Almost four years have passed since Sony first unveiled Killzone 2, their vastly darker answer to the Halo franchise. In gaming terms, four years is an eternity, but Guerilla Games' gritty shooter is finally here to deliver a kickass experience that more than rewards us for our patience. Killzone 2, with its face-meltingly intense campaign and robust multiplayer, exceeds the expectations set forth by the original game and the tremendously ambitious E3 2005 trailer. It's still early, but this one already reeks of shooter of the year.
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When the first Killzone was released on the PS2 back in 2004, it failed to make much of a splash in the first-person shooter genre, despite being considered somewhat of a cult hit. The game was originally hyped up to be a "Halo-killer," which didn't help the critical response it received when it turned out to be nothing more than a mediocre console FPS hardly capable of squashing games like Turok or Red Faction, much less the 800-pound gorilla, Halo. The biggest reason some gamers, myself included, loved the original Killzone was for its deeply satisfying multiplayer, but you can't sell half a game right?
Thankfully, the Amsterdam-based team behind Killzone didn't just learn from the shortcomings of their first game, they started from the ground up with Killzone 2, salvaging only the essentials from the first game (though, they did leave out a couple of my favorite weapons like the PUP grenade pistol). Few developers put as much obvious much blood, sweat and tears into crafting their multiplayer and single-player modes as Guerrilla did with Killzone 2 can. While the first game only delivered a solid multiplayer experience with a somewhat half-assed campaign mode attached to it, Killzone 2 is almost two games in one with equally fulfilling single and multiplayer modes.
A Cold Day in Helghan
Arguably the most interesting aspect of the Killzone universe is your gas-masked fascist aggressors, the Helghast. Killzone 2 is well aware of the appeal of its Darth Vader-esque enemies as the game takes place on the Helghast's wretched home planet, Helghan. Just about everything you see in this post-apocalyptic world in dripping with death and bleakness, from the crumbling grime-encrusted buildings crawling with giant corpse-eating cockroaches to the Helghast's swastika-like insignia that's plastered on every other corner. The game hammers it into your skull that you're in a miserable place only the Helghast could inhabit.
Killzone 2 does an effective job in immersing you in its hostile atmosphere, but the most impressive thing about this is that it maintains this gloomy ambiance throughout all of its campaign missions while forcing you through a rich variety of environments. You know how in some games-*cough* Gears of War *cough*--you get an overwhelming sense of deja vu as you run through similar looking levels? Well, you won't experience this much, if at all, in Killzone 2 as each of its missions are distinct from a visual standpoint. Environments in the game range from squeaky clean space stations to scorching deserts to spider-infested junkyards.