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Killzone 2 at E3, revisited

Clouds dash by as a flying vehicle zooms ahead. Armored soldiers are yelling frantically, as the chaotic sounds of a war zone fill the jam-packed auditorium. Sound familiar? It's meant to be. The opening seconds of the new Killzone presentation bring to life the infamous E3 trailer from 2005 -- only this time, it's in real-time.

Certainly, the question on everyone's mind is: does it look as good as the notorious it's-not-CG-we-swear trailer from 2005? In many ways, the visual fidelity of the updated presentation matches the highly polished look of the debut trailer. Beautiful volumetric smoke filled the screen, and the characters were alive with animation. Motion blur was used to great effect, adding a subtle hint of realism (unlike the over-the-top blur of Crysis.) However, unlike the deceptive E3 presentation of yore, this one had an aura of believability. A critical eye could note a few rough jagged edges, and textures that are a far cry away from Hollywood renders. In particular, the floor textures were no short of terrible. The facial animation system could certainly use a bit more work as well. Were we a little disappointed to notice such identifiable indicators of visual flaws so quickly? Certainly. However, in spite of all the shortcomings within the game, there's no denying that Killzone 2 provides a visual feast that effectively demonstrates the technical prowess of the PlayStation 3.

Gallery: Killzone 2

The presentation continues with a Helghast that gets burned alive, much to the delight of this blogger. Although the fire didn't look particularly "next-gen," the way it interacted with the flailing body was intensely lifelike. Action connoisseurs would certainly be impressed by the first few non-interactive moments of the presentation, with innumerable explosions that would make Michael Bay jealous.

As the airship landed, we were delighted to see the presentation transition to gameplay seamlessly. The onscreen player moves down a passage, with rows of barricades, and dozens of soldiers being torn apart by Helghast fire. Even if the finer details of the game's visuals couldn't live up to the expectations created by the original E3 trailer, the actual gameplay maintained much of the same intensity. The senses become easily overwhelmed by an apocalyptic feast of aural and visual information: comrades fall, in battle, under a hailstorm of bullets and explosions. The director of the game noted Guerilla's team to create a "hostile theatre of war." They've undeniably succeeded in that.

The player, with SIXAXIS controller in hand, moved down the crowded corridor, using the default rifle's impressive zoom scope. The attention to detail in the weapons designs is much appreciated: the hand that holds the gun is well-modeled, down to the nails in the finger. The guns themselves look good, and utilize a subtle motion blur that makes it look even more authentic. Shooting through the sapphire-coloured lenses looked enticing, to say the least. As the game progresses into an indoor environment, the game stutters for a few seconds, freezing as it tries loading new data. We're told that this will be fixed in future builds of the game, but it served as a refreshing reminder that everything that we were seeing was, in fact, real.

People will most likely argue over the graphical quality of Killzone forever. It's true that it's not as good as the E3 trailer, but it's still impressive nonetheless. What made the original trailer so compelling and realistic wasn't necessarily its high polygon count, and stellar texture work. Rather, it was the incredibly lifelike animation. The new Killzone demo we saw delivered some stellar animations and ragdoll effects. Looking at the reload animations is a simple testament to the high quality of animation work in the game. One memorable moment had to be when an enemy was shot in the back, fell down, and began trying to crawl away. However, certain animations seem incomplete, as if they're missing keyframes.

Bodies are wildly thrown about due to the endless shower of explosives seen in this level, and we're glad to say that the ragdoll animations seem realistic, with an observable weightiness to the bodies. The various physics effects seemed impressive as well. At one moment in the demo, the player shot a bucket from high, and it fell and bounced as one would expect. In a particularly dramatic moment, the player ducked behind some wooden planks, which were slowly being destroyed by gunfire. It appeared as though the wood's destruction was physics based, and not from a canned animation.

A detailed animation and physics systems is a must for a game like Killzone 2. Even from the single level that we've seen, it's clear that the game lives up to its title ... almost too well. At any given moment, something must be dying in front of you, and not necessarily because of the player's actions. This is a war, and both the Helghast and the human resistance suffer severe casualties all the time. The incredible amount of carnage crafts an appropriately claustrophobic feeling, which serves as a reminder that you are, indeed, in a zone of killing.

