PlayStation 2 owners had great hopes for Killzone in late 2004. Whether or not Sony ever mentioned Killzone in the same breath as Halo doesn't matter. For PS2 gamers this was to be the game that ended Bungie's reign as console FPS king, so when the game was released on a wave of disappointing review scores there was an industry wide sigh. Sony, the dominant force in console gaming, simply couldn't produce a must-own FPS. Resistance has filled the gap on the PS3, even if we weren't exactly blown away by the recent sequel, but ever since that famous E3 video in May 2005 there's only been one FPS PS3 gamers wanted to see: Killzone 2 is riding on a wave of hype that would flatten the original game, so a let down this time will probably end the series for good.
That might seem overly negative, but Guerrilla, the Dutch developer that's become a key part of Sony's European development, really has to deliver this time. So far the only game of note to come from the studio is the PSP game Killzone: Liberation, so there's a definite sense that Killzone 2 is far from a guaranteed triple-A title. The pressure must be immense, and with the game coming out in February, it's likely to set the tone for 2009. So, after spending a whole afternoon with a work in progress build, just how is it shaping up?
First things first. You've probably seen screenshots and online videos of the game in action, but nothing prepares you for how good Killzone 2 looks. We got a glimpse of what Guerrilla was capable of with its frame-rate challenged PS2 original, but here it seems it's had the time to show just what the PS3 can do. Compared to other PS3 heavy hitters, like Resistance 2, it's as if we've entered a new generation. Whereas Insomniac's fun shooter at times felt rather run of the mill in design and quality, Killzone 2 drips with detail and depth. No matter where you look there's something to marvel at - be it a subtle smoke effect, realistically subdued lighting or a near photo realistic expanse of water.
We reckon Gears of War 2 is easily the best looking shooter currently available for consoles, but Killzone 2 has that beaten from what we've seen. Apart from what can only be described as a slight softness, this is the closest we've come to any game matching the wow factor we got from playing Crysis and its semi-sequel Warhead. Incredible blur effects are a key component, bathing the game in a CGI quality varnish that will take some beating.
A special mention must also go to the audio, with the game including some of the meatiest sounding weapons ever to grace a shooter. Having played Killzone 2 for hours we loaded up a few old favourites for comparison, and weapons that had felt solid now felt disappointingly feeble. The guns in Killzone 2 have a kick that will give your eardrums a battering if you've got an impressive sound setup. Voice work for your squad mates is apparently placeholder, but on the whole it's still impressive, with plenty of profanities flying across the battlefield.