Over the last year we've seen a fair bit of Killzone 3. We've watched gameplay demos, played a handful of levels and even experienced it in 3D in a multi-level sampler. The game's improved multiplayer modes have also been put through their paces thanks to last year's beta. It's fair to say that Sony clearly has high expectations for Guerrilla Games' FPS sequel, and after playing through another new level I'm pretty excited too.
Sony's latest taster is one lengthy sequence that centres on a battle against a giant mechanical walker known as a MAWLR - think of the Scarab from Halo, only on a much larger scale. While the hour-long level didn't present anything unexpected, the combat and controls are definitely a step up from the divisive second game, and there's no denying that visually Guerrilla is still able to get great things from Sony's high-powered black box.
Sev, Rico and company are still on Helghan and, as is always the way, there's never a moment's peace. With the relentless onslaught of gunfire, missiles and explosions, no other game makes the environment feel so hostile. There's enough going on that you feel penned in, trapped in a place you really don't want to be - even the sky is scary. Your squad has to get to a Helghan space elevator to stop the enemy despatching an army, but it's clearly not going to be an easy task.
It's no secret that Killzone 2 featured some pretty annoying controller input lag and a clumsy cover system. But now the controls have fallen in line with the rest of the contemporary FPS market, although movement is still weightier than the Call of Duty series and weapon recoil is less pronounced. I'm still not a fan of the first person cover system as it's hard to get a feel for how safe you are, but it's functional. While Guerrilla hasn't turned Killzone 3 into Call of Duty in space, it does feel more accessible to the masses.
The Helghast, Helghan's native red-eyed soldiers, are once again incredibly menacing with their evil stares - but they die just as brilliantly as before. Hit one of the enemies with a high-powered bullet and he'll fly backwards, demonstrating the wonderfully fun physics engine at play. It might not be realistic, but it's satisfying and looks superb.
During the first chunk of the level you're forcing back Helghast as you work your way across a battlefield. It's pretty standard FPS fare with the AI putting up a good fight, but wrapped up in some quite glorious and at times brutal visuals. Blood spurts from wounds in a sickly pleasing gloop, and melee attacks come in various grim forms - including unnerving grabs from behind followed by throat slicing and Kratos-style eye-gouging.
All the time the hulking MAWLR is looming in the sky, rockets falling from the sky like rain. When you finally come face to face with it you need to shoot out its cooling panels (revealed after sustained bursts of fire from its guns) with some conveniently placed rocket launcher and an ample supply of ammo. This is repeated numerous times, with generators blowing up in spectacular fashion and dropships plonking down waves of infantry units to hinder your progress, but survive for long enough and you'll finally bring the hulking beast down... or so you think.
The MAWLR isn't defeated yet, triggering an on-rails turret sequence aboard a transport ship to put it down for good, pummelling the wounded mechanical walker as it attempts to fire missiles from sneakily-revealed hatches. While quite thrilling and action packed, it's a fairly easy sequence and it's not long before you've finally toppled the lumbering giant. And that's it.
It's hard to extract anything new from this latest preview build, but it does reaffirm the fact Killzone 3 looks and sounds spectacular. I'm yet to play Crysis 2, but currently this is by far the most graphically impressive FPS I've ever seen. It lacks some of the wow factor that accompanied the series' PS3 debut, as games have come on since then, but it's still a title that will turn heads and make the likes of CoD and Halo appear dated.
Killzone 3 is due for release exclusively on PlayStation 3 in February.