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At the end of the day, people want a Killzone 2 that has fully realized the vision that we set out with the 2005 trailer. Fortunately for us, Sony has a great line-up for Christmas so there was no pressure at all to come out at that time.
"This means we can take our time to polish it,” so says Herman Hulst - managing director of Guerrilla when we caught up with him at the Sony’s Gamers Day in south London where PS3’s daddy announced to the world its insanely anticipated, benchmark-setting shooter has been pencilled in for a February 2009 release rather than the pipedream September date earlier promised.
That fully realized vision is getting closer and closer with the latest build
of the shooter looking utterly spectacular thanks to a combination of jaw-dropping battle setpieces (which, we were promised, there are plenty of in the finished game), smart physics, slick weaponry and gritty environments. We got to play through Killzone 2’s second mission, the Corinth Sands, where you (Sev) and your platoon must storm a port on the Helghan planet to make way for incoming ISA troops. It’s dirty, it’s muddy, it’s cold and it’s angry (and we were told this is one of the more welcoming environments before the Helghan weather front moves in on you).
Flank left instead of right and you’ll catch a bullet in the soft of the eye. This is where the new cover system comes into play. By holding L1 you snap to cover, and from here you can use the left stick to lean ‘n’ peek from behind it and fire off a few shots. Plus, you can blindfire if anyone gets too close for comfort by just hitting R1. This new system works incredibly well, feels remarkably fluid and doesn’t yank you out of the first-person perspective unlike say, Rainbow Six: Vegas. This means you’re kept in the heat of the action at all times - never once feeling removed from the anarchy of the Helghan battle and the zinging bullets. Overall, the controls are very tight. In fact it’s the best we’ve experienced outside of Call of Duty 4. And that’s no light statement. Killzone 2 is incredibly solid and slick, the weight of each gun feels good and looking down the scope COD4-style to pop Helghast is a joy - especially given the ace animation.
Unlike the first Killzone, you won’t be playing as multiple characters this time around (so no cheap chick with a one-shot killer pistol). Yes, you’ll have your squad on hand at all times, but you’ll only play as Sev through the game’s storyline. Naturally, you’ll need to keep your platoon in good shape, otherwise firefights will get the better of you. If you support teammates by either reviving them on the battlefield or backing them up when they’re pinned down, they’ll return the favour. “The revive system we’ve implemented in Killzone 2 is based on Killzone Liberation,” says Hulst. “It’s a simple, intuitive system, designed to keep your buddies alive, who then, in turn, look after you as well.”
Destructible environments are another facet of the new mechanics the team at Guerrilla have woven into the code. Rounding a corner on the Corinth docks, you’re faced with dual-mounted gunners on a bridge drilling ISA troops with hot lead, one of whom drops a rocket launcher after being sent packing to the long queue at the pearly gates. After making a quick break for it, grabbing the launcher and clinging to cover, our squad is hollering at us to take down the weapons crates next to the gunners. BOOM! The crates go up in a fireball and the bridge crumbles to the ground, Helghan troopers crushed beneath the rubble. That was cool.
Hulst and his team are pushing for those big Hollywood blockbuster money moments. “We love destroying the environments we’ve so carefully constructed - it makes the artists really happy. Making sure the world responds to your bullets in a manner that you would expect is a big thing for us. We go over the top here or there, to create something of a spectacle out of this destructibility,” explains Hulst. Spraying a wall with bullets, we got what exactly Hulst meant by the world responding to your bullets. Naturally there are flammable barrels and gas canisters that can be gunned to trigger ear-rattling explosions, but one slick touch is watching your bullets penetrate steel or concrete. Shoot a static object and the bullet hole sears with heat for a beat. It's these little design nuances that will set Killzone 2 apart from the rival shooters out there.