Why a hands on, given some outlets have already published their reviews of the game? Despite having a copy for review, we would prefer to test the game in its actual form after release when the multiplayer servers are full to the brim with brand new Killzone 2 owners. This will give us a better indication of what the retail version is like upon its release. But no worries, this hands-on will go into detail about some of the important points that stuck out to me as I played the game, and if you take a look at the gallery, you’ll get a look at a pair of Blast exclusive screenshots, the first from multiplayer and the second from the campaign.
I tested out the single-player campaign, which takes place on the Helghast’s home planet-the theme, from the introductory movie, is that you are taking the fight back to the Helghast. This is a highly-realistic shooter, in the sense that recoil, aiming, and the damage done by bullets is something you need to be aware of at all times, more so than in many first-person shooters. Just a few shots will take you down, and you need to be aware of this so you can duck behind cover. You can’t just hold steady on a headshot you’ve lined up either and continue to pull the trigger, as enemies will do their best to get out of the way at the same time your gun is flying around from recoil. Luckily, Killzone 2 has a nifty first-person oriented cover system that allows you to take your time lining up shots.
Simply press L2 to “stick” behind cover, like you would in many third-person shooters. Rather than switching to a third-person view though, you remain in first person. In order to stick your head and gun out from cover, press the left analog stick forward and then aim where you need to. You can still use your sights from behind cover by pressing R3, and if you want to scoot back behind cover to avoid enemy fire, just let go of the left stick. It’s an intriguing system with a lot of possibilities-especially since you can “cook” grenades in order to time their explosion and the damage they deal out more effectively–and one you will have to use given the lack of bullets you can take in before going down.
I know the question you are all wondering, and the answer is “yes”. Visually and atmospherically, developer Guerilla has done an excellent job of recreating the look from that infamous E3 movie, so anyone looking to discredit this game for its visuals because they didn’t meet up to the standards set by that presentation is going to have to come up with something new to complain about. This is easily the most graphically powerful first-person shooter out there, with richly detailed environments, weapons, characters, explosions-if you can see it, it looks amazing. In addition to the look, that sense of scale, the epic feel that you get while outdoors because everything around you is just so huge, does a lot to making you feel like you’re in the midst of war, something some games have struggled with when not pulling from source material.
From the moment you are thrown into battle, the scale of everything hits you. You and your men are pinned down, with Helghast having both the height and numbers advantage on you. One of the first things you need to do is blow a bridge up using an RPG, in order to even things out and allow your fellow soldiers to advance-which, by the way, is a visual treat, and a good way to get the player excited about the mission they are embarking on in the title.
Not every area you travel through has that feeling. Much of the time I was playing Killzone 2, I was in the middle of corridors or hallways, moving from one room full of Helghast to the next room full of them until I reached whatever switch or level I needed to get to, before either turning back or moving on to the next room full of Helghast. The more exciting moments take place outdoors, because that’s when Killzone 2 feels like more than another (albeit absolutely stunning to look at) shooter.
Speaking of switches and the like, Killzone 2 uses Six Axis motion controls to perform a variety of tasks. This is something that worked very well for Nintendo and Retro Studios when Metroid Prime 3 arrived on the Wii, as you felt like the Wii Remote was an extension of your own arm and hand, that you were actually controlling the movement of Samus’ hand. In my experience with Killzone 2, I turned a wheel using Six Axis controls, and it was not nearly as intuitive; you needed to depress the triggers to let the game know you wanted to turn the wheel, and then release them and depress them again after resetting your hands on the wheel in order to turn it more. The first time I tried, I left the Helghast across the way alive to see how much time I would have to do the task I was sent to do; bad idea. Make sure you have a clear path before you do this, as the time it takes to move something like a wheel is more than long enough to get shot down. More time will need to be spent using Six Axis controls before coming to a conclusion about their usefulness (or lack thereof), and that’s something you will see in the full review.
This isn’t meant to be an extensive look at the full game that covers every bit of information, but more the things that stuck out to me during my time with it. I played on Hard since I wasn’t trying to plow through the whole game, and the difficulty only seemed very high if you didn’t utilize cover when you were supposed to. Of course, this was also the opening mission, so we’ll have more details on just how difficult Killzone 2 is once the full review is in after the game’s release. For now, I look forward to spending more time with the game, as it has done far more things right than wrong thus far.