Workshop Lounging

Here I am again, typing away in my cluttered, disorganised den. It’s been an ambling kind of month. I took to watching more of the BBC’s annual Glastonbury coverage than usual – mostly due to Gorillaz, Dizzee Rascal and Florence and the Machine, plus I always have time for Lauren Laverne.
You might remember back in March I wrote about my
original 60GB PS3 having a system failure. After arranging for SCEE to exchange the console with a like-for-like replacement – which means all my progress on copy protected games (Killzone 2, Street Fighter IV, Assassin’s Creed II) will no longer exist and only some of my PSN data and backups can be salvaged. Having received the replacement I soon found out that this broken PS3 saga is yet to end. The first time I switched it on the internal fan began to produce an unacceptably loud noise that could be heard from the staircase. The noise has continued to persist, making it impossible to relax with the entertainment system as my family and I did with the original, so I’ve had to request another exchange. Third time is the charm I suppose.

Fortunately, I’ve still got access to other consoles so I can work and play. I’ve been working no some plans for next year as well as prepping for Develop in Brighton and some of my leftover term-time projects. Just getting back to some games for review (and leisure). It’s my aim to get through as much as I can, but I’ll have to be realistic about all this. I’ve not yet played enough of Blur to accurately judge it, and I’m still hoping to play Joe Danger, Demon’s Souls, Batman: Arkham Asylum this summer. The amount of unopened and unplayed games stacking up in my room is starting to become an epidemic.

Another source of excitement and anxiety for me is my first ever driving lesson next week. It will soon be time for me to put down these simulators and arcade racers and actually get my hands (and limbs) round the real deal.

With an assertion to try as many new things as possible – and have the time to enjoy myself – I’d quite like to have a part-time job right now just so I could have some more spending money. But with all the time and effort I’ve been devoting to Platform and attempting to get some paid freelance work that may be even more detrimental to my lifestyle. No, best to forego these luxuries. Less distraction, more progression.

Caught again by bitter sweet moments

Things just aren’t going my way this month.

After purchasing the euphoria that is Plastic Beach, I really thought things were going to look up this week. Turns out they’ve done quite the opposite.

Throughout the week I’ve been busy working on recruiting and organising a couple new student reporters to dedicate their time to Platform Online. This has been time-consuming, but well worth the effort so far. However, all this time I’ve spent working on student media has left me with piles to do for my university modules.

Even worst was the fact that my brother text me Friday afternoon to tell me our 60GB PS3 has broken. I assumed it was the infamous March 1 error screwing with the system, but no, it’s definitely conked out – the yellow light has signalled its malfunction. It’s out of warranty too, which means Sony will charge me the full £150 repair bill.

And not only that, today I found out that I somehow managed to create a duplicate Gorillaz.com account and their system has locked me out of the fan site. So, now I can’t actually buy anything from the site – including the gig tickets I so badly want – until I can get customer service to sort out my case.

Utter nightmare!

It seems incredibly strange how life has such bitter sweet periods. Two weeks ago everything was going swell. Oh, well. Fortunately, I can still make things happen thanks to good, old elbow grease. My Slim PS3 is still operational and I’ve already started getting to work on the various university assignments that need my attention.

I must remember to post about my successes more often or else my diary entries will just become a history of unfortunate events, offset with the odd bit of comical foolery.

Hopefully things will be far, far better next month. But at least a time like this also happens to be just ripe for a link to a song from Gorillaz new album, ‘Broken (Demo)’ – it’s my mental medicine right now.

PS3 Retail Covers Get a New Look

Retail configurations have been a mainstay of the video game industry since the days of the NES and Sega Master System. Walk into any of today’s dedicated games retailers and your eyes will immediately be pulled in every direction by colourfully, glittery disc cases lining every available wall space.

The current generation of consoles – PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PSP and DS – all have different cases for their respective media formats. Xbox 360 has translucent green DVD cases, Wii has plain white optical disc cases and so on.

Of the three home consoles, PS3’s see-through Blu-ray cases are the most functional and elegant, in my opinion. The push-release system works every time and doesn’t damage your discs. With an indented ‘PlayStation 3’ logo, sturdy manual clips and reliable closing tabs, the PS3 Blu-ray cases are some of the best designed disc cases ever – kudos to the patent holders.

