KillZone 2

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[[In the Zone Again]]

When the original Killzone hit the PS2 it was quickly labeled, by the men in black, as the Halo killer; having had a few years to reflect on that claim we can now say that while it wasn't quite that, it still offered Sony's console a much needed F.P.S. action franchise that worked well.

Guerilla Games, a Dutch studio, was quickly hailed as a pioneering outfit capable of producing top notch work and Sony was pretty quick to snap them up and integrate them into its games making machine. The technical excellence of the original title gave Sony owners a reason to consider pre-ordering the company's upcoming PS3 console and exposed the huge PS2 installed base to Helghast devastation.

Offering memorable gaming moments, and bad guys with a unique look, KillZone brought Sony gamers something which they badly needed; promise. It was not simply an issue of the current game and its success but the potential players witnessed. This led to a common utterance; imagine what this game would have been like had it been created with a PC in mind. Well, those comments are about to be answered as KillZone 2 is preparing to take the war to the Helghast.

There has been a lot of talk about PS3 games but many have recognized that the console is still lacking a strong library with most of its big names still in development i.e. MGS4 and KZ2. What Guerilla's new game offers is the possibility to see the, much advertised, PS3 hardware in full swing.

Causing controversy with its cinematic E3 2005 video, sold as in-game footage by an excited Sony exec, the title has been through a lot and you can now hear Guerilla developers calling that infamous clip an ambition video. Well if the E3 2007 footage is anything to go by, that ambition has now been realized and PS3 gamers have a blockbuster to look forward to.

Stay with MegaGames for the full presentation of the game that, Sony hopes, will launch the PS3 into the gaming mainstream.

[[War in Hel]]

The original story saw disenchanted members of the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance (ISA), sent to colonize the barren and unforgiving planet Helghan, planning their bloody revenge on ISA. The war that ensued devastated colonies throughout the Alliance and led to the battles of KillZone. Without making any originality claims, KillZone for PS2 managed to keep it simple and to deliver something the PS2 gamer had very little of; a solid and enjoyable First Person Shooter. The game managed to utilize much of the hardware capacity of Sony's, already aging at the time, console and brought an end product which looked better than most games had looked on the PlayStation console.

KillZone Liberation, Guerilla games' second title in the series, took that story even further and re-established the Helghast as a force to be reckoned with. The star of the first game, Jan Templar, was again involved in the fray.

Now, ISA is taking the battle to the place where it all started; Helghan is about to be invaded and this time a new breed of hero is required. Joining the war effort, as a member of a special forces group called The Legion, your team comes in when everyone else has given up. Your mission begins with a large scale invasion of the Helghast home world, an unforgiving place prone to weather extremes and inhabited by the goggle and mask adorned Helghast.

Sev Gets a Window Seat!!!

According to Guerilla Games, the weather, so impressive in the E3 2007 video, will play an important part in the gameplay. The Helghast have adapted to the living conditions on their planet by using special goggles and breathing equipment but they have also learned to harness the power the planet offers and have turned its weather system into a weapon. For example, the ARC weapon, witnessed in the E3 video, is powered by lightning. There will be further such uses of the weather but the developers are keeping those details close to their chest.

One big gameplay shift in KillZone 2 is the lack of multiple playable characters. In the original title, four characters were playable offering, some, variety. In KillZone 2 the player will only be able to interact with the main protagonist; Sev. Familiar characters will resurface, such as Rico your commanding officer while your buddies will always be nearby offering some heavily scripted action sequences designed to immerse the player into the ISA Invasion .
Immersion seems to be the buzzword for Guerilla as much of KZ 2's design has taken that into account. One example of an almost culture shock change for F.P.S. gamers is the minimal use of the H.U.D., the developers have decided to keep on screen information at a minimum and utilize, instead, a variety of environmental cues to offer information to the player. Getting shot, for example, will lead to a change in the way color is displayed while sound is also used.

