Platform: PlayStation 3
Let's be clear right from the start: I have never been all that excited about Killzone 2. I remember all too well the 'Halo killer' hype that surrounded the PS2 original, not to mention the disappointment that followed on release. The whole fiasco about pre-rendered footage at E3 2006 left a sour taste in my mouth, and subsequent reports on the game didn't fill me with much confidence either. Frankly, I might have expected Killzone 2 to be a pretty game - to be an accomplished demonstration of the PS3's prowess - but did I expect it to be a great game. Nope.
So when I tell you that Killzone 2 is extraordinary, it's not wishful thinking, fanboy enthusiasm or a case of getting blinded by the visuals, it's simply my honest opinion of the game. Would I - like some others - go so far as to say that this is the best console shooter ever? No. But it would certainly figure high in my top five.
With all the garlands and rose petals being hurled at Killzone 2, it's important to stress that it's not a landmark title in gameplay terms in the way that, say, Halo, Far Cry or Half-Life 2 were before it. Killzone 2 is not particularly innovative; the overall feel is of a slick synthesis of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Halo 3 and Gears of War, with the Infinity Ward classic making up the main part of the ingredients. The majority of the levels are fairly linear and the action is heavily orchestrated. Where Gears of War and its sequel stole ideas from other genres - notably survival horror and the Resident Evil series - Killzone 2 plays straight to the standard-issue FPS template. The storyline is classic 'men on a mission' stuff, without the dense sci-fi backstory of the Halo games or the melodrama of Gears of War 2. I'm not sure I can think of anything that Killzone 2 does that you won't have seen before, and a lot of it will be very familiar indeed.
But the key thing to understand is that you won't have seen it done so solidly and so expertly outside of a handful of titles, including those mentioned above. What Killzone 2 brings to the party is believability, coherence and consistency. Everything, from the incredible visuals to the taut pacing to the generally superb AI, is in place to create one of the most visceral and convincing all-action experiences you've ever had on any games platform. When the game is running at full power it's almost impossible to tear your eyes from the screen.
It's a fearsomely bombastic game, kicking off with a massive-scale assault on enemy soil, as the forces of the Interplanetary Space Alliance invade the planet of the militaristic, neo-fascist Helghast in the aftermath of Killzone 1. Even in the first game, the Helghast has the potential to be an iconic adversary, with their totalitarian imagery and trademark, glowing orange goggles. Here that potential is realised, the game not stinting to put dozens of them on screen at a time, taunting and boasting in a range of slightly thuggish English accents that make them seem half anime villain, half sci-fi Millwall supporter.