In the course of this series, we’ve talked about the impact of social hooks in the form of trophies, hardware revisions in the form of the Slim model and new control peripherals thanks to Move’s debut. But we haven’t yet touched on the primary reason many of us invested in this generation of PlayStation: the games.
Killzone 2 arrived at a pivotal moment for the PlayStation 3. The game had been a kind of anchor for what people expected from the PS3 since that famous E3 target video all the way back in 2005. That video was stunning and it truly raised expectations for what this new generation of consoles could do. It would be two years before we saw any gameplay from Guerrilla’s first person masterpiece and again, it looked stunning – even though it was obviously not as perfect as the target video.
More than eighteen months after that first gameplay footage was shown at E3 in 2007, in February 2009, Killzone 2 was released to an expectant fan base around the world. It rarely disappointed.
Killzone 2 took place entirely on Helghan, home world of the Helghast. It adroitly walked the line between great FPS action and an intriguing sci-fi plot with a hefty backstory. With Killzone 2, Sony had a countermeasure to Halo. Killzone wasn’t the same kind of game but it provided the same sort of setting, albeit in a more subtle way, more grounded in modern realism.
That heavy grounding in realism works beautifully for science fiction. Killzone 2 exhibits the same visible thread from the present to the future that makes science fiction classics like Alien so compelling. In that distant and fantastical future, we can see elements of the present. We identify and realise that it’s the same reality, just a different time and place. Not everyone was so enamoured with the realistic elements of the game though. The slow movement and heavy weaponry was one of the main causes for complaint around the the game’s launch but a patch provided some relief and also allowed for optional control changes to make it feel more familiar to fans of different FPS series.
Killzone 2, more than any other PS3 exclusive game, before or since, seemed to get everything just right. It looked fantastic, had a great campaign set in a deep and immersive universe of fiction and it was marketed perfectly at a time when Sony’s marketing was generally a little bit slow to arrive or bizarrely off message. And then there was the multiplayer.
There’s no use in pretending that the PlayStation 3 is anywhere like as popular as its main competitor for online gaming. But Killzone 2 showed that it was possible to provide perhaps the best multiplayer experience of this generation on Sony’s platform. It was so perfectly tuned, with some really excellent game mode that took place on some of the best multiplayer map design yet seen. The clan system is still sadly unmatched, anywhere.
With reviews that averaged out around the ninety per cent mark and DLC releases providing plenty of reasons to return to the game, Killzone 2 was a great success. So much so that it still feels like the high point for the PlayStation 3. That’s not to say that game series like Uncharted and Gran Turismo, not to mention the innovation of the PlayStation Network, aren’t exceptionally good. But Killzone 2 felt like a perfect storm, not even matched by its own sequel two years later.