The gameplay has us intrigued, but not completely sold. Killzone 2 will undeniably be an intense experience, but not necessarily one filled with original ideas. There were a number of moments where we saw echoes of Gears of War: at one moment, the player takes cover, and starts blind-firing at enemies that were also hiding behind cover. When running, the camera gets closer, and the camera shakes furiously, as if holding A in Gears. When a comrade falls down, it appears that players can revive them by running next to them and offering a medkit. This option suggests that Killzone will feature extensive team play, but it wasn't fully demonstrated in the demo that we observed.

A boss fight, of sorts, reminded us a little of Bioshock. "The Heavy Soldier," Killzone's equivalent of the "Big Daddy" tore apart soldiers with ease. The massive armored goliath easily pushed aside anything in its way, but it has one weakness: an explosive located on its back. After a satisfying explosion, more carnage and mayhem ensued. Of particular note was the way blood was animated: it appears to be location-specific, coming from specific points shot. In the mayhem, we thought we saw a tiny chunk of bone in one of the blood pools.

We really appreciated the HUD, or lack thereof. The ammo HUD appears on the bottom right hand corner of the screen when collecting ammo, or reloading. At all other times, it disappears, providing a clean look at the action. More interestingly is the Fight Night-inspired representation of health. When the player runs low on health, instead of using a more traditional HUD indicator, the screen starts to blur, go into black and white, and the sound becomes muffled. The worse the player becomes, the more red starts to appear, trying to recreate the experience of having blood in the eyes. As in most FPS games post-Halo, avoiding damage will restore the player's health.

One thing that'll certainly set apart Killzone 2 from other FPS games is its focus on weather. The Helghast are harnessing the power of electricity in the sky. Demonic strikes of lightning can be seen in the clouds at all times, and apparently is being used to power the weapons of the Helghast. The demo ends with the player attacking a lightning pillar, which appears to be one of the sources of the Helghast's power. By attacking its weak point, the massive pillar will explode, revealing a menacing new enemy. Too bad the presentation ended there, saying "Mission Accomplished."

The evening ended with a few brief comments on the tech specs of the PS3 exclusive. The game will feature (warning: technical terms follow) deferred rendering with ambient occlusion and multiple shadow casting lights. The effects used include "depth based color grading, motion blur, and full screen anti aliasing" with "proprietary lighting techniques to create a vivid and living world."

Aurally, the game will offer 7.1 surround sound, audio occlusion with wave tracing. We're assuming the game is running in 1080p, as we sat in the first row of a massive screen ... and it still looked stunning. The developers noted that they were "grateful for Blu-ray" as a single level has already taken 2GB of space. "The PlayStation 3 allows us to do so much ... [it] would not be possible on any other platform."

Overall, we're impressed by Killzone 2, even though it falls short of the incredible expectations that Sony has placed on it. Gamers that see Killzone 2 in action will be easily impressed -- but we'd like to know if Guerrilla can develop a game that expands upon the incredibly cinematic, overwhelming battles seen tonight. PS3 fans all over the world are waiting.

Reader Comments

(Page 2)

21. Why do people hate on 30 FPS? It's not like, you know, VIDEO doesn't use 30 FPS!

Posted at 8:36AM on Jul 11th 2007 by Brian Spence

22. I think this game looks cool too but why does the PS3 textures always look like shit when they're up close??? This is the one and only thing about the PS3 compared to the 360 that I don't like. I'll still take the PS3 over the "red of death console" but it would be nice to have the same graphics.

Posted at 8:39AM on Jul 11th 2007 by steve

23. They have really surprised me, the game looks great. I love how gritty everything is, especially looking at you own gun. I love that there is no HUD, that its nothing but you and the fight.

Posted at 8:47AM on Jul 11th 2007 by Brandon

24. @ Steve, watch the Hi Res version of the trailer.

First IGN and now Gamespot. It seems only PS3 haters are playing ostrich. They can pretend all they want. ProXbox site Gamespot was smart enought to realize what they were seeing:;title;1&om_act=convert&om_clk=topslot

Posted at 9:25AM on Jul 11th 2007 by Hatchetforce

25. I'm with deaftly - this game looks amazing but hte first one sucked. I own it and played it on my PS3. It really sucked. I'm not a huge halo lover but Killzone had boring gameplay, horrible mechanics, and terrible animation. If this game is good, good. I heard the PSP version was great. But I'm going to keep my excitement at bay until I either play a demo or read the reviews.

