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Killzone 2 (Playstation 3)

Killzone 2 has to rank as one of the most-anticipated Playstation 3 titles to date. As one of the longest in development titles on the platform, gamers have high expectations. The end result is a polished, beautifully designed shooter with amazing visuals and impressive, intense gameplay. It's single-player experience is brilliant and creates an impressive sense of scale and drama while an impressive selection of multiplayer modes add depth, replay value to the experience. It definitely delivers a solid FPS title, but the question is how well does it rank against other titles in the genre. Look inside as we explore this brutal combat experience to find out the answer.

After many years in development, Guerilla and Sony's long-awaited Killzone 2 has finally arrived on Playstation 3. With so much at stake, the question is whether the game delivers on its promise or if it falls short of the high benchmarks it set for itself. The game takes place on a desolate planet called Helghast, where your invading forces are trying to wipe out the evil Helghans who invaded your planet several years earlier. You don't really need to have played the first game to understand the story and plot line, which are fairly simple. The action begins with an impressive set-piece where your team's convoy falls through the atmosphere and barely lands on a forbidding alien planet that's engulfed in the full fury of war. Narrowly avoiding the Helghan defenses, your team finds what were supposedly defeated forces fighting viciously to defend their home planet. Killzone 2's action is quite intense with the Helghans battling you from all directions, making this quite an impressive and intense FPS experience. The massive levels showcase a great level of detail with the maps themselves unfolding over huge areas. Its war torn environments are quite impressive and Killzone 2 immerses you in the action as the war surrounds you, with Helghan attacks coming at all directions simultaneously. The game's pacing is relentless and brutal, giving you little breathing room. The Helghans attack without warning and are brutal in the way they can target your location. This makes it important to keep moving throughout the mission.

In addition to firing your weapons and killing them, your other objective is survival. You need to find cover in order to survive these assaults and this can be done by finding objects to hide behind, where you can then peak out and exchange fire with your enemy. It's a fairly obvious strategy, but it won't offer complete protection, so you'll need to stay constantly aware of your surroundings. Initially at least, the game flows in a fairly predictable way and should pose little problem for FPS players. It's enemies and layouts are easy to navigate and the frequent save points allow for good progression. However, once you get through the first few levels, Killzone 2 gets much more intense and challenging. One of the more interesting aspects of the game involves friendly fire, where you can accidentally take out one of your soldiers. However, you can revive them by zapping them with a med charger, where they'll stand back on their feet and continue assisting you. As in many more recent FPS titles, damage isn't fatal at first. When you're hit, your view explodes with blood splatters, and the screen loses its color. In order to revive, you need to find a secure place and avoid taking additional fire. All you need to do is stand there for a few moments. Once safely out of fire, you can regenerate your health automatically. Its fairly simple and helps to keep the action flowing, without interrupting the gameplay with endless reloading screens. This makes for a much more seamless experience and helps keep you immersed in the action throughout.

Most of the Helghan soldiers you face off against are fairly predictable in their attacks, but since they attack in waves, you have to hold back a little in some areas and allow them to come out in the open. Otherwise, your mission will come to an early end. As you begin the game, you have a fairly straightforward selection of weapons to choose from including standard assault rifles, machine guns, and grenades. These can be quite effective in taking out enemies of the standard variety, but there are tougher ones to take out including several boss type Helghast who shoot flamethrowers at your force. In addition, you'll have to avoid fire from opponents who are stationed in assault bunkers, which can produce a serious amount of damage. An effective strategy in these sections of Killzone 2 is to find cover, and gradually wear out their defenses. Most of the action takes place on the ground and unfolds in typical FPS fashion, but there are some cool sequences where you can take over a fixed position gun turret, take command of tanks and even one that puts you in the cockpit of a fighter jet. These definitely help to break up the action and help to give Killzone 2's gameplay more variety. The game's sense of scale and drama makes for an immersive experience as you follow the invasion during each level.

While the game offers an intense and engrossing single-player experience, the developers at Guerilla spent almost as much effort in crafting an impressive collection of multiplayer modes. Accessing these is fairly simple and can be done from the main menus. There are several modes available, which include fairly standard missions and innovative gameplay modes that set Killzone 2 apart from the FPS pack. Before each game begins, you can contact the members of you clan to set up games, or go right into the action. There are Search and Retrieve, Capture and Hold Search and Destroy, Assassination and Body Count missions. These are fairly simple and straightforward objectives, with the Search and Capture missions offering variations on Capture the flag, while Assassination mode has the members of your team target a specific member of the other team while your opponents have to keep them alive for the duration. Signing in on the PS Network is fairly seamless, thanks to the excellent integration with the main menu, and the game's extensive leaderboards and ranking system keeps you motivated. The selection of online maps is impressive and the game plays smoothly with little in the way of lag or hiccups. These online modes are well designed which makes them an excellent addition to this intense shooter.

With expectations for Killzone 2 so high, there are bound to be a few areas where the game falls short of the mark. While the vaunted visuals look impressive, and the character design of the robotic Helghans are very cool, the overall aesthetic of the game is a bit numbing. It's a relentless journey through a burned out husk of a world. From a technical standpoint, Killzone 2's use of lighting, shadows and realistic environments is impressive, and does a good job of showing off the Playstation 3 hardware. Though, it's been so long in development, that some of the shock value seen in that old E3 trailer seems to have worn off. Other impressive titles have already come out for the console and at this point, the biggest problem with Killzone 2 is that it feels derivative in many ways, where it was promoted as offering something revolutionary. It's graphics engine provides for smooth animation and frame rate, but many of its levels feel claustrophobic and tedious. It delivers from a technical standpoint, but its unimaginative level design and waves of identical enemies make it feel repetitive quickly. The soundtrack is decent, with decent voice-acting conveying the urgency of each mission effectively. Killzone 2's gameplay is solidly produced, but again doesn't really offer much in the way of innovation. Take a little bit of Gears of War, Call of Duty, Halo, and even Sony's own Resistance and you pretty much have all the elements present in Killzone 2. This doesn't mean that this is a bad game, just that it doesn't deliver the kind of innovative experience once promised. If you lower your expectations and merely want a solidly produced, highly playable and somewhat impressive FPS then Killzone 2 delivers the goods. However, if you were expecting something truly revolutionary to happen after nearly a half-decade in development, then you're likely to be disappointed with the end result.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B

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