Recently, the template configuration that adorns all PS3 retail cover art was redesigned to coincide with the rebranding of PS3. The stirring Spider-Man font that use to shimmer along the left-hand side of the cases is now gone. Replaced by a top-header, two-tone gradient and the new ‘PS3’ logo.

My first encounter with the new PS3 template was seeing Brütal Legend in store. On first glance I was a little sceptical as to why Sony should even bother to take the rebranding so far, but I can now see the logic. Earlier this year I was complaining that Sony doesn’t emphasize their online service enough and that has now been fixed with this redesign.

Looking at it from a branding and communication perspective, the new PS3 templates can now complete directly with Xbox 360s. In fact, they’ve pretty much looked at the Xbox 360 template and reworked it for the PS3. There’s the famous PlayStation logo, new ‘PS3’ logo and on the right-hand side the PlayStation Network logo. Below that (at least in the US) is the message ‘Only on PlayStation’. This is exactly the format that Xbox has had since midway through the original console’s lifecycle. I’m no sales analysis, but better communication means better sales.

Speaking generally though, I don’t really like it. I prefer the original sidebar logo. Thankfully, some of my first-party favourites – Uncharted 2 and Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time – still use the old template style. However, I also noticed that EyePet and Tekken 6 have been given the ‘new look’ treatment on this side of the Atlantic.

If memory serves, this is the first time SCE has ever undergone such a major rebranding during their flagship console’s early lifecycle. They’ve changed marketing campaigns time after time, tweaked templates slightly, but never rebranded the whole packaging line worldwide.

You can tell it’s causing them some headaches, as they’re still using the old ‘PlayStation 3’ logo all over the place, including on newly printed discs, even though it should be phased out.

I’ll get used to the new one eventually, as I always do in the end. Still, at least they’re not scrapping all those fantastic Blu-ray cases and bringing in a whole new irregular line – like the updated editions of books on my book shelf. Arrghh.

PS3 and Marketing IPs

Intellectual Properties are hotly contested in the console space. Hit titles often generate sequels; with publishers quick to satisfy consumer demand for “more of the same, but better”. And more than anything else right now, landmark system exclusives are paramount for showcasing the power and functionality of a console, and proving to consumers exactly why they should part with their hard-earned cash to get that system, and not another.

It’s no secret that PlayStation 3 isn’t doing as well as Sony would have hoped, particularly in North America. A recent analysis on Sony Computer Entertainment’s first-party IPs for PS3 prompted me to add my own two cents to this subject. Obviously, there are many factors that can be attributed for the lack of sales regarding PS3’s first-party exclusives – least of which the system’s premium price – but the main aspects that I would like to discuss is marketing.

There’s no question that marketing and advertising is a tough game. Unfortunately I don’t have first-rate experience of all of SCEA’s marketing efforts for PS3 and its first-party titles this generation, however, I have seen plenty from across the pond. Primarily, though, I will be making examples of SCEE promotional efforts.

Back in the days of PlayStation and PlayStation 2 bad marketing on individual products didn’t appear to hurt Sony all that much. A bevy of impressive franchises, all with sequels on the way, and some smart promotion on the hardware front, tandem with a focused approach to their target consumers meant that PlayStation quickly secured itself as a trusted brand. Things weren’t perfect, though. Your average TV viewer my never understand many games until they actually get their hands on them, and some top-rated SCEE titles have been criminal under-promoted – ICO, Sly Raccoon, War of the Monsters, Primal, Rogue Galaxy. Understandably, not all of these games may be considered ‘system-sellers’ and promoting 8-10 first-party games, all releasing during the holiday season, must be tough in itself, but the stakes are even higher now.

