Killzone 2: One of the PS3’s finest

By NICK McCOY

Tiger Media Network

The term “Halo Killer” has often been used to describe games meant to surpass the success of Microsoft’s landmark “Halo” series, through either an equally engaging campaign or, in multiple instances, an even greater multiplayer experience. Ironically, the games under this title only ever end up killing themselves, as comparing yourself to the goliath that is “Halo” and coming up short is pretty embarrassing. There are, of course, some exceptions, one of the most apparent being Sony’s own first-person shooter series: “Killzone.” 

While never reaching the heights of Microsoft’s juggernaut, “Killzone” has still remained one of Sony’s most beloved series, garnering a following with its harsh war setting and gritty shooter gameplay. While the first “Killzone,” released for the PlayStation 2 in 2004, wasn’t exactly a masterpiece, it still provided an engaging sci-fi military shooter experience. This was followed by the handheld sequel, 2006’s “Killzone: Liberation,” which delivered another pretty decent experience that you could play on the go. Then, with this release of the PS3, the next entry in the series would come just a few years later: “Killzone 2”. 

Unfortunately, “Killzone”’s reputation as a Halo Killer often resulted in the game never truly meeting consumer’s high expectations, and while “Killzone 2” did receive rave reviews, it never reached the widespread popularity that Sony hoped for. That is a shame, because, without a doubt, “Killzone 2” is one of the best games in the PS3’s library. With its dark, gritty military setting, riveting main campaign and satisfying shooting mechanics, “Killzone 2” is an amazing first-person shooter that deserved so much more. 

Release:

  • Released on February 26, 2009 for the PlayStation 3
  • Developed by Guerilla Games, who would later develop the “Horizon” series, and published by Sony
  • Widely anticipated before its release, due to a large marketing push and promise of impressive graphics
  • Infamously caught in a false advertising scandal when the original E3 trailer was shown to be CGI, not real-time gameplay footage
  • Featured an online Multiplayer mode, although official servers were shut down in March of 2018
  • Followed by “Killzone 3” in 2011


“Killzone 2” takes place in the mid-24th century, and focuses on the ongoing war between two human factions: The Vetkans, Earth colonists living on the lush planet Vetka, and the Helghasts, genetically mutated humans living on the harsh planet Helghan. Many characters return from the first “Killzone” and “Liberation,” including the first game’s protagonist, Jan Templar. Two years following the Helgasts’ invasion of Vetka in the first game, the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance, or ISA, mounts a full-scale counter-invasion of Helghan, all while attempting to capture the Helghan Empire’s leader, Scolar Visari. Players assume control of Tomas “Sev” Sevchenko, a sergeant in the ISA’s Alpha Squad, consisting of the hot-tempered Rico Velasquez (also returning from the first game), the cynical Shawn Natko, and Sev’s close friend Dante Garza. Facing heavy resistance from the Helghan fleet and the harsh environment of the planet, Sev and team push forward to capture Visari and, ultimately, bring an end to the war. 

The overall story, while certainly nothing groundbreaking, is still thoroughly enjoyable throughout, and is really amplified by the series’ overall tone and narrative. The best way I can describe “Killzone 2” is war in its purest form. At first glance, it’s easy to call the ISA the good guys, and the Helghan empire the bad guys. However, when you learn more about the history of these two factions, you quickly realize that the Helghasts are more than justified in their hatred of the Vetkans. Basically, nothing in this war is black and white; both the ISA and the Helghasts have done horrible things, while both are fighting for what they believe in. Fascism, military oppression and the effect war has on soldiers are also prevalent themes throughout, the last of which is perfectly exemplified with Sev. He starts off as a soldier eager to fight for his side, but as the game reaches its conclusion, he has grown tired of all the conflict, and sees the futility of it all. Even if the main narrative isn’t particularly mindblowing, it still manages to keep you invested with its themes and unwavering depiction of war. 

Some of the characters definitely propelled me to play the game. Not all of them stick out for the right reasons, though; Rico is by far one of the most thoroughly unlikable characters I’ve ever seen. His undying hatred of the Helghasts results in him making a lot of stupid decisions, and by the end of the game, he makes everything a thousand times worse. Thankfully, none of the other characters reach this level. Sev isn’t the most memorable protagonist in the world, but his overall journey throughout the game is good to watch, while his more level-headed nature nicely contrasts with his fellow soldiers. Garza and his relationship with Sev are a big highlight for me, as they do bounce off each other well. As for Natko, while his cynical attitude can be a bit grating at first, it’s endearing in its own way. 

