Killzone 2: Easy To Be Critical?

Killzone 2, easily the PS3’s most anticipated game yet, is out this Friday, and as we’ve said earlier some of our readers seem to have placed a huge amount of weight on the game’s Metacritic score, which has now settled at 92%.  Now that all the major publications have reviewed the game and we don’t really expect many more to be published on the Metacritic chart, it’s worth having a look at how the game has been received by some of the gaming press, and a glance at a few other games that currently sit above Guerrilla’s epic FPS to see how the reviewers have reacted to the game in comparison with other recent PS3 shooters.

The evidence is clear: in the grand scheme of things a couple of percentage points shouldn’t make much difference, but two other multi-format FPS titles are clearly ahead in terms of percentage score averages: both BioShock and Call of Duty 4 now proudly sport a Metacritic average of 94%.  Both are great games, but are they really better than Killzone 2?  Well, the two lowest scores for the PS3 exclusive, Edge’s 7/10 and the similar score from Absolute Games are obviously pulling down the average somewhat and with Metacritic’s weighting system a secret we’ll never know by how much – but both reviews make entirely valid points.  In a world currently caught up with the hype behind Killzone 2, intense PR and the admittedly stunning visuals, is Killzone 2 really that good of a game?  Is 92% probably, really, about right?

Having finished the single player campaign for the TSA review, it’s only on a third run-through that the cracks start to show, and I don’t know if I really want to play it through again.  Edge was right when they said the story stinks, there’s so little to it that the notion of playing through the chapters in a random order and not knowing the difference is entirely a valid one – the end crescendo aside there’s hardly any difficulty curve to speak of, practically zero character development and next to no emotional ties to keep you interested in the story.  We don’t want to spoil the event two thirds the way through, but you can’t help wondering why you can’t just press ‘circle’ when it does happen: it worked the last 200 times.

What Killzone 2 manages to do, though, is produce a thrilling single player ride that’s breathtaking the first time through and then just about keeps you wrapped up in the campaign without really serving any particularly memorable moments the second time.  There’s no resonance cascade, no shock and awe, no suprise ending, and the third time through is a slog.

And Absolute Games?  “Zero – that’s how many fresh ideas Killzone 2 brings to the table,” says the review. “Had it been released alongside Soldier of Fortune or Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, it would have made a big fuss. Today, after Call of Duty 4, Gears of War 2 and Half-Life 2: Episode Two, its gameplay looks weak. Very few enemy variations, cliched situations repeat over and over again, and there is not enough story to fill a Saturday morning cartoon. ”  You know?  They’re right.  There are about 3 enemy types, bosses aside, and they’re all very similar, and it is the same pocket of action repeated on an scratchy 10 minute loop.

You might say it’s a quirk of Metacritic that meant our 5/5 review ended up as a 100% on there, but we still stick to the fact that we reckon it’s one hell of a game that you can’t afford to miss, hence the score. The frustrating thing is that because the game is so split down the middle – single and multiplayer – the only way we could really review the game away from our usual 10 was to do two reviews.  As for the other half, then, well, it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to get our hands on the online multiplayer mode until later today so sadly there won’t be a multiplayer review before the game launches.

But that probably won’t matter: we hope that Killzone 2 breaks every sales single record for a PlayStation 3 exclusive game because it deserves to.  True, the storyline is B-movie standard and the game grates on repeated playthroughs, but it does deliver what it set out to do: match the visual fidelity and the wreckless intensity of that E3 movie and Guerrilla, if nothing else, have proved that the PS3 is capable of incredible stuff, and Killzone 2 provides the best graphics, sound and atmosphere in a videogame we’ve ever seen.

And that should be more than enough for most.