It's been arguably the biggest, most hyped, and most talked about first-person shooter in development for the past two years, and the slightest mention of the game is bound to unravel some sort of controversy. Killzone 2, having debuted with an ultra-stylized and flashy render at E3 in 2005, is nearing the end of its development cycle. We've been fortunate enough to be given a 60% preview build of the game that shows us just why this FPS may be one of the best to arrive in 2009. Are we looking at yet another contender for GOTY 2009? Possibly.
Unlike other FPS games, Killzone 2 doesn't start off with a training mode, you're thrown right into the action immediately and you'll definitely feel the fright and hectic gameplay from the get-go. What's amazing about Killzone 2's gameplay is just how superbly well the game manages to envelope you into its surrounding. You're well aware that this is a videogame, but at times, the tension and excitement can make you forget. You'll play Killzone 2 slightly more alert than any other shooter, and that could also be a testament to the game's fantastic A.I., which is always working together and always keeping their eyes peeled for any surprise attacks.
Where as some games boast A.I. that's mindless and follows a path, or other games have A.I. that's just obscenely difficult to the point of being annoying, Killzone 2 strikes that perfect balance and even manages to avoid one crippling flaw: constant re-spawning. Once you've dealt with your enemies, you can be rest assured that they won't be coming back anymore, and I commend Killzone 2 for that.
How Killzone 2 engages the gamer seems to be unlike any other FPS game I've ever played. There is a solid connection between the gamer, the character, and the environment that you're in. The amount of excitement all around you really cranks up the feedback and the experience, and I can't stress that facet enough – the game is simply intense. To further add to this whole feeling of immersion is how your enemies react to the bullets as they pierce through them with their bodies recoiling to every bullet connected. You've no doubt seen the footage of a Helghan troop getting shot up as his body is rained on with lead, and while it's pretty to watch on your monitor, it's even better to witness in person on your TV. All of these traits really make the shooting feel rewarding, every bullet fired just feels satisfying.
One thing I must mention is something that may shock some of you…but when I played Killzone 2 at E3 this past July, I wasn't terribly crazy about it. The shooting had far too much recoil, making it hard to steady the reticule and mow down enemies. I was extremely happy to see that this had been taken care of, and the controls were tightened considerably – definitely a big kudos to Guerilla for listening.
Progression through each stage is fairly linear, but combat can be approached in a variety of directions. For example, you are free to sneak around the environment in order to gain some leverage on your enemies. But be careful, like I said, the A.I. isn't stupid as they often know of exploits in the environment, and can cut you off with a surprise attack. So if you'd like to wander off and attack your opponents from the side, you may encounter some resistance on your way through to and through path. You'll combat that resistance in a variety of ways; when you're out of ammo your knife will be your melee weapon, you can also strike enemies with your gun, and of course you'll have a reserve of grenades to throw.
Difficulty levels range from Easy to Hard, but our build allowed for only a Normal selection. On Normal, the game provided a proper challenge, and if the A.I. is that solid here, we can't imagine how much better they are on the two harder difficulties. What's even more impressive is that this build is still rather early, so Guerilla still has a lot of tweaking left to do, and they've assured us that they're busy fixing any prevalent issues in the preview build. I haven't really spotted any, to be honest, maybe because I've been too busy having a blast with this build.
Moving on, Sony has always promised that Killzone 2 would be a visual tour de force, and seeing as how it's got one absurdly controversial trailer to live up to, the gaming public has kept expectations extremely high. I'm happy to report that visual fidelity of Killzone 2 largely lives up to what Sony first showed us. Granted it's not a carbon copy as far as polish and quality goes, but Guerilla is actually still working on sharpening the textures in the game even more. Thus far, the game runs extremely well, with little to no slow-down present, and with pristine picture clarity that is a sight to see. Lastly, animation, lighting, and other bits of attention to detail really round out a visual package that is nothing short of jaw-dropping.
The audio is also extremely powerful, with lots of battlefield dialogue and banter. The Helghast sound hauntingly menacing as they taunt you, and the sound effects of the battle all around you rips through the speakers with force. Voice acting is also solid, but it's really not what you'll be concentrating on when listening to this game in action. This one really makes a nice 'boom' sound.
I've also had a chance to sample the multiplayer beta, which I loved very much. Even though there were some initial problems, for a game this far off release, the beta played extremely well. The maps were great and the matches were all a blast. With up to 32 players on the field, things got really chaotic, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.
Mark your calendars for February, folks, Killzone 2 is the first must-have of 2009 – as well as the first possible contender for game of the year 2009.