The original Killzone was said to possibly be the first Halo killer. It wasn’t. Since then many games have attempted to be given that same mantel and failed. Well, until Call of Duty 4, that is.
I bring this up because while Killzone 2 is not even trying to be a Halo killer (just a kick ass game in its own right) I couldn't help but get a familiar feeling like I was playing the next Call of Duty game. The difference being this is based in the future on another planet fighting an alien race in the destroyed rubble of their own world; meaning it reeked with the extra flavour of awesome!
Considering the demo I played was only pre-alpha code – the game is not scheduled for release until February '09 – it was very impressively polished. Killzone 2 looks gorgeous. Most of the textures looked great and the characters all had an impressive amount of detail to them and their animations. The death animations were particularly impressive, as the enemy's bodies would flap and fall based on where my bullets were hitting them (everywhere!).
The demo level had both an indoor and outdoor environment. The indoor level, whilst definitely fun and good, looked like your standard storage warehouse where you’ve had many a gunfight in countless games before. This area was also littered with exploding barrels (explosions look great at this early stage) and gas canisters which would first fly around the area for a bit before randomly exploding. The outdoor part of the stage felt like you were in a warzone, reminding me a lot of Call of Duty. I couldn’t make out much of the sound because the venue was a bit too loud, but I was able to hear when I blew up a bridge with a rocket launcher, which can only be a good thing. When I looked up into the sky I could see ships flying on the horizon and lasers shooting through the air, adding to the sense that you are participating in just one part of a much larger conflict.
This sense of scale is what reminded me the most of COD4, but there were other similarities. While looking down the sight of your gun to improve the aim of your shot is nothing new, this just looked like COD (not a bad thing!). Kills were made all the more satisfying by some of the best looking blood I’ve seen in a game. The way it would just slowly leak from a dead body over the ground or down a wall looked great. When you fired your gun, the way the muzzle flash would light up the area in front of you was equally as spectacular.
The level I played didn’t really show how good the lighting is in the game, but judging from the aforementioned muzzle effect, it's looking pretty impressive.
The gun play felt solid, but there wasn’t a wide variety of weapons for me to try out on the level. I must say the hand gun you carry around packs a pretty impressive punch making headshots particularly satisfying when you see them sticking out of cover. Killzone 2 has an interesting cover system in it. It’s a lot like Rainbow Six: Vegas except you remain in first-person the whole time. It takes a little getting used to but works extremely well. It’s going to be interesting to see what kind of effect this has on the whole game but I think it’s a great feature which might make its way into other games in the future.
I even got to see one of the ways they are implementing Six-axis in the game. I had to turn a valve in order to open a gate, and to do this I had to hold down the L1 and R1 buttons – each representing one of my character's hands – and then rotate the controller in order to turn the valve. I did need one of the Sony people to explain it to me the first time; however once I understood how to do it, it made sense and was easy to do.
The story I know at the moment is that you play as Sev, who is an elite member of a squad in the war on the Helghast planet. It appears you will almost always have other people fighting with you. It’s too early to comment on the AI at this stage but so far it seems like it’s on the right track.
Killzone 2 is looking good and has some unique features. Considering what I played was an extremely tiny portion of the full game a good seven months before release, who knows what else the developers have under their sleeve? There has still been no multiplayer information released at this stage and we haven’t seen if there are any different looking environments in the game or any vehicle driving. But from what I played, I would say so far so good! Killzone 2 is set to start Sony’s '09 line-up with a hellghast of a bang (sorry) and I can’t wait to get some more play time with the other stages of the game.