There will also be some other gameplay elements in KZ2 that players will remember from previous games; healing comrades will be a major part of your mission and you will need to be quick on your controller in order to resurrect your downed comrades. PSP owners may remember that in Killzone: Liberation, your character was able to use Helghast vehicles and this feature is very likely to resurface in KillZone 2 with Guerilla hinting that they plan to… build on the strong points of previous incarnations of the game. One confirmed Liberation feature which will make its way to KZ2 is the presence of mini-bosses. During your invasion of Helghan, you will encounter, every now and then, Helghast with additional armor and weaponry, such as the Heavy shown in the E3 2007 video. These mini-bosses will provide some of the puzzle and problem solving tasks which will face the player and will utilize a great deal of the new gameplay elements of KillZone 2. In the E3 video we saw how the impact of your ammunition on the Heavy will assist Sev in gaining access to the mini-boss's unprotected rear, while the new lean & peek system will help keep your character protected while you target specific areas of your enemy's body, such as the head in the above example.


The Big Bad Guy with the Small ...Name

Yet another sign of Guerilla reacting to gamer demands is the abilty of Sev to jump over obstacles. During the last E3 KillZone acknowledged the fact that Jan Templar's inability to jump was a rather frustrating gameplay feature. This time, your ISA warrior will not quite be able to leap tall buildings but will have the ability to move rapidly over the game's environment. During the same show, Guerilla's developers also accepted the limitations of the AI in the original game. It was clearly evident in KillZone: Liberation that enemy AI was taking a step in the right direction as Helghast fighters begun targeting explosive objects around you while they used team tactics to flank and outgun you.

In KillZone 2 your enemy will be fully aware that the combat is taking place in a fully destructible environment. In that sense cover will be used only for as long as it can serve as that while the presence of multiple enemies on screen at any one time, will mean that the Helghan will also know to avoid each other. Your squad will also be intelligent enough to avoid killing Sev while it will be the player's task to prove that he or she can navigate the hostile game world avoiding collateral damage.

Guerilla has been keeping the multiplayer aspects of KillZone 2 a guarded secret but has taken every opportunity to stress that the MP aspect of the game is just as important as the single player campaign. What little information we have gathered on the KillZone 2 multiplayer has more to do with speculation than fact. One such assumption is that Co-Op is a certainty, a feature that Guerilla has, of course, not commented on but one that has proved a winner for the Halo franchise. One more fact-based assumption is that since Guerilla has confirmed that the online will be linking to Killzone.com as well as into Home, suggests that there will be heavy clan-based action. An extrapolation of this logic suggests that players will be able to convene in Home's social fora in order to discuss tactics, challenge opponents and examine rankings. Additionally, it is expected that leaderboards will feature online as well. Another multiplayer rumor, spread fairly recently, suggests that online KZ2 will utilize user created content, trying to extend the game's online life by offering variety and capturing gamers imaginations. One certainty for multiplayer is what KZ2 QA manager, Sebastian Downie declared in a forum post, …of course there is going to be a public beta. I have always said that any game that has an online mode needs to go through a public beta to ensure it works as intended...More on a beta later this year.

All these features sound truly amazing but what engine could possibly drive such luxuries? How have Guerilla managed to harness the PS3's, elusive, power in order to deliver, what they claim will be, the best looking gaming experience and what the BBC has suggested is the … one of the most cinematic and immersive games ever produced on a console.

[[The KillEngine]]

What the KillZone 2 ambition may be best described as, is that of utilizing in the most efficient way possible the Sony's console's hardware. In that sense, Guerilla had to approach the task in hand as true first-timers, creating a game engine from scratch. The end-product would have to be able to push the Cell design further than any other game has done while fully exploiting every other technological innovation offered by the console such as the high-storage capacity of the Blu-Ray disc. The Guerilla KZ2 engine, at its core will offer deferred rendering and will integrate MSAA (MultiSample Anti Aliasing) while Cell will also process geometry and indirect lighting at the same time.


