Games: Killer graphics boost ‘Killzone 2’
Stars and Stripes March 1, 2009
Some say that revenge is sweet, but they’ve never tried to exact vengeance on Helghan.
In "Killzone," the ruthless Helghast attacked the planet of Vekta. In "Killzone 2," it’s time for some payback.
The M-rated game — developed by Guerrilla Games for Sony for its PlayStation 3 — opens with Helghast Emperor Visari delivering a Saddam-style rant against a looming counter-attack by Vekta. You play as Sev, a veteran whose special forces unit is assigned the job of grabbing Visari and putting an end to the Helghast threat. It’s supposed to be an easy operation — but you know it won’t be.
Helghan is an unforgiving rock bathed in dirty air and radiation. Its inhabitants — a bitter race of mutated humans — have learned to harness one of the planet’s more unstable elements to defend themselves. Part of your job is to take down a massive weapons system powered by the element.
Aside from that, most of the missions involve assaulting buildings or rescuing friendly forces. The missions are generally well constructed, interesting and very intense. Although there’s some running and gunning, it’s usually a good idea to use cover wisely and find routes to flank your foes.
Most of the time, you’ll have at least one squadmate tagging along to help. And most of the time, he’ll do a pretty good job of covering your back and dropping hints on what to do next. The enemy’s artificial intelligence is generally good, too — taking cover, throwing grenades if you linger in one spot too long, replacing fallen comrades at machine guns and the like.
Your basic selection of weapons is decent — assault rifles, missile launchers, sniper rifles, flame-throwers, etc. More exotic weapons are pretty rare, but are terrifically fun to use when they’re available. My favorite’s a gun that fires massive bolts of electricity.
Game play is very good. The controls are intuitive and very responsive. Movement is smooth. And the system for firing around cover works very well.
The graphics are quite impressive. Helghan’s environments are rendered in rich, gritty detail. Characters, vehicles and weapons boast plenty of texture and move realistically. And explosions pack a good visual punch. Of course fans had high expectations, primarily because of an eye-popping trailer unveiled at E3 in 2005 — a clip that drew a firestorm of criticism when it was revealed that it didn’t use in-game graphics. Overall, I believe those expectations were met.
"Killzone 2" offers several online game formats, with players able to compete in seven different character classes. There’s also a skirmish mode, which lets players re-create the online experience offline by fighting with and against AI soldiers.
The only gap in "Killzone 2" is the lack of cooperative play. However, this is an especially large gap since all of the best shooters of the last year — "Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Las Vegas 2," "Gears of War 2" and "Call of Duty: World at War" — have offered co-op play in their campaigns and in special skirmish modes. It would have been great if I had been able to take on the Helghast with a friend covering my back.
Despite that, the game offers a sizeable boost to Sony’s stable of PS3-only titles. It should satisfy PlayStation gamers who’ve been looking longingly at Xbox 360’s popular "Gears of War 2."
Platform: PlayStation 3On the Web: www.killzone.com
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