As I said in the first article, teamwork is the key to success most of the time in Killzone 2. Given this focus on teamwork, it’s annoying to find that the radar only displays friendly units when they are: A) extremely close to you, and B) on the same level of the map as you. To illustrate, imagine you have spawned at your base a few seconds after a teammate. Your teammate will appear on your radar as a green dot. You then see him run up a set of stairs. He will now vanish from your radar because he’s on a different level of the map than you. You go to follow him as another teammate spawns behind you. By the time you’re up those stairs your first teammate has vanished from your radar even though you’re on the same level as him because he’s now too far away, and your second teammate has also vanished because you’re on a different level than him.
At times this made me feel slightly isolated, with no idea where the bulk of my army was on the map. This was more the case when I was relatively new to the game though, when I was more familiar with the maps it became a much less significant issue because I knew where the most common fighting areas were on a given map anyway, so it didn't take too long to find most of my allies. One other mitigating factor here is that once you’re inside the game you’re able to quickly form squads of up to 4 players. Squad-mates appear as blue dots on your radar, but unlike the green dots they’re permanent. However, given that you can only have 4 players in a squad this makes it a somewhat limited feature, best reserved for games with just a few players or where you have a few friends you primarily want to work with.
It would be nice to see an option to make the green dots permanent in the game settings, if only to help new players out. Then no matter how far away you are or what level of the map you’re on, you will always know where the bulk of your teammates are and where the bulk of the action is taking place. Granted, it would lead to quite a cluttered radar at times given the amount of players involved (16 v 16 is the maximum), but if it were an optional feature people could make their own minds up about it. Another option could be to display a complete map in the 'select' menu during the game, which would completely bypass the problem of cluttering up the radar.
The rest of the HUD is excellent. There’s a clean minimalist style that’s in-keeping with the game’s art style. The HUD is left as uncluttered as possible – the partially regenerative health bar is a simple silver bar on the bottom left of the screen. Underneath that is a thinner, completely regenerative, silver bar representing how much sprint time you have left. Above those bars is the grenade icon. Top left is the radar, which is basically a black circle with red dots, green dots, white items (representing certain objectives), blue dots (if you’re in a squad) and silver lines representing the map’s walls. Top right is the score, with other important information such as mission objectives popping up every now and then. Finally, the bottom right shows you how much ammunition you have left. As if to cement this minimalism you can even opt to remove the HUD in its entirety.
As for the game modes, there were 5 key game modes available in the beta – Body Count, Assassination, Search & Retrieve, Capture & Hold, and Search & Destroy. All of these are available on their own or via the Warzone match option. Basically rather than have gamers play one match then get booted out into the lobby to find another, Warzone allows gamers to play each of the 5 different games, one after the other. At the end of the round one team is declared the winner, experience points, medals and ranks are dished out, then the maps are voted on and you go at it again for another round, and so on. This means that action is almost constant, the only pauses being in between each round of 5+ games, and it means less menu navigation and attempts to find a game.
As for the games themselves, Body Count is the one that pops up the most. It’s basically your usual team deathmatch but with a bar for each team representing their progress rather than a counter. The first team to fill up their bar wins. Capture & Hold, as you would expect, involves building up points for guarding set points on the map. Assassination involves a player from one of the teams being chosen at random to be the assassination target. The goal of the target’s team is to protect him for as long as possible within the target zone. The goal of the opposing team is to kill him before he reaches and stays within the target zone for too long.
Search & Retrieve is basically what is says on the tin. Both teams attempt to locate propaganda speakers placed at various points on the map and then bring them back to a designated point. Search & Destroy is similar, although instead of locating and bringing back propaganda speakers, you’re charged with locating and either destroying or defusing two bombs, depending on which team you’re on. The bombs are planted and defused by holding down the circle button for something like 5 seconds. If the bombs are both planted the team tasked with defusing them has to defuse the bombs before they blow up.
Once you work out what you’re supposed to do (as is common with betas, you’re not given any instructions on how the modes work or what you’re supposed to do) the team objective based modes are extremely enjoyable. I’m not that keen on Body Count because it’s basically team deathmatch and I’ve never enjoyed deathmatch modes, but all of the others are perfectly implemented and enjoyable. There’s a decent amount of variety between the different modes, so the game stays fresh for longer and you’re not doing the same thing over and over. This level of variety in game modes, the near constant action and the perfectly implemented experience and ranking systems (to be detailed in part 3) should make Killzone 2 one of the most popular online multiplayer games on the PS3.
Killzone 2 - Preview
By Craig Snow, November 15, 2008