A great body without a soul (SP only)
Killzone 2 is interesting pairing of fantastic game framework and an IP that is...weak, to say the least.
This means much of Killzone 2's gameplay is really quite good. It might be the best looking game yet on a home console system. Dark, urban enviroments are slick and appear more detailed than any game before it - and they're filled with plenty of awesome effects, including some nifty lighting effects that blend colors together and give off a sweet hazy look. I'm not a fan however of the usage of some screen filters - especially the one that tries to pull off a film grain effect. Mostly though, I'm annoyed by the slow desaturation of color as Sev racks up wounds, eventually turning full black and white when near death.
The core of the game, the action, is quite fun. This is an action FPS and even though it has a sci-fi bent, it leans heavily on the Call of Duty formulae. You will be shuttled through scripted sequences take that place in relatively small areas, but they don't really feel all that small. The Helghast will fight you with pretty good intelligence. They usually try to stay behind cover, which they do use to fire blindly from. They do not mess around with a grenade in the area, which really puts the onus on the player to "cook" the grenade before throwing, giving them less time to react. There is a cover mechanic that actually works well here, that never takes you out of a first person view. You hold the L2 button to go into cover (or crouch if there is no available cover) and you use the left stick to move along the cover and duck out from it to fire shots. While this works well, it doesn't control as good as it should. You have to hold L2 the entire time you wish to remain in cover. It can be annoying to hold L2 while at the same time, using the left thumbstick to move in out and out of cover, also while using the right stick to aim (and clicking it for zoom) and R1 to shoot. I would have prefered being able to toggle into cover with something like L1 and using L2 for zoom.
All of the guns feel pretty good to shoot, but there really aren't that many. The gun you start the game with is really the best all around weapon because of its dot laser sight. It's not as good when fired from the hip as the Helghast assault rifle or submachine gun, but it is good enough and the laser makes it much better at range - and you find yourself at range quite a bit.
What really holds back Killzone 2 is the IP. It might be the worst IP I've ever seen of a game of its quality. There is no story whatsoever here, just a basic backdrop and setting. I guess in the first game (which I and many Killzone 2 players have not played) the ISA was invaded by the Helghast. In Killzone 2, the ISA invades the Helghast homeworld of Helghan. They give some people names in the narrative, but the game could have gone completely without them, they're that irrelevant. Beyond not having a story - what is here isn't all that good. The ISA, the Helghast...this is high school level creative writing at best. It makes Halo look like a litery masterpiece.
Guerrilla Games has done all of the techinical work here. The game looks great and plays good. It's a really good game. It isn't a great one though. In a market flooded with shooters - great shooters - Killzone 2 doesn't do enough to be truly great. The visuals are excellent but it doesn't help that a game more than a year old in Crysis still looks quite a bit better. Gameplay wise, KZ2's campaign plays a lot like Call of Duty, but CoD4 is the superior package. Infinity Ward has been able to successfuly script events with such high quality and Guerrilla just doesn't deliver on the same level. Killzone 2 does not have the ambience and sense of war that Call of Duty has, for whatever reason. Of course, its ultimate failing is its lack of any narrative at all and IP that is about as bad as they come. Killzone 2 is definitely a game that the PS3 needed and every PS3 owner should probably own a copy, but this isn't a Gears of War or Halo like franchise Sony wanted, it's closer to Resistance than the former series'.