Killzone 2

 

A Jekyll/Hyde split between solo and multiplayer gaming has often plagued the first-person shooter; this grows more pronounced as the genre ages. Single-player campaigns increasingly aspire to cinematic storytelling above all else, while multiplayer concepts focus on pure gameplay, free of narrative pretense.

The schism is pronounced in Killzone 2, a full sequel to Sony’s would-be Halo equivalent from 2004. The action takes place on the harsh planet of Helghan, a warrior’s wonderland in which light and shadow, dust and wind are integral to gameplay. Hyper-detailed art direction competes for attention against the legions of enemy Helghast, whose glowing red eyes glare through dust and haze like a dare: “Just try to put a bullet here.”

Stripped of graphics grandeur, the solo campaign rates as competent. Stock characters grunt through a well-worn tale of an elite squad fighting against all odds. At best, the storyline is effective as an ad for the multiplayer aspect. Charging through the barren Suljeva Village and fascist/modernist Visari Palace entrance, you’ll think not of taming the Helghast, but of team-based mayhem.

Multiplayer mode is taut and consistently exciting. Developer Guerrilla made two great choices: players can customize characters with classes (medic, saboteur, etc.) and weapons, adding depth and longevity to online encounters. And five game types (all variations on classic modes like Capture The Flag) flow one into the next with no stopping in online lobbies, preserving the game’s momentum.

Beyond the game: François Truffaut claimed that the visceral appeal of combat makes anti-war films impossible. That goes double for videogames. He might guffaw at Killzone, which attempts sage commentary on the Iraq War through “heroic” combat that’s far more appealing than the message.

Worth playing for: The windswept multiplayer maps, all liberally decorated with catwalks and bridges, sniper nests in rundown buildings, and spawn points to keep resurrected soldiers close to the action.

Frustration sets in when: You struggle to see all the vivid details through a POV that feels slightly claustrophobic. The constrained viewpoint may be an intentional tactic to make war feel like hell, but screw that. Let’s see the pretty pictures in Vistavision.

Final judgment: Consider the simplistic storyline a training ground for the surprisingly varied online game, and overdose on visual splendor every step of the way.

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