Killzone Updated Hands-On

We take a look at an updated version of Sony's promising first-person shooter for the PlayStation 2.

The early version of Killzone that was shown for the first time this evening at G4techTV's G-Phoria event (which airs August 6) was an optimized version of the same demo that we reported on from E3. The demo included two levels to play, titled Strange Company (which Sony reps told us would be the first level of the game) and Helghast Assault. The Strange Company level is an instructional one that acclimates you to the controls in Killzone. The level starts you off near a series of bunkers that allows you to get a feel for moving and firing your weapon at advancing forces. Once you've taken out several enemies, you are given instructions--in the form of audio cues and onscreen text--to move to another bunker, where you are allowed to man a stationary turret to take out several other enemies. From this point, the demo continues to teach you how to throw grenades, which you can either throw immediately or prime by holding the button down. Once you've taken out a few more enemies, this "tutorial" finally ends.

The Helghast Assualt level available in the demo is a relatively simple one that sees you moving through a few hallways while clearing enemies as you progress to an open area. Once in the open area, a dropship appears, and troops deploy from ropes that are thrown from its sides. Some more skirmishes ensue at this point, after which the level ends.

While the demo was basically the same, in terms of content, as the E3 demo that was shown, improved graphical effects, including a faster frame rate, were present that definitely made the game look and run more smoothly than did the E3 build of Killzone.

The Strange Company level allowed us to pick from three characters: Luger, Rico, and Templar. Each character features his or her own unique style of play, since each has different strengths and weaknesses. Templar is the most versatile, with good armor, good speed, and an assault rifle outfitted with a grenade launcher. Luger is a female operative who is a bit more stealthy and speedy. Finally, Rico features heavy weapons and lots of armor but is a bit slower, forcing you to take a more-direct route.But since you have the extra firepower, you can do it. As with most all console first-person shooters, a big part of the enjoyment of the game will rely on the enemy artificial intelligence in the single-player portion of the game. The AI in the demo version we played was, in fact, quite impressive. Enemies could be seen peeking around corners, moving in concert, providing covering fire for one another, and even taking cover when appropriate.

As far as the performance and controls of the demo are concerned, the gameplay seemed pretty solid. The weapons and movement controls were extremely responsive and worked quite well. Since just about every button on the PlayStation 2 controller is used to perform specific actions, the game uses a form of intelligent situational awareness to allow you to perform various context-sensitive tasks, which are controlled by the X button. For instance, when you get close to enemies, an icon appears at the bottom of the screen that cues you to perform a melee attack by pressing the X button. Other situational awareness occasions include hopping over railings or manning stationary gun turrets that you can use to fire on enemies.

The game's graphics provide a good sense of depth perception that works well when you're looking through a rifle scope and shooting at enemies from long distances. Nice graphical details abound, such as a row of five lights that illuminate on the side of a grenade when priming it, letting you know when the five-second fuse is up.

Killzone's online multiplayer was not shown, but we were told by Sony representatives that it would include support for up to 16 players on eight levels in six different modes of play. However, it would only be available to broadband users. The levels designed for online play will be modeled after the game's single-player levels but will be reworked specifically to support multiplayer battles.

Multiplayer modes will include deathmatch, team deathmatch, supply drop, defend and destroy, domination, and assault. While most of these will sound familiar to shooter veterans, supply drop will be a unique mode that puts each team on opposite ends of a level where, sure enough, supplies are being dropped. The first team to retrieve five supply drops wins, but this mode also affords each team the ability to steal supplies from the other side's base, giving the mode a bit of strategic play that goes beyond simply retrieving objects. Plus, since each team receives points for every 15 seconds that a supply drop is in its base, it is possible to win the match on points if the time limit runs out. For those who are interested, Sony is preparing an online beta phase for Killzone, which will be available to players in the next few weeks.

One of the new details shown in this demo was the newly added CG cutscenes that help tell Killzone's story. The cinemas appeared to be well done, with good voice work and facial animations that helped convey characters' emotions.

While we're holding out judgment till we see more of Killzone, which should happen in the next few weeks, it's apparent that the game has made some key steps since we saw it last at E3. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more information soon.

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