Killzone 2

Disappointed by the original Killzone? Prepare to forget all about it. Guerrilla Games gets things right second time.


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This is one of several special Killzone 2 features celebrating one of PS3's biggest games ever. If you've been tracking this huge title, here you can catch up on anything you've missed...

By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell

Killzone 2 is about vengeance in more ways than one. Goaded by its predecessor's failings and by those notorious E3 2005 revelations, tossed and torn between packs of dribbling fanboy coyotes and wound tight on the hyperbole only blockbuster console-exclusive status can attract, Guerrilla's latest hits our disc drives with a fat, sizzling chip on its shoulder.

As that distinctive opening aerial assault sequence plays out once again, there's a definite sense that we too-vocal gaming pundits, and not the hard-pressed Helghast troopers below, are the real enemy. Where other shooters have cool-down or warm-up periods - simple puzzles to give your trigger-finger a rest, suspenseful bits of exploration, the odd opportunity to just sit back and take in a scenic backdrop - Guerrilla's AI and level script clobber the player with rifle butts seconds after handing him the pad, then trample him face down into the toxic Helghan mud. As strapping young hero 'Sev' spearheads the ISA advance into the belly of the enemy's capital, its defenders chip, slash and hammer at the invader's flanks and rear with fanatical disregard for either your blood pressure or their own lives.

Whether you're fighting the Helghast among the girders of an ore refinery or in the algae-green haze of maintenance tunnels, across muddied, puddled triumphal plazas or in the baroque shadow of Emperor Visari's palace, they're always taking it personally, always getting their hands dirty, always in your face. It's not till the action proceeds to the tranquil wastes of Suljeva Village - halfway through the seven-hour campaign - that you're granted a reprieve, and the silence is soon broken by snipers, strangely redolent of Sam Fisher in their triple-eyed visors, and heavy machine gunners. And that's just the standard difficulty setting, mind - dip a your toe in the deep end and the ruthless AI becomes positively demonic, hurling grenades with gleeful abandon, counterattacking positions faster than you can seize them, flanking like mad, and even squeezing off a headshot or two.

It's as much an onslaught on your senses as your frail recharging health bar. Much ink has been orgasmically smeared over the game's visual and audio delights by writers barely able to operate a coffee machine, so rather than bleat about high dynamic range lighting and the like, I'll just list a few of my personal high points. Tarpaulins. Filing cabinet drawers which roll out on their coasters. The screams, threats, barked orders and pleas that crowd into your ears as you push onto Saluman Bridge. Nuclear ash on the wind over the imperial palace. The heady mixture of tones and shadows as the glare of a dozen low-energy light bulbs plays over the bullet-proof pads, ragged bandanas and GI stubble of your squad-mates. Visari's podium-thumping propaganda broadcasts.

A thousand-ton ISA cruiser glittering like Damocles' sword on the horizon. The soft blues, purples and whites of its interior, worlds away from the scabby concrete jigsaw puzzle below. And dying people, of course. Guerrilla is a modern-day Michelangelo when it comes to people dying. Bodies spin, jerk and writhe under fire in freeform agony, clutch at entrance wounds, tumble in vile little clouds of bodily fluids.

This avalanche of production values and bullets is slightly deceptive, however. Despite the grandeur of its premise and ferocity of its execution, Killzone 2 can be quite a narrow-minded experience, endowing a few, carefully selected run-and-gun mechanics with a high level of finish. Positioning counts for a lot more than stopping power or endurance, and accuracy outweighs all three. Wallow though they might in fuzzy grey depth-of-field meatiness, the weapons give you absolutely no opportunity to grand-stand - save for the bolt gun, which staples your enemies' bodies to the furniture with explosive harpoons, and an apocalyptic electricity cannon, which falls into your hands for an entertaining half-an-hour.

The bulk of the roster is balanced and no-nonsense: automatic and single shot rifles, shotguns, pistols, SMGs, heavy machine guns, rocket and grenade launchers. Locking to cover with a shoulder button (a mechanic exclusive to single player) feels a little contrived at first - first-person shooters have done just fine without letting the player glue himself to walls, so why start now? - but is a pleasantly unrealistic blessing once the Helghast bust out bigger firearms.

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