Genre: First Person Shooter
Year: 2009
Developed by: Guerrila Games
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platforms: PS3
Feeling Like: Tough act to follow

Killzone 2 really didn’t stand a chance. It had the unenviable job of trying to impress me a few days after I’d finished The Walking Dead, one of my all time favorites. To say I enjoyed Telltale’s point and click adventure would be an understatement; I found it to be the most emotionally powerful video game I’d ever played. While it didn’t require you to do much, the harrowing choices and character journeys were beyond what I’d experienced in my previous 22 years of controller holding.

To go from that to Killzone 2 made me unnecessarily grumpy. The cookie cutter dialogue pissed me off. The ludicrously macho bravado is something I’ve seen a hundred times over in the Gears of War franchise, and done better. There’s something about playing a First Person Shooter with a controller instead of a mouse; it’s like trying to play chess with checkers.

My own fault. I should have left my lingering emotions simmer before jumping into something new and completely different. The fact is, Killzone 2 received critical reception and deservedly so. It looks great, it’s intense as hell, it improves upon its predecessor…but I can’t ignore how boring the enemy AI was, the lame villains and the clunky controls.

Or the fact that NOBODY wears helmets!!!

The strongest part of Killzone 2 is the visual design. On a technical level, it’s still impressive eight (EIGHT!) years later. Upon revisiting it both in game, and watching Youtube clips, I’m really struck by how great the Helghast’s home planet looks. Dystopian, sure, but with an appropriate level of haze, grays and frays to warrant a world worth blasting through.

The main character felt too heavy. The only time I felt truly free is when I was imprisoned in a mech near the end of the game. Hey, anytime a developer wants to throw me into a giant robot suit, you know I’m in favor. Creativity is sprinkled throughout, but not properly even. The end credits surprised me with fantastic animations of gun parts and staff names that were far more interesting than half the stuff I saw pre-post credits.

I did appreciate that I was almost always fighting with friends. You’re part of an army unit and you feel it. My computer AI comrades were relatively smart and the camaraderie I saw in the cut scenes translated over to the gameplay. Show AND tell. I had to frequently take breaks after intense firefights, as the sound design is superb. Characters will be be forced to holler over a maze of bullets, grenades and mortar fire, without unnatural volume drops in background noise while they’re speaking. Totally added to the chaotic nature of the battles, loved that.

But in the end, I couldn’t get over how stupid some of it seemed. Why weren’t there more tank levels? Why isn’t everybody wearing an armored helmet? Why am I running around like I’m wearing 100 pounds of gear? Why does every line out of everybody’s mouth make them sound like the Baron of Bros?

I’m positive others would have Killzone 2 higher on their own version of the 500. It’s not a bad game, by any means. I just played it at the wrong time.

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