The orange sands. The sizeable insects. This game’s imagery speaks to me, and the Helghast architecture is familiar, yet alien enough to evoke an alternate reality. Killzone 2 is “Ice cold!” And you move through large areas like your limbs were bloody frozen. But cool characters walk slow, you dig?
As much as I like shooters, I’m nowhere near being interested enough to argue their mechanics. Enemies fall when you shoot in their direction. Headshots make them fall faster. And you can take cover and regenerate your health. That’s it, I’m tapped. Now onto the part I enjoy analyzing.
You belong to the world Vekta, and Vekta is taking the war to Helghan. Killzone 2’s story is not irrelevant. It’s good… for a game story. If gameplay is king, then story is the throne. It must be comfortable and without rough edges that force you out. Killzone 2 is a leather recliner with a cup holder. But only a forty bottle fits into the cupholder–that part is your brash-talking squadmates. The story’s pace is the part that reclines, easing you from point to point with believable progression. When you learn of the Helghast’s wild card, you get thrust into more fantastical locations. It all makes sense.
I just wish your character Sev had more of a presence. Your squadmates blab on like the guy who greets you on the phone at Gamestop, but Sev’s like that old aunt in the chair who chimes in every four hours. And I’m not the type of gamer who takes on the persona I’m playing as. Though when Sev does emote, he is rather likeable. I wish the same could be said about your foul-mouthed peers. I have neighbors, assholes.
But the coolest thing, better than Sev’s hair or Rico’s ‘tude, is the fact that you and your countrymen are the invaders. Defending is so played out. Along your invasion you’ll hear the Helghan Emperor slag you off for raping and pillaging his world. It’s propaganda, sure. But he had me for a second. The game does well in keeping the two worlds’ past ambiguous, and it showcases brutality on both sides. So really, you never know who’s in the right. That’s a good thing.
But the campaign is only so long (8-10 hours). I played Killzone 2’s multiplayer for a week. I do best with a shotgun in hallways. And other players thank me when I heal them. That’s it, I’m tapped. The one thing I’ll say about it, though: I always feel the bonuses (better guns, rad character classes) are growing at an equal rate to my skill level. Balance is a commodity in multiplayer gaming, and Killzone 2 is California circa 1849.
From little details like Helghan chatter to big productions like the few but satisfying boss battles, this game is spit polished. Sony made sure of it with their dollars. So follow suit and give Guerrilla Games your cash. Did you know they’re based in Amsterdam? I was wondering what that Helghan meant when he shouted, “smoke the fat one first.”