Almost four years have passed since Sony first unveiled Killzone 2, their vastly darker answer to the Halo franchise. In gaming terms, four years is an eternity, but Guerilla Games' gritty shooter is finally here to deliver a kickass experience that more than rewards us for our patience.

Killzone 2, with its face-meltingly intense campaign and robust multiplayer, exceeds the expectations set forth by the original game and the tremendously ambitious E3 2005 trailer. It's still early, but this one already reeks of shooter of the year.

Killzone 2: history lesson

When the first Killzone was released on the PS2 back in 2004, it failed to make much of a splash in the first-person shooter genre, despite being considered somewhat of a cult hit.

The game was originally hyped up to be a "Halo-killer", which didn't help the critical response it received when it turned out to be nothing more than a mediocre console FPS hardly capable of squashing games like Turok or Red Faction, much less the 800-pound gorilla, Halo. The biggest reason some gamers, myself included, loved the original Killzone was for its deeply satisfying multiplayer, but you can't sell half a game right?

Thankfully, the Amsterdam-based team behind Killzone didn't just learn from the shortcomings of their first game, they started from the ground up with Killzone 2, salvaging only the essentials from the first game (though, they did leave out a couple of my favorite weapons like the PUP grenade pistol).

Few developers put as much obvious much blood, sweat and tears into crafting their multiplayer and single-player modes as Guerrilla did with Killzone 2 can. While the first game only delivered a solid multiplayer experience with a somewhat half-assed campaign mode attached to it, Killzone 2 is almost two games in one with equally fulfilling single and multiplayer modes.

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Killzone 2: a cold day in Helghan

Arguably the most interesting aspect of the Killzone universe is your gas-masked fascist aggressors, the Helghast. Killzone 2 is well aware of the appeal of its Darth Vader-esque enemies as the game takes place on the Helghast's wretched home planet, Helghan.

Just about everything you see in this post-apocalyptic world in dripping with death and bleakness, from the crumbling grime-encrusted buildings crawling with giant corpse-eating cockroaches to the Helghast's swastika-like insignia that's plastered on every other corner. The game hammers it into your skull that you're in a miserable place only the Helghast could inhabit.

Killzone 2 does an effective job in immersing you in its hostile atmosphere, but the most impressive thing about this is that it maintains this gloomy ambiance throughout all of its campaign missions while forcing you through a rich variety of environments.

You know how in some games - Gears of War, for instance - you get an overwhelming sense of deja vu as you run through similar looking levels? Well, you won't experience this much, if at all, in Killzone 2 as each of its missions are distinct from a visual standpoint. Environments in the game range from squeaky clean space stations to scorching deserts to spider-infested junkyards.

Gamers have been waiting for the follow-up to the vastly underrated Killzone for a while now but the folks at Guerrilla used the time wisely, crafting an amazing FPS game that PS3 owners can crow about. With top-notch graphics, fantastic single- and multiplayer modes, Killzone 2 has pretty much everything a PS3 shooter junkie could need.

NEXT PAGE: a must-play FPS?

Almost four years have passed since Sony first unveiled Killzone 2, their vastly darker answer to the Halo franchise. In gaming terms, four years is an eternity, but Guerilla Games' gritty shooter is finally here to deliver a kickass experience that more than rewards us for our patience.

Killzone 2: one man army

There are numerous occasions in Killzone 2's single-player campaign where you'll be sitting with your mouth agape, particularly when something brand new is thrown at you.

In one particularly memorable mission you're running around an outdoor Mars-like environment vaporizing onrushing Helghast in a mech that resembles the one Ripley uses at the end of Aliens to slay the alien queen-oh, but the mech in Killzone 2 is armed with a missile launcher and a machine gun.

There are several other scenarios that work well to break up the monotony of killing enemies in the same fashion over and over again, such as fighting atop a moving Helghast mining train, ripping ground troops to shreds with the devastating force of an anti-air gun (mulching enemies with a weapon designed to take down airplanes is so damn gratifying), and even some grueling boss battles here and there.

In terms of combat, Killzone 2 is not a game where you can survive by just running straight into enemy hordes with guns blazing. Borrowing a page from Gears of War, KZ2 requires constant use of cover to soak up enemy bullets as you move from one huge shootout to the next; for those of you who like to get up close and personal, the game does let you you decapitate enemies with a shotgun at point blank range but staying behind cover is key to surviving.

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Killzone 2: Call of Duty who?

Of course, once you finish off the epic single-player mode, there's Killzone 2's elaborately customisable multiplayer component to keep you satisfied.

The multiplayer experience is clearly designed to empower the player to play the game however they like. If you're feeling competitive you can start or join a clan, scheduling matches ahead of time and tracking your clan's progress online.

There's also a lot of incentive to explore this aspect of Killzone 2 as a rewards system is in place to encourage you to play the game online. But if you're like me and you loathe getting creamed by super skilled 12-year-olds online, you can just play locally with your buddies, putting in bots to populate the game's maps.

You can also set the difficulty of the AI characters you put in matches. If you're a fan of multiplayer FPS games like Call of Duty, you're going to want to jump into what Killzone 2 has to offer.

Despite Killzone 2's numerous positive qualities, it's not a perfect game. The biggest concern is the frame rate issue that occurs when the game is loading up a new area. Aiming at enemy targets that are at a distance can also be frustrating if you're not carrying a sniper rifle, especially for FPS vets accustomed to the precise aiming featured in games like Call of Duty. However, most of these drawbacks are relatively minor and are overshadowed by what the game gets right, which is a lot.

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Killzone 2: Specs

  • Sony PlayStation 3
  • Sony PlayStation 3

OUR VERDICT

It took a long time for Killzone 2 to finally come out, but after diving head first into Killzone 2, there's no doubt in my mind that it lives up to the hype and is a must-play for FPS fans. With an intense single-player mode, a robust multiplayer component and superb graphics that PS3 owners can be proud of, Killzone 2 does pretty much everything right. It's definitely a must-have title.

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