Then, there’s the Helghast, who might be one of the most underrated antagonistic factions in video games period. Aside from their phenomenal designs, their members are equally memorable; Colonel Radec, Visari’s second in command and leader of the armed forces, is a character I can’t get enough of, from his fantastic voice and attitude to his absolutely incredible design. Visari, meanwhile, is one of the most charismatic antagonists you will ever see. The second you hear his speech at the beginning, you quickly understand how he amassed such a large group of followers by his side. Overall, the characters and each of the two factions do a lot for this game’s narrative. 

The actual gameplay of “Killzone 2” is something I really don’t think gets the praise it deserves. While it’s easy to compare “Killzone” and “Halo”, both being first-person shooters and console exclusives, “Killzone 2”, mechanically, very much differentiates itself from Microsoft’s title. The first big difference is the way it feels; “Killzone 2” is a very heavy game, with each movement really feels like you’re hauling a pickup truck, and gives the game its own distinctive feel. Then, there’s the atmosphere; “Killzone 2” is one of the grittiest, most uncompromising looks at just how brutal warfare is, and the game does a phenomenal job at conveying just how unforgiving of a planet Helghast is. The battles and gunfights also truly feel like you’re fighting a losing war, with each brutal fight in the streets or wastelands of Helghan feeling like a life-or-death battle against insurmountable odds. This is true from both a story and gameplay standpoint. The final two missions in and outside Visari’s Palace are some of the hardest missions in any FPS. Either way, “Killzone 2” really lives up to its name. 

The main gunplay is also really solid as well. There is a good selection of assault rifles, SMGs, shotguns, sniper rifles, LMGs and heavier weapons like RPGs and grenade launchers, with each faction having distinct weapons. Sev, by default, always carries a Revolver with unlimited ammo, which is a good get-out-of-jail-free card if you ever run out of ammo in other weapons. All of the weapons feel great to use, with the M82 Assault Rifle, StA-14 Rifle and the StA-11 Submachine Gun being my personal favorites. Players also have access to special weapons in specific sections, such as flamethrowers and a Bolt Gun, which is oh so satisfying to wield. The player will encounter a few different varieties of Helghast soldiers throughout the campaign, with each carrying a different weapon. There’s your standard Helghast Infantry, who attack in large numbers; Light Shock Troopers who will rush the player with SMGs and combat knives; and Heavy Troopers who are heavily armored and use large machine guns. Certain sections put you in control of different vehicles, mainly a tank and a massive exoskeleton, the latter of which is immensely fun to wield. Overall, the core gameplay here is decent fun, and provides a great, and often challenging, FPS experience. 

While I really do love this game, there is one thing implemented here that completely kills it in certain sections: motion controls. A common feature of the PS3 used in many first-party titles for the system was the Sixaxis motion control scheme, which allows players to move objects in the game world using the Sixaxis, and later Dualshock 3 controller. Now, I am not attested to motion controllers, as things like the Nintendo Wii and even the Playstation Move pull this off pretty well all things considered. However, using motion controls on a standard controller will always be gimmicky and way less satisfying to me than just using the analog stick. There are certainly games from the PS3 that implement the Sixaxis controls in a decent way, but unfortunately, “Killzone 2” is not one of them. 

The game forces you to use motion controls for pretty arbitrary actions, such as turning valves or planting bombs, and when this happens, it absolutely kills the pacing. There is one particular section where you need to plant four bombs on different pillars in order to destroy a building, and with each one you plant, you are forced to stand still and painstakingly rotate the controller to arm it. The one way I think “Killzone 2” implements the motion controls in a clever way is when you’re using a sniper rifle, as by keeping the controller still, your aim is much more accurate. Overall, however, the use of the Sixaxis controls in “Killzone 2” is a completely unnecessary gimmick that could easily be removed. 

Other Criticisms:

  • A few technical hiccups (Nothing too major, but noticeable)
  • Performance can be a bit questionable (Again, not frequent or major, but noticeable)
  • The inability to play the game’s multiplayer in 2024 (Seriously, Sony. Come on). 

In spite of all of this, “Killzone 2” is still a fantastic first-person shooter. From its engrossing story, unrelenting tone and atmosphere, and solid core gameplay, it provides an experience all its own. Even if it never reached the heights of the “Halo” series, and Sony has all but abandoned the series, the “Killzone” series will continue to be a fan favorite, with “Killzone 2” still being, to this day, one of the best games that the PlayStation 3 has to offer. 

Nick McCoy is a senior at Fort Hays State University, studying digital media and journalism. An avid gamer and music listener, he reviews video games and songs and hosts the radio show “The Understanding of Nick” for KFHS. 

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