The original Killzone was a success in the sense that it was Sony's answer to Microsoft's Halo. While it wasn't quite the killer app that it was touted to be the game was a fine first person shooter with enough quality mechanics to act as building blocks for a franchise. The sequel takes those established trappings and improves upon them, making something that feels much grittier, more hellish, and fiendishly fun.
The story in Killzone 2 is quite simple really. In the first game the Helghast invaded the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance colony on Vekta and basically initiated a war between the two groups. It was a bloody affair and the story put you into the role of defender as a member of the ISA. With the sequel you're once again put into the shoes of an ISA officer, but instead of being on the defensive, you're taking the battle to the Helghast's mainland, Helghan (bet you didn't see that one coming). Things aren't going to be easy and there's plenty of stuff between you and your ultimate goal. A decent, but not spectacular, narrative pushes the plot forward and it serves its purpose of giving you a motive for the fight and a reason to keep pulling the trigger. Fortunately the real experience in Killzone 2 is had just by playing through the game.
Right from the start Killzone 2 feels like a polished, more chaotic version of the first game. The sheer amount of depth, scope, and insanity of the environments you're thrust into hits you from the moment you step onto the battlefield. You'll be running and gunning to save your life in no time and you'll definitely get the sensation that you're a small part in a larger scale conflict. It's a fantastic sense of immersion that immediately draws you into the single player campaign and it will keep you running on adrenaline up until you beat the game ten hours later.
The nice thing about the second Killzone is the fact that you're surrounded by AI squad members, much like the first installment, but this time they actually make themselves useful. You'll never really get the sense that you're completely alone thanks to the squad dynamics and friendly AI. It's a nice touch that adds to the single player experience, but it also highlights a tragic omission: the total lack of co-op. This oversight is painful and it's glaring, especially after playing through games such as Call of Duty, Gears of War, and Halo 3. High end shooters need co-op and the fact that Killzone 2 doesn't have it is definitely a blemish. Thankfully that's one of the only chips you'll find in this title's armor. The rest of the experience here is fantastic.
As you play through the game's campaign you'll be forced into a wide variety of situations. The flow of the combat is very smooth and you'll come across large scale fights, tight hallways, sniper missions, vehicle missions, and all other manner of things that will force you to adapt and learn new tricks. It all comes together to make you keep on your toes, and the tense atmosphere will ensure that you only get a moment to breath during cut scenes. Let's just say that the enemy AI in this game is quite adept at painting your screen red with blood and as you make your way through the game every firefight will feel fresh. There's definitely no sense of monotony in the campaign.
Once you're done beating the snot out of the Helghast, the game's online multiplayer component will keep you playing for another hundred hours or more. Killzone 2's online system is brilliant and addicting, and support for up to 32 is really just the start. Developer Guerilla got it right when they sat down to draw up the multiplayer functionality of Killzone 2. It's easy to find a match, there's virtually no lag, and the modes are plentiful enough to keep you coming back for more. Assassination, Search & Retrieve, Search & Destroy, Bodycount and Capture & Hold are the modes you'll find here and even though they are kind of conventional, since they are set in Killzone's war-torn world they feel even more chaotic.
Killzone 2 also adds some nice features such as the popular experience and skill mechanic, which emulates other FPS such as Call of Duty and rewards seasoned players with new abilities and weapons. The system is rewarding, deep, and very balanced when you take into consideration the sheer amount of people playing in each game. If for some reason 32 people aren't in a match the game substitutes bots to keep things from getting too lopsided. In addition to all of that there are also clan options and the ability to break a team of 16 up into squads of four. When all of this is combined with the stellar gameplay already infused into Killzone 2 the multiplayer mode truly comes to life.
While it's not quite as breathtaking as the pre-rendered teaser would have had us believe, Killzone 2 is undoubtedly one of the best looking games on the current generation. It pushes the PS3 to its limits and presents an incredibly atmospheric experience that is loaded with detail like you wouldn't believe. From the character models to animation, and even weapons designs and explosions, every facet of this game has been rendered to the nth degree to bring about a hellish and captivating wartime experience. It's all presented in 1080p and looks damned beautiful on a big screen. With that being said there are some muddied textures and a few bits that stand out because they don't look quite as good as the rest, but since 95% of the game is breathtaking these oopsies are easy to overlook.
From stem to stern Killzone 2's sound direction is a solid effort as well. The voice acting is good, the soundtrack is awesome, and the sense of immersion crafted by the game intensifies the action on screen. The 7.1 channels do an incredible job of upping the ante of the presentation and there are several moments of the game that simply have to be experienced to be appreciated. The dialogue isn't the greatest and some of the voiceovers are better than others, but otherwise this is an awesome sounding package all around.
Killzone 2 is an awesome game that will grab hold of you and not let go for quite some time. The gameplay is fast and furious, the atmosphere is rich and deep, and all around the single and multiplayer features are fantastic. So many bells and whistles went into the production of this game that it almost, just almost, lives up to the hype of the original trailer. If you own a PlayStation 3 you owe it to yourself to check this game out no matter if you played the original title or not. It's a great first person shooter and the multiplayer component is more than robust enough to keep you going back for more.