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IndianVideoGamer Hands-on: Killzone 2 (single player)

Sony’s much hyped futuristic shooter, Killzone 2 made its first Indian playable debut at the recently concluded Mumbai leg of Playstation Experience. Having been part of the ongoing closed beta, I was eager to try out the single player level and I’m glad to say that I walked away pretty impressed with what Guerilla Games have cooked up so far.

Let’s clear a few things straight away; Killzone 2 is not going to change the way you play first-person shooters. It’s not a revolutionary game some people expected it to be; far from it. In fact, it’s as generic as current-gen shooters go, be it the bald space marines, the dual weapon system, regenerating health and so on. But there is something about the game that sets it apart; there’s something about Killzone 2 that’ll make you say “WOW”.

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You play Tomas Sevchenko aka Sev, who, along with his other squad members, Rico (who returns from the first game), Garza (the rookie) and Corporal Natko (the ‘Triple H’ look-alike), are deployed to the Helghan planet. Sev and his team are part of the special ISA unit called the ‘Legion’. The demo begins with your team being forced to crash land right in the middle of the war zone. From there on, you fight alongside other ISA soldiers in open areas as you move on to infiltrate the Helghan bunkers along with Garza and finally emerge back outside to take a ride in one of the ISA tanks. The level is fast-paced and never lets go; it’s also filled with a couple of fantastic set pieces.

Right away you’ll notice how incredible the game looks. Even in its pre-beta state, Killzone 2 is hands down the best looking game of this console generation. Some might argue that the game looks a bit too grey, but once you start playing, you’ll notice how Guerilla have perfectly captured the atmosphere of the hostile Helghan planet; something that you would normally associate with a survival horror game.

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Also incredible are the animations. Killzone 2, as good as it looks in screenshots, is a sight to behold in motion. Everything from the cinematics to the death and gun reloading animations are motion captured and they really help in immersing the player into the game. The game is also backed up by some of the most amazing lighting and smoke effects to ever grace a video game. What takes it to a completely different level, however, are the post processing effects. Along with a very sharp IQ, it also gives the game a softer and, dare I say, a very CIVG-ish look. The framerate was pretty consistent but it did dip slightly towards the end of the level.

Killzone 2 is not just all good looks either. Beneath it lays a very solid shooter. Minutes into the game you’ll notice that Guerilla have once again tried to make the game as realistic as possible. Your character doesn’t float around; he moves with weight and momentum, which is precisely what you’d expect from a soldier carrying so much gear. The guns feel heavy and chunkier and deal some massive damage. It also has excellent recoil that will force you to fire in short bursts. Guns also come with an iron sight view that almost fills up the entire screen. While it doesn’t have a chainsaw bayonet attached to it, nor can it tag your enemies to fire homing bullets, just connect a DUALSHOCK 3 controller and the guns in Killzone 2 are the closest thing you’ll come to a holding the real thing.

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The other innovative feature in Killzone 2 is the cover system. Cover! Innovative? Yes, I say innovative because unlike other games (Rainbow Six: Vegas, Brothers in Arms, etc), you always remain in first person view even while you are in cover. You go into cover by holding the left trigger and from there, you can either line up for your shots, or just use blind fire. It works extremely well, and the game doesn’t force you to make use of it.

You can play Killzone 2 as a run n gun shooter if you like, but pump the difficulty all the way up and making use of cover will be essential. (Note: Cover is not available in the multiplayer modes). The AI is nothing ground breaking but it’s fairly decent and does a competent job at least on normal difficulty. And as is the case with most Sony first party titles, the SIXAXIS motion controls are utilised. Here, it is used to turn valves. You’re required to hold both R1 and L1 and tilt the controller to turn the valve. While it may sound good on paper, it really doesn’t work, at least not with bullets flying everywhere.

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Despite the positives, there are a few small issues I would like Guerilla to fix before release. Firstly, while the demo level was fast paced and chaotic, it came across as a tad bit uninspired from a level design perspective. (What’s with all the exploding barrels). They also need to tighten up the tank controls and remove those god awful motion controls. or at least give us that option. There are also a few bugs, glitches, a few odd animations, a slight hiccup in frame rate and a few low resolution textures which hopefully will be cleared up before the final retail release.

Killzone 2, the once controversial shooter is finally upon us. At this early stage, it’s not without its flaws, but the core mechanics of the game are as good as it gets. It’s visceral, intense and, most importantly, loads of fun. We’ll have to wait till February 2009 to find out whether Guerilla can finally turn this potential into something more, but as it stands, Killzone 2 is definitely shaping up to be one of PlayStation 3 biggest hitters for the next year.

To try out this pre-beta level of Killzone 2 for yourself, head to PlayStation Experience on November 15 and 16 in Bangalore and November 22 and 23 in Delhi.

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