Looking at the competitors, it’s clear that SCEE are doing something wrong with their marketing. I don’t even need to bring up the fact that Nintendo have pretty much cornered the market on video game TV advertising. They pay top dollar to get their TV advertisements for the Wii, DS and any software they’re releasing for their systems, shown not just weekly, but daily. In fact, I’m pretty sure I could get up from my sweltering hot bedroom right now, switch on the TV and catch a Nintendo advert on some channel. Wii Motion Plus (the Wii Remote add-on that makes the thing operate more like everybody wanted it to in the first place) isn’t even out for a month and I’ve been seeing adverts and 2-second indents for the device for a week. And more so than Microsoft, Nintendo are persistent with their promotion and advertising – almost across the board. Mario Kart Wii’s been out for a whole year, you say? Well, that doesn’t stop Nintendo filling magazines with the same print ads or running the same TV ads they ran at launch. This monotonous advertising may induce inadvertent channel-flicking from hardcore gamers, but clearly, the message is reaching that mass audience.

So, why can’t SCEE plonk a few more bucks on the table and get ITV, C4, Virgin or Sky to air their adverts on a more regular basis, especially when the new releases quieten down in summertime? inFamous, the electrifying open world adventure from Sucker Punch, was only released last month, and yet still, I’ve not seen a single TV advert for it. No ads on buses, buildings or billboards… not so much as a cereal box competition. Oh wait, I did see one print ad in OPM – for readers who have more than likely bought the game already! This game was awarded fantastic scores by the media and adds yet another genre to the ever-expanding first-party portfolio of SCEE. If I were in their position, I may even resort to shouting from the rooftops at the top of my voice just to tell people about this product.

In addition to the low-key TV ads and limited print campaigns that SCEE fork out for, there is also the question of conveying a message. I’m no marketing student. Unique-Selling Points (UPS), logos, captions, all that stuff… I take a sound interest in it now and again, when something cool catches my eye, but I don’t actively study it. What I do know is that SCEE could have spent a lot more time and money on their adverting campaigns for Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, LittleBigPlanet, Resistance 2 and Killzone 2. With the exception of the first two, which I think are rather good examples, the phrases “too generic” and “what the heck is this?” spring to mind. And, I know this is my personal opinion, but surely it would have been better to advertise LittleBigPlanet with a series of TV spots showcasing its core themes – play, create, share. I often find myself smiling at SCEE’s ads. They’re quirky and fun to watch, but I can’t help but admit that the overall message is probably lost on many consumers. When it comes to promoting the PS3 itself, two and a half years after the console’s EU release, I don’t think I can think of a formidable TV advert.

Microsoft aren’t considered the most creative bunch out there these days, but their games division has been commissioning some pretty impressive adverts, since the launch of Xbox 360. Although, it could be argued that CG footage isn’t the most truthful method to advertise video games – I’ve always preferred the route of showing in-game footage – but it’s undeniably one of the most effective. Like Nintendo, Microsoft is very active in heavily promoting most of their first-party offerings. Their print ads are in many magazines in the build up to, during and after a release. They pimp third-party games on their console to no end, and they have been consistent with their brand image, even if their goals and objectives have changed over the years. ‘Xbox 360’ ‘Jump in’ – no matter what the game, if it’s on Xbox 360 you can bet that you’ll be seeing these logos after every trailer and advert that’s shown. And, of course, ‘Live’ has become a whole new noun, thanks to the popularity of the Xbox Live service. Simple, but effective. It’s an approach that has helped Microsoft fashion a brand that’s leading in the US and putting up a good fight in Europe.

Looking at Microsoft and SCEE side-by-side not only shows differences in promotional approach, but differences in business practice. While localising mainstream promotion for the European audience in some cases, the majority of the time Microsoft roll out exactly the same marketing campaign for Europe that they’ve scheduled for the US – at least from what I’ve seen. Let’s take a classic example of two titan franchises duking it out this generation – Resistance vs Gears of War. When Resistance: Fall of Man was first released in Europe, alongside PS3, Gear of War had been out for almost six months. Microsoft had run a huge campaign with buses, billboards signs, online flash adverts, print ads plastered with critical acclaim, the whole ‘emergence day’ thing and one of the most impressive video game ads I’d seen in a long time. In short, the whole production was charged to the level of a blockbuster movie release. (Halo 3 only upped the ante for how much Microsoft were willing to pump into mass marketing.)

