>Impressions: Killzone 2

>But before I get into Killzone 2, some good news, at least for me: my 360 is apparently already on its way back. It was in the repair facility for probably less than 24 hours; UPS is being incredibly vague (as per usual), but I’m guessing I’ll have it back by Wednesday.

I’ve been really busy this week; work’s been crazy, and I’ve got about 3 or 4 musical project all starting to happen at the same time. I left work a little bit early on Friday and decided to reward myself for making it through a crazy week; traded in a couple games (Halo 3 and Gears 2 among them, which should prove beyond a doubt that I’m not just a mindless 360 automaton) and managed to actually find a new copy of Killzone 2 at my local Gamestop – without a pre-order, no less. Amazing.

I’m maybe an hour into Killzone 2; I’ve earned 2 trophies, although I think I’ve finished 3 or 4 levels by now. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on, other than I’m supposed to shoot the dudes with the helmets and the orange eyes – I have no idea why, but they seem awfully pissed off at me and my squadmates. I believe I’m on their planet, although there’s a lot of Earth/human-like features there – there’s garbage bags and stray shoes and dumpsters. Oh, and they speak English, with what I think is a slight trace of an English accent. They kinda remind me of the Combine in Half-Life 2.

The game is, if nothing else, jaw-droppingly gorgeous. There are some stop-start hiccups during level transitions, but those generally occur during breaks from the action so it never really affects gameplay. It is probably the best-looking shooter I’ve ever seen; and yet it also suffers from some pretty bland cinematography, at least during the cutscenes. For one thing, I have a hard time telling who is who during the first few cutscenes, especially since the player character is sometimes in the scenes; everyone’s the same dirty angry soldier, talkin’ all tough-like. The soldiers in this particular army have a peculiar mode of transportation; they ride around on the roof of flying machines, without any apparent safety harnesses, which makes them pretty easy targets, if they’re not actually flying off the roof. There’s no apparent reason for this, either, but even if it’s purely to make the game more action-packed and to make you think your character is a real bad-ass, my main problem is that these sequences have terrible camera angles – they’re shot from your p.o.v., but you can’t move the camera around, and the camera is low to the ground and looking slightly up – which means you can’t really see where you’re going or what’s underneath you, which also means you have no sense of scale. This could be construed as nitpicking, but for a game that’s meant to showcase the power of the PS3, it actually comes off as something rather amateur-ish.

Camera angles notwithstanding, my main problem is that I’m not totally sold on the gameplay, and it’s mostly because I find myself continually wrestling with the controls. The old line on FPSs used to be, “I can only play them with a mouse and keyboard, I can’t play with a controller.” The new line, at least for me, is that “I can only play them with the 360 controller, I can’t play with the PS3 controller.” The PS3 controller feels weird in my hand, and none of the buttons correspond to what I expect them to do. My biggest thing is that the trigger is the R1 button and not the R2, but I’m also constantly throwing grenades when I mean to duck for cover – and the cover system, while appreciated, feels unintuitive and unhelpful.

I fully concede that this is probably due to my own inexperience with the Playstation controller; I’m only now getting to the point where I know where the square button is without looking. It’s just that shooters on the 360 feel really second-nature to me – even the bad ones – and I find Killzone’s controls unusually tough to get used to. So between the controls pulling me out of the experience, and being in the middle of these gigantic battles that I have absolutely no emotional investment in, I find myself having trouble really getting sucked into the single-player campaign. I’m curious to see if the experience changes in co-op or online; I’ve not yet had much of an opportunity to try out the online side of the game.

I’d like to try and finish the campaign soon, though, if only because I’m downloading The Lost and Damned the moment I plug my 360 back in.

>Things That Make No Sense: The Killzone 2 Demo

>This article from MTV Multiplayer explains Sony’s justification of its bizarre and counter-intuitive Killzone 2 promotion, wherein the Killzone 2 demo is being offered 24 days before the game’s release only for people who pre-order the game from Gamestop.

MTV’s Stephen Totillo asks the relevant question:

Why would Sony do this? Isn’t the practice of selling a demo to people who have already committed to order the game contrary to the logic of why one would release a demo?

And Sony gives the following answer:

“Offering a playable demo to motivate preorders speaks to our confidence in the appeal of a game such as Killzone 2. We take this approach when we are convinced that the experience will cement a consumer’s interest in purchasing. Retailers will then merchandise those demos within their stores and online to maximize their visibility. Through this process, consumers are often times able to reserve their copy of the final game, which provides an incentive to purchase and helps seal the deal. We also offer demos on the PSN, which we have done in the past with great success, and will continue to make that available. Killzone 2, for example, will have a downloadable demo launch in North America the week that the game is launching, for consumers who prefer that option.”

Read the first sentence again. Here, I’ll isolate it and bold it for you:

Offering a playable demo to motivate preorders speaks to our confidence in the appeal of a game such as Killzone 2.

No, no it doesn’t. To the extent that sentence makes any coherent sense at all, it does precisely the opposite. Killzone 2 is one of the most anticipated titles for the PS3 this year – it’s also one of the only exclusive titels for the PS3 this year, but that’s besides the point – and yet Sony’s marketing blitz for it has been, for lack of a better word, non-existent. Which is to say, if you didn’t already know about it, you wouldn’t know anything about it.

Releasing a demo for a highly anticipated game ONLY for people who have already spent money on it tells me that they don’t have a lot of faith in the game; it tells me that if the uneducated and unwashed masses were to get their hands on the demo a few weeks before the game was released, they’d be disappointed and thus less inclined to pre-order.

And really, while we’re at it, what is it about Killzone 2 that makes it so highly anticipated, anyway? The first game supposedly boasted fantastic production values, especially for an aging PS2 system, but didn’t really get great review scores (Metacritic average is 7.0); and if I remember correctly, the first trailer for it – the one that dropped every jaw at E3 a few years ago – turned out to be a “target render” and not actual gameplay.

Sony has been languishing in 3rd place ever since it launched, and doing arrogant, nonsensical, stupid shit like this only reinforces the idea that they truly have no idea what they’re doing. And I say this as a PS3 owner, as someone who really wants the PS3 to succeed and be great and not simply exist as an overpriced Blu-Ray player.