Lighting Magnificence

The real innovation in KillZone 2 is the use of lighting by its engine. Guerilla weighed the pros and cons and decided to use a lighting method which processes and illuminates different areas of the environment in different ways.
The process, referred to by Guerilla generally as Deferred Rendering is based on research pursued by Sun Microsystems 3D graphics guru, Michael Deering. Deering's 1988 paper entitles: The triangle processor and normal vector shader: a VLSI system for high performance graphics, introduced a method now called Deferred Shading which, while offering a vision for the way forward for computer graphics, was seen by most developers unfeasible until recently. For those of you with a desire to learn more about the intricacies of game development, Deferred Shading refers to the process of rendering the components of the lighting equation on multiple onscreen render targets. Lighting is achieved by simple passes over the render target buffers and outputting the results of the lighting equation. What this means for most gamers is that each area of the game will be realistically lit and will feature unique lighting conditions which will reflect the physical attributes of the environment depicted on screen.

One great advantage of the above method is that each area of the game will offer a unique experience for the player while the realistic illumination, it is hoped, will immerse the player further into the Helghan world. If some of you are wondering why this method has not been as popular in game development as its potential suggests, you will have to note that it assumes a massive amount of processing power while it is also difficult to code for, especially due to the lack of experience in using it. In many ways this seems to be a greater contribution by Guerilla to the gaming industry as the evaluation of this method and the results it will produce will be useful tools in the hands of developers as they decide how to tackle Deering's proposition. More directly the reception of this implementation will decide how Guerilla shape their next games and how other developers begin to utilize the PS3's hardware.

Other aspects of the technology that will drive Guerilla's beast, while not as innovative, will also enhance the gaming experience. The physics utilized will make the entire Helghan planet an interactive playground, an area where you, the player, can leave your inexhaustible mark. Each component of the world will be open to the menace of your ammunition while the potential uses of those marks on gameplay will be just as inexhaustible. Additionally the character physics will create new tactics as demonstrated in the Heavy example during E3 2007. Additionally, the developers accepted that their death animations in the original KZ were sloppy and have incorporated motion capture with rag-doll effects to offer convincing and ultimately immersive death sequences.


Scoring a Touch Down or Dying? You decide…

Blu-ray, according to GG, will also prove necessary for the execution of KZ2 as Killzone 2 producer Steven Ter Heide claims, It is not a luxury to have Blu-ray, but rather a necessity, as compression only gets you so far. I mean, the level that we showed at E3 and Leipzig topped out around 2GB!

[[Final Thought]]

For a game promising to revolutionize the quality of video games, KillZone 2 has not opted for a similar promotion approach. Sony and Guerilla Games, the game's creators, have pulled all the usual hype stops such as controversy, secrecy and hyperbole. The E3 2005 video and the comments made by Sony executives regarding its origin, created some negativity around the title; enough for Sony to keep quite about the game or almost a year. Now, the title is back in full strength and Guerilla are defending the E3 2K5 video, The E3 2005 trailer was NOT false. One confused Sony rep claimed it was a movie from the game engine - one guy blitzed out of his mind on fatigue, jetlag and the madness that is E3. One guy not at all affiliated with Guerrilla Games - probably with a head full of 30 different titles. Everyone else named the E3 2005 video for what it was - a target render of what we thought would be possible on the PS3. Something we would be aiming for.

Whether you accept the above explanation by GG or not, you have to admit that the footage shown at E32K7, confirmed as in-game, has fed the hype machine once more. The desire by the developers to address gamer concerns and to expand on the experience gained by the previous two titles, can only be commended.

So good intentions aside, what can we say about KillZone 2? The game will be a massive technological step forward compared to any other PS3 title bar, possibly, Eight Days. Such a step forward that there are fears that it may become more of a tech demo than a full game; fears however, which seem unfounded as Guerilla has demonstrated its commitment to the gamer and has a more than adequate track record to support that claim.
The promised public online beta will also offer a better perspective for gamers to decide on what they think of the game and will shed some of the secrecy which Sony has decided will better serve sales.


Helghan has Been Cruel to their Wardrobe too

All in all KillZone 2 holds what every gamer hopes for, promise; the promise of innovation, a new gaming mechanic and possibly the best visuals ever witnessed on a video game, if Guerilla Games manage to meet those targets, to whatever extent possible, gamers are likely to embrace their effort and its host console. This time around KZ may prove the true Halo Killer for Sony

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