SCEE, on the other hand, generally like to rollout promotional campaigns tailored specifically for their region. So, US consumers got a sweet Killzone 2 ad, that highlighted precisely what genre the game was and why people should buy it, and Europeans got 30-seconds of gameplay highlights that meant nothing, unless you already knew what the game was. The original Resistance got a fair bit of promotion, and even despite the Manchester Cathedral incident, the game got plenty of momentum behind it. Yet, things may have been even better with the right campaign and application of assets.

Continuing their efforts to make their product launches grandiose events that capture the attention of the mass media, Microsoft spared no expense and, once again, no gameplay, in order to cinematise Gears of War 2. The game’s mainstream launch trailer, titled the ‘Last Day’, was even tied to a number of complaints that it wasn’t representative of the game’s content. Hey, no sense complaining if a marketing agency can cut together a decent trailer that gives the sense of a cohesive and engaging story. That’s their job, and I’m sure Microsoft is pretty pleased. Add this impressive TV campaign to the sizeable six-month promotion Microsoft had been doing and Gears of War 2 was almost unavoidable.

Consequently, it was with some disappointment that I had to still through what was, comparatively, a poor effort on SCEE’s part to market Resistance 2, in early December last year. I’d joined some friends for a cinema viewing and during the pre-film-pre-trailer-ads there were two game ads. The first was an edited version of the Resistance 2 E3 2008 trailer, redubbed, yes… redubbed, with a British voice actor and filtered as if it had just popped out of a 1950s television set. It was grainy, forgettable and simply appalling. And for the life of me I can’t understand why they would even bother redubbing Henry Stillman? The game is set in America for goodness sake! Needless to say, the Gears of War 2 trailer was next. With its melodic opening and character-focused editing it showed just how powerful game marketing can be.

Finally, I’d briefly like to comment on PlayStation’s status in the arena of word-of-mouth. Just like Atari, and then Nintendo, PlayStation use to be the colloquial term for “playing video games”. It was stunning tech when it was first released, but cost just enough for consumers not to switch off the moment the price was mentioned. Hardcore gamers wanted it, teenagers wanted, kids wanted it. The buzz behind PlayStation was overwhelmingly positive in the 90s. So, how then, did things get so bad for Sony and the PlayStation brand ten years later? Again, I believe the factors are many. It’s certainly no small fault of Sony and its management and PR teams.

However, a huge anchor attached to Sony’s running shoes has undeniably been the PlayStation 3’s price tag. £425, $600, €500 – whatever your currency, that’s a heck of a lot of money for a ‘computer entertainment system’. As it stands the competition has made Sony’s lives a lot more difficult by convincing consumers to buy into other brands. “It’s just a games console, right? Same as the others”. The other problem is that communicating their product, and its unique functions, to the public has proven harder still with the mainstream media Wii-crazy right now, and the majority of the specialist media favouring the Xbox 360.

Most of all, though, it seems that the multitude of factors that gave PS3 a bad start have fed into mainstream culture and has left it with even more catching up to do. Xbox 360 arrived first and has quickly established a user base and a solid brand image. Wii followed and has taken over the living and recreation rooms of mainstream consumers. Meanwhile, PS3s sit on store shelves, the top-rated system exclusives piling up beside it. Yet still, consumers refuse to acknowledge the system as a viable entertainment option. Could it be the price? Have they already invested too much in their precious Xbox 360 or Wii library? Or is there just so much negatively around PlayStation (particularly on the internet) that it’s tipped over into mainstream culture?

I can’t answer any of these questions at present, but in the words of an anonymous internet game fan, “Only time will tell…”

I hope this little marketing analysis has proven insightful and entertaining for you. No matter what I’ve rationalised in this post, Sony make unique games that Microsoft and Nintendo don’t even come close to, and I would most definitely like to see their titles more widely appreciated. Thankfully, things have been getting better, despite the naysayers, flamers and trolls of the gaming world. The buzz around PlayStation’s compendium of exclusives (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, God of War III, Heavy Rain, The Last Guardian, Gran Turismo 5, to name but a few) coming out of E3 2009 couldn’t be better. Uncharted 2 is turning heads, in more than one console camp. There are plenty of games and experiences in store for PlayStation and the promotion behind their games. In the meantime, I’ll be doing my bit to make sure these games are given the proper promotional justice and acclaim they deserve. You know, it’s not too late to track down a copy of Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction.