Posted at 10:43AM on Jul 11th 2007 by James

26. So... did Sony successfully overshadow MS's event? Because this seems to be the big news of the morning; then again, MS didn't really show anything too exciting that we weren't already aware of.
Can't wait for the Sony conference, I think they're going to take this E3.

Posted at 10:48AM on Jul 11th 2007 by mccomber

27. This game surpassed my expectations and then some. Looks like this will be hands down Game of the Year. The scary thing is they aren't even finished with it yet, meaning it can only get Better!

Posted at 10:51AM on Jul 11th 2007 by AG23

28. Just watched the HD trailer. I think I need to change my pants!

Posted at 10:52AM on Jul 11th 2007 by madgunde

29. 23, true, I mean it's not like every movie since the 1920s has been no higher than 24 fps. I just don't get what the difference is and how it cold possibly be perceptible to the human eye.

Posted at 11:01AM on Jul 11th 2007 by Brian

30. I would have to agree that this is the most critical review of Kilzone around. I always get this weird feeling reading PS3Fanboy - as if they are luke-warm about the system, but they are forced to write about it in a good light.

As for KillZone 1 compared to to this, I don't think there is any way to even try to relate the experience of seeing this trailer, and seeing the trailer for the first one. Obviously a lot of work has been done to distance this game from the first.

Posted at 11:10AM on Jul 11th 2007 by Wonderflex

31. i didnt even get to finish watching the damn thing, had to take off to work, but it did look pretty fly, and i was watching the ms keynote on g4 and i dont think they showed much that was new. they pumped up their sales compared to ps3 and wii, you been out a year longer ms, a YEAR. hey but they got katamri, and i like me some katamari. and ace combat you belong on the ps3 what happen!

Posted at 11:16AM on Jul 11th 2007 by pete

32. Good Lord! I was expecting it to be another CGI demo but omg. When they landed and started moving I was in shock. After watching the MS press conference and not being wowed at all, this is a nice touch. I can't wait to see what Sony has in store for us at the conference later today. I'm so glad to be a PS3 owner and supporter right now.

Posted at 11:19AM on Jul 11th 2007 by Xiru

33. @33,23: The reason why it needs to be higher than film fps, as I understand it, is that with film the camera is actually capturing a bit of blur in moving images, and that helps to keep the illusion of motion going when we view it. We naturally fill in the blanks "between" the frames, but a camera helps to capture the image more like we would see it, if that makes sense. It captures the blur as well, so we don't have to make up as much information.
A computer renders the image completely and perfectly as a still image, so it doesn't create the motion blur between movements of an on screen character, leaving it up to us to create that missing movement ourselves. More and more games use rendering tricks to help create blur though, but a lot of times it looks somewhat artificial so it's usually better to just run at a higher framerate if possible to keep it clear and smooth. Basically, anything below about 65fps we can perceive, although it may not really bother us, but anything below about 30fps will be disruptive, for lack of a better word.

Hopefully that made sense, as I'm pretty sure that's the reason behind it. Just not sure if I'm explaining it well.

Posted at 11:20AM on Jul 11th 2007 by mccomber

34. Damn, can I at least say it looks better than Gears of War? and maybe Halo even?

Posted at 11:57AM on Jul 11th 2007 by Thomas

35. Thats pretty awesome..o_o

At about 2:30 in the video, you see the guy firing at a helgast who looks like he's falling over, but he's firing at the guy's head and theres blood and shit flying out....nice touch.

Posted at 11:58AM on Jul 11th 2007 by Neal

36. YES!!! They did it! They made it look just as beautiful the first, but in real time now. Sony PS3 is a beast and Guerilla is going to showcase its unbelievable power.

Posted at 12:58PM on Jul 11th 2007 by Enon777

37. COD 4 looks just as good!

Posted at 1:28PM on Jul 11th 2007 by Azorean

38. Hey Azorean! Welcome back!

That's all you have to say? Halo 3 doesn't look better? Gears doesn't look better?

I expected more from you...

Posted at 1:37PM on Jul 11th 2007 by upz

39. This game is GOing to kill i cant wait PS3 FOREVER

Posted at 2:34PM on Jul 11th 2007 by sicklesdawg

40. it looks good but not great

whoever said this game was on level with crysis, please go get your eyes checked, crysis is in a whole dif ball park

textures looks crappy and bland
no bump mapping?

Posted at 3:41PM on Jul 11th 2007 by rodsky

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