Written by Andrew Brooker
I’m going to try and right an injustice. A game has been forgotten to the annals of time and I fear that it may never get the recognition it deserves.
But I think I’ve found the perfect time to either introduce you to, or remind you of, one of the greatest games to grace the PlayStation 3. I am, of course, talking about Guerrilla Games’ ‘Killzone 2’.
A little over a year ago, the Amsterdam based developer finally unveiled their first open-world role-playing game to the world. ‘Horizon: Zero Dawn’ was a revelation amongst Playstation gamers and its post-post-apocalyptic setting not only gave players an enormous open world to immerse themselves in; but it gave us a story that had a lore deep enough to give ‘Lord of the Rings’ a run for its money. The tale of Aloy and her journey from tribal outsider to saviour of the world via battles with enormous robotic dinosaurs and deep underground exploration resonated with everyone that played it. It’s beautiful vistas prompted many – myself included – to spend an unhealthy amount of time hanging around on cliff edges taking shots of the landscapes and making full use of the games photo mode.
However, eight years prior to Horizon’s release, Guerrilla released the sequel to their thoroughly average 2004 science-fiction shooter, ‘Killzone’.
Back in the day, or at least, back in ‘04; ‘Killzone’ was lost in a sea of ground-breaking shooters. ‘Far Cry’, ‘Half Life 2’ and ‘Doom 3’ all towered over the franchise starter. The developer tried to bring a World War 2 inspired story to a future war; giving us multiple characters to play as and a grimy world to play around in. Reasonable reviews that praised the aesthetic but beat the gameplay to a pulp meant that the game that some called “Sony’s ‘Halo’ killer” was sadly, quickly forgotten and with less that a million total sales, that should have been all she wrote.
A few years later, PlayStation and Guerrilla took the world by storm with their announcement of ‘Killzone 2’. It wasn’t a highly anticipated title by any means; the battle between the ISA and the universe’s best space Nazis – The Helghast – had barely been a blip on your average players’ radar. No, what got people excited was the graphical fidelity promised by the announcement trailer. It was the early days of the PlayStation 3 and people needed a reason to get excited for the new generation of consoles.
Sadly, as has become all too common nowadays, it was all a smoke and mirrors act. As gameplay footage of ‘Killzone 2’ found its way into the wild as the release date neared; we soon realised that what we had been sold was not what we were getting. Excitement became resentment and all the positive press and word of mouth couldn’t save ‘Killzone 2’ from mediocre sales numbers release week.
But those of us that had our ears to the ground and were desperate to see our PlayStations worked as hard as they could took a risk. We wanted in on the continued story of the Helghast’s battle for supremacy over the ISA and we were rewarded in the best way.
If you can get over the fact that you weren’t playing the game demonstrated in the year previous – let’s be honest, if you’ve played ‘Watch Dogs’, you could get over it – you were dragged into a universe that was as beautiful as it was terrifying. With a world built to feel like the worst, most inhumane moments of your favourite Vietnam war movies; ‘Killzone 2’ made every scene, every set piece and every battle feel threatening. You felt like a soldier, weighed down by kit and unable to run for cover at a split seconds notice. You needed to run in and get the job done, but one wrong move could be your last; taking cover behind the wrong pillar or peeking out for a pot shot at the wrong time could have punishing consequences. Every round you fired from your standard issue ISA M82 rifle gave you a kick and holding down the trigger would leave you spraying into the sky as the recoil got the better of you. It was a sense of realism that brought you crashing back to the ground every time you took a hit. It was the glorious thud of your armour barely keeping you alive that left players unable to drop their controllers.
Add to that a superb voice cast, and ‘Killzone 2’ genuinely had it all. Brian Cox was pulled in to reprise his role from the first ‘Killzone’ as the ruthless leader of the Helghast, Scolar Visari. His speech over the opening cutscene sets the tone for the upcoming twelve hours as he channels an encyclopedia’s worth of dictators and terrifies the toughest of players. Returning too – although in a different role – is the superb Sean Pertwee. The brutal and bloodthirsty Colonel Mael Radec has, for eight years, been my favourite video game antagonist. His over-the-top bad guy is almost a caricature of all those goose-stepping German colonels that throw out a maniacal monologue before slaughtering everyone. It is quite the performance and is a joy to experience over and over again. Radec also serves as the game’s final boss; frustration is the order of the day as this wave based final battle – which easily took an hour on higher difficulties – was the perfect way to end this chapter of the ‘Killzone’ legacy.
Finally, and I promise this will be brief, you can’t talk about ‘Killzone 2’ without talking about Warzone – the franchise’s online multiplayer mode.
Just as brutal and frenetic as the single player campaign, a great game in Warzone would see two teams in a death filled tug of war capturing points and upping the body count that was tough to rival anywhere else online. A poor game in the Warzone would see you punished for your inability to work as part of a team or aim straight. Much like the campaign, your heavy body would find itself a target for random acts of violence from the team that was ready to tear bits off of you and barbecue you for daring to step into their arena.
A learning curve that needed a stair lift to tackle, the Warzone was where I lost months of my life. Playing as hard on day one as I was on the day Sony closed down the servers in March this year. I made enemies, I made friends, and I made a lot of enemies. But there will never be an online arena that can compare to ‘Killzone 2’s’ Warzone. I still have nightmares about those tight corridors on Radec Academy.
But here’s the point. ‘Killzone 2’ is one of those games that everyone that played it, loved. But simply not enough people played it. It sold well enough to give us another sequel during the PS3 generation, as well as becoming a flagship franchise across both the PlayStation 4 and the Vita. Nevertheless, the second entry in this epic sci-fi saga always felt under-played and truly under- appreciated. Those of us that got our boots into the Helghan dirt have all got war stories to share with those that didn’t, but far too many never experienced this heavenly hell. And that is a crying shame.
Do you have any fond memories of ‘Killzone 2’ you want to share? Be sure to tweet us – @JUMPCUT_PLAY