5 reasons why MotorStorm is the greatest launch racer ever

Back in March 23rd 2007 the PlayStation 3 launched in Europe and MotorStorm, the off-road race riot, launched alongside it. At first I felt cheated by the lack of modes, the slow vehicle select screen and that cheap reversal of fortunate when you hit a rock just before the finish line. I’ve played Ridge Racer (PSP) and PGR3 (Xbox 360) and they’re both incredible (Ridge Racer in particular). But somehow MotorStorm got under my bonnet and no other launch racer has tweaked my engine in quite the same way. So, let me explain what makes MotorStorm so undeniably satisfying.

1. Concept
The very idea of greasing my ride and going on a long summer excursion to Monument Valley, with only my wits and wheelman skills to keep me alive, a la Gumball 3000, is enormously compelling. Obviously there are no life management sections in the game, but I’d like to think my tracksuit-clad racer was milling about somewhere, during the festival clips on the menu screen. Seven different classes of vehicle (rally cars, big rigs, bikes, ATVs, racing trucks, buggies and mudpluggers) brought together, to rip it up on eight dusty sundrenched tracks, reaching the finish line however they can. It’s chaos in the making.

2. Control and physics
MotorStorm’s control is tough to get your head round at first, but it’s all a matter of managing you boost and pulling the handbrake at just the right moment to angle your vehicle on the racing line around the twisty mountain roads. By the time you complete all 21 of the game’s festival tickets you definitely be an expert. The other important consideration to remember while racing is the game’s physics. Take a corner too sharply and your vehicle could total itself. More importantly, however, you eventually learn to use the game’s physics to your advantage – guiding you into turns and helping you force rival racers into cliff sides.

3. Soundtrack
The soundtrack in MotorStorm – bar Burnout Revenge – is probably my favourite racing soundtrack to date. It may have less music tracks than the sequel – 90% of MotorStorm Pacific Rift’s 44 songs are all rubbish anyway – but almost every one of them is a winner. From rock, to heavy metal, to death metal and punk, it’s a thumping arrangement of artists, like Primal Scream, Nirvana and Pendulum that truly make the living room disappear when you’re racing. Breaking free of the scrum of AI vehicles, there’s nothing better than rumbling across the Grizzly, Kings of Leon blaring out of your speakers, as you set the pace for those behind.

4. Online
Another thing that’s great about MotorStorm is its simplicity and the modes on offer at launch weren’t what I would have called “next gen”. You had ‘Play’, ‘Online’ and er… that’s it. But it is Evolution Studios’ complete refusal to do anything beyond the standard single-player mode and online feature that gives MotorStorm its charm. It says “Hey, go play the main festival and then go mix it up online – if you can handle the brutality”. And it is brutal online. Unsporting players like to drive the wrong way and ambush other racers in big rigs. Meanwhile, quick and nimble wheelmen, *cough* such as myself, will have committed every track in the game (that’s eight) to memory. Adapting to human racers’ tactics and vehicle choices online is what really makes the game sing once you’re in. Races become a mad dash for the finish line with biker’s fists flashing, just before they’re run over by big rigs, followed by rally cars and buggies jumping over head.

5. Road rage
When you play MotorStorm, no matter how good a racer you are, failure will eventually start to rear its ugly, grease covered-face once in a while. You’ll be crushed on motorbikes, rammed in rally cars and teased in big rigs. However, ever since Burnout 3: Takedown racing games have slowly begun to shed the “nicely-nicely” approach in favour of a more aggressive mantra. It’s here that the unpredictability of MotorStorm’s ‘brutal off-road racing’ hits home. Unlike Burnout, which is more straightforward by comparison, MotorStorm encourages different tactics be employed to deal with the different classes. It feels rewarding every time you takedown a rival racer, AI or human, because you know that had you nudged them the wrong way you may have totalled yourself in the process. It’s risky. And that’s how the best adrenaline racers make you feel every second. When a big rig is on a rampage and you’re only seconds in front, on a motorbike, what else is there to do but grip the handlebars and hope you can outperform your attacker? That’s why MotorStorm is the greatest launch racer ever.

Ratchet & Clank hit back!

