Killzone 2 Demo: Hi-Fi Mediocrity

As many did, I downloaded the Killzone 2 demo before the weekend. Being a European exclusive for the time being, I had to go through the tedious Playstation network registration process so that I could create a UK-based profile. As far as Sony knows, I’m still living in NW2. The following are my impressions, based on stuff I wrote elsewhere:

I just played through the demo and I’m completely and amazingly underwhelmed. I was on the fence, only 80% underwhelmed, through most of the short (it took longer to download than play) demo sequence, but the final encounter bumped me up to 100% certainty. When my squadmate asked for cover while he “hacked” a locked door, there was no question. Is there anything more cliché at this point? The second he said “hold on” I knew music was going to swell and enemy soldiers were going to respawn behind me. Lo and behold, this game lived up to expectations for once.

The whole experience felt so rote. A pointless merger of one tired gaming cliché (World War II) with another (space marines.) What’s the point of this setting exactly? Why have the sci-fi element if everything else is going to play like it’s the 1940s? Having a personnel carrier fly you into battle isn’t any different from a beach landing on a boat. I know it provides a grounding for the combat, making it more person to person (or, Space Marine to Space Nazi,) but it makes the entire experience feel inconsistent.

It’s all very high polished and high-fidelity — a fine technical show-piece for the system — but it’s superficial. It plays fine, the controls are decent, the AI doesn’t seem completely stupid, but none of it is remarkable. These things are functional: they don’t deter from the overall experience, but they don’t add anything either. It’s like sticking a spoiler on a Hummer H2.

I wanted to give the game the benefit of the doubt, but as a demonstration of the final product it failed to win me over. Killzone 2 is less than the sum of its parts; a game that doesn’t do any one particular thing wrong, but feels off on the whole. It’s uninspired in setting and tone and art direction and everything except engineering.

Maybe I’ll give it a shot to see how the multiplayer holds-up. Call of Duty 4 provided much enjoyment despite my abhorring of its single player campaign. If any of the early comparisons are to be trusted (I remain suspicious), I might enjoy that aspect of Killzone 2. But, as with Call of Duty, I doubt I’ll ever “complete” the game. If the little scraps of plot and the character interactions in the demo are anything to go by, I won’t be missing anything.

  • The one thing that it does do exceptionally well, however, is support multiple languages. There is a choice of about ten languages, and they’re not just subtitled; they’re all dubbed. I played through the demo in Polish. This is one thing European devs, thanks to the nature of the European diaspora, get right. Insular American and Japanese developers should get on this. Localization shouldn’t be an issue in this day and age.
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