Killzone 2 Review

There isn't really an appropriate way to start a review for the PS3's newest exclusive game, Killzone 2. Usually, I utilize a little story or interesting factoid to catch the reader's attention, and from there I go into each game or DVD and its general high and low points. I top things off with a final score and move onto the next project, hoping that someone, anyone, will read what I have to say and care enough to take my advice or, at very least, check the subject of my review out for themselves. Even if it's just so they can say, "That review guy is full of…" You get the picture. None of that stuff seems to fit here. I've been playing video games for most of my 27 years on this planet, and I have never, EVER been as completely blown away by a video game as I was when I started up Killzone 2 for the first time. As an overall experience, Killzone 2 isn't quite perfect, but it is as close to that benchmark as any game I've seen on a next-gen system thus far. Forget Metal Gear. Forget Halo. Forget Ninja Gaiden. Forget pretty much any action or shooting game you've ever played. Killzone 2 is the new gold standard in video gaming, and I honestly can't imagine any game outdoing this one any time soon. It is just. that. awesome.

Killzone 2 is a sequel to a PS2 game called – duh – Killzone. In that game, you played as a soldier known simply as Templar, and shot your way through quite a few genuinely challenging levels as you defended your home planet of Vekta against wave after wave of terrifying faceless warriors, known as the Helghast. The first person shooter received a few positive, but mostly tepid reviews, due to the fact that it was billed as a "Halo killer," which it really wasn't. There were graphical, control and challenge problems as well, but despite all that, I can say I truly enjoyed the experience and it's first follow-up, Killzone: Liberation, on Sony's PSP. Killzone 2 picks up after the events of Liberation, though you won't need to have played either of the previous titles to understand and enjoy this one. Instead of fighting the Helghast on your homeworld, the ISA troops are taking the fight to Helghan, the Helghast army's base planet. It takes mere seconds to realize that this strategy probably wasn't such a good idea, and its up to you, a new character to the series named Sev (Templar makes an appearance, but stays away from the front lines this time), and your fellow troops to salvage the situation and maybe, just maybe, beat the Helghast in an almost unwinnable war.

Interesting, yes, and even a little reflective of the situation on Earth these days, but do you really need a reason to whip out an assault rifle and some grenades for the purpose of killing "them" before they kill "you?" Not in the world of video games, not really. But as you may have heard me say time and time again, a deep, compelling story and explosive FPS action don't need to go hand-in-hand, but it's still admirable that an effort was made here.

Before I get into the finer points of the most insane, tense and simply unbelievable aspects of Killzone 2's gameplay, I want to go into the less important stuff first. A huge key to the game's success is its presentation, and while the sound is excellent, the graphics are what really steals the show. I don't know how I can put this any other way, so I'll just say it: Killzone 2 is, without a doubt, the best looking, most realistic game ever created. That trophy previously applied to a PC game called Crysis, but even on the best computers running at full capacity, Killzone 2 still looks better, and not just by a small margin; the game looks noticeably and obviously better when held up right next to the previous title holder. Killzone 2's graphics are insane. Light filters through ceilings and dances with the dust in the air. Entire buildings can be reduced to rubble. Each and every area is amazingly detailed; even minor things like rocks, rain drops or empty bottles are unbelievably detailed and simply stunning. Firefights kick up dust and smoke, obscuring your vision. Hurricane-agitated waves crash against piers as you follow squads of soldiers up beachheads, under bridges and through even more exciting locales that I just can't spoil. The Helghast and ISA soldiers are so remarkably detailed, you feel like if you walked right up to your TV, you could reach out and touch them. Lightning, fire, machinery, explosions… Killzone 2 showcases all of this, and does it all better than any game I've played previous to this one. And if you play the on a HD television with the proper HDMI cord, I swear the game looks better than real life. And just wait until you get to Suljeva Village and the sandstorm…

I wanted to give this last example of graphical prowess its own paragraph, because it is one of the first things you'll notice and one of my personal favorites. The game's cutscenes are predictably fantastic graphically, but every game these days has these special scenes included. What makes Killzone 2's interludes better than just about every other game out there is the seamless transition from scene to gameplay. Some of the cutscenes aren't really about combat, but the ones that are…you won't believe it. Remember when you played Final Fantasy VII for the first time? I specifically remember thinking, "The scenes on the TV commercials looked awesome… how come all the characters in the game look more like poorly rendered chibi monstrosities than the humans in the cutscenes?" I've waited a long time to say this; the era of amazing cutscenes coupled with sub-par in-game graphics is officially over. Killzone 2, for lack of a better phrase, killed it. I'd love to explain this smooth scene-to-game transition system, but I would rather you see how awesome it is for yourself.