O’ My Lucky Stars! I’ve finally got my internet back, here in halls, and what’s this I hear? A new Ratchet & Clank adventure is on the way?

Well, hot damn. Sign me up quick and mail me to Bogon.

Going to have to do some reminiscing about when I first saw the GDC 2006 announcement trailer for Ratchet & Clank’s PS3 debut. In good time thought, for now check out the press release for the all-new Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time. Yeah!

Not yet Famous

Avoiding any vulgar innuendo in this post about a comic book-inspired game, let me tell you why I can’t wait to become infamous.

Coming from the successful studio behind Sly Cooper’s devious capers, Sucker Punch, you take control of the electrically-charged Cole in the open-world superhero serial, inFamous. I’ve been a comic book-lover since the first time I saw the animated (and live action) escapades of Batman & Robin on TV when I was about four. The animated series of Spider-Man, X-Men, Silver Surfer and Marvel Action Hour all quickly forward, along with toys, costumes and comics. My brother and I use to play Batman Forever: The Arcade Game – which isn’t the greatest side-scrolling beat-’em-up, but boy we sure played the hell out of it back on PS1, Spider-Man (PS1), and a host of other comic book-inspired adventure games. Spider-Man 2: The Movie, I’d even go so far as to say, is one of the greatest superhero games ever and holds a special place in my gaming heart.

Sufficed to say I pretty much ‘geek out’, for lack of a better term, when stuff like inFamous is announced. Complex characters dealing with real life social problems juxtaposed with the complete destruction of an urban city and one man with the power to either help or hinder its residents. I can see why people are already calling comparisons to NBC’s much loved Heroes series, but there is a lot more to inFamous in my opinion.

The very nature of this being an open-world (or ‘sandbox’ if you prefer) game, and a superhero one at that, gives it tremendous potential. I’ve never really been into Grand Theft Auto but the appeal of driving around an environment at your own pace, doing whatever you feel (within the context of the game) is hugely enjoyable. I must have played Spider-Man 2: The Movie for many, many hours just swinging around New York, webbing up thugs and rescuing balloons. After a while though I will admit things begin to tire.

With inFamous, if the developers can balance the factors of story driven motivation and freeform gameplay with a broad selection of challenges to undertake, this may be a whole new shock to the system just waiting to be unleashed. Being a fan of Sucker Punch’s earlier work on PS2 – following the cartoon crimes of Sly Cooper and his gang – I also have great expectations for what set pieces and events may unfold in Empire City. I’m not at all trying to second-guess the developers by plotting out my hopes for the game before I’ve even played it, but my observations of their previous developments give me bit of an idea of what we might see.

With the Sly Cooper games Sucker Punch was particularly good at creating open-world hub levels and making use of them in the context of actual gameplay. For example, in Sly 3 there’s a hub world set in the Australian outback. Over the course of several jobs you complete a lemonade drinking contest (hey, it is E rated) in the local bar, steal keys from patrolling guards, destroy some polluting vats and then proceed to crush half of the world you’ve been traversing with a runaway bulldozer. While the PlayStation 2 hardware certainly had its limitations, in terms of scaling, drawl distance and graphical effects, Sucker Punch did everything they could to connect the separate elements of their worlds and make them fun.

If anything, their love for comic book artwork and stylistic character design alone would convince me to buy inFamous. All of this and I’ve not even mentioned the story. An explosion destroys half the city, and now Cole and bunch of criminals are running around with superpowers. Cool! Seriously though, the trailers and gameplay movies that have been released look phenomenal. Killer beasts made out of junk and scrap metal, exploring the city with Cole as if it were an oversized jungle gym, drawing power from the city’s electric grid and tossing shock-bombs at enemies. Yep, I’m totally wired for some inFamous right now. June can’t come soon enough.

Invasion Day – Killzone 2 arrives at last

Killzone 2 is out. Now that’s four words I almost though I may never write. It’s also a little strange writing this post about the game now, on its release day when I haven’t a PS3 within ten metres of me to play it. I never envisioned this would be how I would spend my day on the release of such a long awaited title.

