Wednesday, March 18, 2009

20cc reviews: Killzone 2

When I was younger, I never used to finish video games. For some reason, I never really saw games as something to be beaten, just played for a year or so and eventually abandoned. Those were the days when I bought games for no reason other than that they were on the system I had (a Nintendo 64), or because the box art was pretty. I didn't follow gaming news, and I had no concept of what made a good game. I believe the first game I ever finished was Metroid Prime. After that may have been Gauntlet Dark Legacy. I don't actually remember, but I didn't really think of games as something to be played all the way through until around the time I got my Xbox.

As sad as that sounds, I do have a point. I was realizing this earlier today as I was considering the fact that I spent four hours of last Thursday, and maybe three more on Sunday, finishing Killzone 2. My eleven-year-old self would be shocked that I finished a game in fewer than twelve hours. Suddenly I find myself playing through one game each week, whether or not I like it.

With Killzone 2, I didn't want to finish the game. I would have rather read a book, or listened to music, or possibly played music, but I felt my journalistic integrity would have been compromised if I didn't make every effort to finish the game before I reviewed it. Ultimately, I finished it, at the cost of my health and my weekend, and really I'm not sure it was worth it.

I did not have a whole lot of personal interest in Killzone 2. I rented it because it new and relevant. My experience with the game beforehand was limited to an interview I had read, and the only thing I remembered from it was that Guerrilla Games was “putting a lot of work into the guns.” That is not a direct quote, but the closest I can remember. This intrigued me, because I always enjoy when a game works hard to look good, not just in the graphics, but in the overall presentation. As time went on though, I forgot that original interest, and began to feel the same thing I feel whenever a game I know little about gets a lot of hype. We'll say that I had mixed feelings going into the game. Similarly, it gave me mixed results, with parts of the game meeting my expectations, parts exceeding them, and parts failing.

The good:

Starting the first level, one thing immediately struck me about the game. The graphics were superb. It's hard to get me to say that about a game, because so often people say a game has broken into the next generation of graphics, and so often the games look just like every other one. Killzone 2 is something new though. Maybe it's just the PS3's superior hardware, but I'm still in awe. As a result, however, the characters suffered from exposure to the uncanny valley. Every imperfect movement was amplified, so cutscenes often looked somewhat unrealistic, near perfect graphics or not. Also, I eventually noticed that it doesn't really matter how good the graphics are, eventually they become normal. By the end of the game, I was no longer noticing the graphics, especially since I had been looking at the same things for hours. But that is a point best left for the next section.

The bad:

When I heard that Guerrilla was focusing specifically on the guns, being the things you look at through the whole game, I may have had too high expectations. Killzone 2 failed here not because of any technological limitation, but because game designers still disagree with me about which details are important. One thing that I know I've said before, and will no doubt say again, is that shooting games need to have more than one reload animation. It's not difficult. I don't insist on anything fancy. When you empty half a magazine and reload, that character takes the magazine out of the rifle, and inserts a new one. When the whole magazine is empty, he would have to pull back the bolt. That's all it would take. There were other problems too, about which I may find more sympathy. The weapons were all very much the same things we've seen before. As I'm actually discussing with 23 at the time of this writing, game companies make money by selling a product, and exploring new territory isn't a safe bet, financially speaking. Also, as I began to discuss earlier, the game isn't very creative with its level design. For the most part, every level looked the same, and even toward the end, when they started to change, they had the same feel. The complexity of the graphics may have something to do with that, since it somehow drained the character from the levels. Another cause may have been the fact that each level has the same objectives, specifically, kill the Helghast and avoid their bullets.

The ugly:

In one aspect, the game exactly met my expectations. This is perhaps the most important aspect of a game, the creative aspect. There was no plot of any value, as I expected, every twist was forecast an hour ahead, as excepted, and every character was a walking cliché with no depth, and generally only one real purpose in the story. While this was exactly what I expected, it didn't make the clichés any less painful, or the story any less dreary. I suspect that Guerrilla set out with the objective of making a pure shooter, and they came very close to that. While this is admirable in its own way, it does not excuse them from making something of value.

So what we have here is a game that does everything that it tries to do. Unfortunately, it doesn't try for the right things. As beautiful as the graphics may be, a game needs substance to be worth the money, and Killzone 2 falls short there. Overused weapons, a juvenile plot and unoriginal level design make for an overall unremarkable package. If bland shooters are your kind of thing, or if you just desperately need something to play on your PS3, then rent it. Don't pay full price until you're sure you like it. But then that's my philosophy for all games. Let me also say that Biscuits finally contributed to anyButton by rubbing the game on his balls before I played it. Whether that speaks positively or at all about the game, I leave to you to decide.

I've included the game's intro video. If you watch it in high definition, it should give you a sense of its graphics, and also of the quality of its plot.

No comments:

Post a Comment