Well I’m not hugely bothered. In fact I’ve already played the game for review, and had a fantastic time doing so. The whole atmosphere and concept that Guerrilla has created – in regards to assaulting this hostile world with a couple of trash-talking soldiers arriving on some extremely vulnerable landing craft – is very exciting, to me that is. I don’t wish to say too much about the game itself as it’s only just come out, but I would like to say a couple things about my own feelings towards Killzone 2’s journey from hype to home console.

Back in late 2005 I really had absolutely no interest in Killzone whatsoever. OK, to be fair I the only shooter I played back then was TimeSplitters (which is still my nostalgic favourite) and, seeing as I had a lot less money, I was extremely lucky to get a PSP on the first day of its European release, 1 September 2005. So I can’t quite put my finger on it, but at some point in 2006 I got myself caught up in the Killzone madness quite effortlessly. Now by that I don’t mean that I became one of these mindless fanatics who seem soul-crushingly convinced that Killzone 2 is ‘the greatest game ever’. I picked up a copy of the original Killzone on PS2 just to try it out, despite the poor reviews. It was very difficult at the time and, more pressingly, it wasn’t great. The swearing really got my back up and a host of frustrating design decisions, not to mention the lack of co-op play, served to leave me cold.

Yet somehow that E3 2005 trailer must have done enough to keep me interested, because I eventually found my way to Killzone: Liberation on PSP, in mid 2007. This is where all the hype and promise Killzone had already rallied over the years began to make sense. Maybe it’s because I was on holiday in the Greek islands with very little technological distractions, but Killzone: Liberation is one of the finest tactical third-person shooters I’ve ever played. It was a tough cookie, sure, but Guerrilla packed so much adventure, character and gameplay onto that little UMD that I just couldn’t tear myself away from it. Even the one-off DLC they released with an additional chapter and infrastructure support was masterfully constructed. Heck, by the end of Liberation I was about ready to strap myself in to a NASA space shuttle and go stick to those red-eyed demons myself.

The sweeping clouds of the E3 2007 trailer for Killzone 2 only heighten my anticipation. Yet with every delay and the incessant dodge of a co-op reveal my frustration grew. And so, here we are, in the far flung future of 2009. Much to my own surprise I’ve actually changed quite a bit since the heady days of early 2005. Spider-Man 3, Halo 3, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows and a host of other big-ticket blockbusters have already taught me that these creative entities have to be taken with a pinch of salt. No matter how much I wanted Spidey to face Venom in an underground sewer station – bursting pipes over head, Venom’s haunting voice taunting him from a wide menacing jaw full of grinning teeth – it wasn’t in the movie.

Killzone 2 falls into much the same vain as the other notable examples I mentioned. Now, while I have had zero experience with the online multiplayer portion, I have played the single-player campaign to completion and I happen to know a great deal about the plot threads of the previous Killzone games. There’s no co-op at all, which I’m certain has disappointed and frustrated many who were looking forward to picking up the game and playing through the campaign with a friend. I can’t think for the life of me why Guerrilla can’t understand that offline co-op, when done right, is hugely rewarding for people who enjoy playing together in the same space. Instead of drawing things to a satisfying conclusion or weaving more intrigue into the plot, Killzone 2 left me feeling somewhat cheated and disappointed that the developers didn’t build on the vast backstory they’ve created – preferring instead to keep things skull-numbingly simple and sh*t-talking stupid.

As a strong believer in story and character, Killzone 2 doesn’t meet the high expectations I had for it, but I’ll try and be positive from here on, as there is more to the game then these elements alone. As a theatre of war, as an intense FPS experience I have nothing to say except clap with copious applause. The opening moments on the New Sun, that sees Alpha Squad’s Intruder transport dropped from the ISA cruiser out to the polluted Helghan skies, has to be one of the coolest moments I have witnessed on PlayStation 3. And then there’s that feeling you get when you survive another merciless Helghast assault with some quick thinking, an even quicker trigger finger and by the scruff of your neckerchief – a true sense of relief and accomplishment. Yeah, Killzone 2 is bloody amazing!

I may not have access to it now, but it’s damn good to know that it’s out at last for the world to enjoy. And you know what the best part is? I can FINALLY delete that stupid 2005 trailer that I’ve been watching for the past four years!