Killzone is set in a fictional world where many of the planets have been colonized. To consolidate all these planets an organization known as the ISA is formed to keep control and maintain the colonies throughout the universe. However one colony, known as the Helghast doesn't like this idea and instead decides to scale an all out war against the other colonies. The battle itself takes place on a planet known as Vecta, with the Helghast sending many troops easily you join the ISA forces to try and stop this threat.
Killzone as mentioned before is a first person shooter with a great deal of focus on squad combat. Although most of the time it seems you will be fighting in a squad, you will only command one character at a time and can not change mid mission. There will be times that you only have a choice of one character and from the events which transpire in the demo it appears that you will start off with one character and others will join your squad as you rescue or find them. On the surface Killzone appears like a generic first person shooter with some nice graphics, but as you delve deeper into the game mechanics, a lot of unique features are to be discovered.
The demo contains two missions. The first mission, Helghast Assault, is set in trenches on the front line. The developers have taken inspiration from the first world war for this scene and the only other goal other then survive is to reach a bunker and rescue some mates. The action is almost non-stop during this mission and it really shows the level of AI featured for your squad mates. Without them you can't progress past some areas. For instance in this particular level, one soldier removes some barbed wire so you can continue across the trench. Once you reach the trench, the task then becomes to eliminate the Helghast forces hiding within and also find out what to do next.
The second mission is set in a urban environment which has been destroyed by the war. The task is to slowly move through, eliminating the enemy presence and to reach a mall which is where the game will continue in the final versions. This level doesn't rely as much on your squad mates to progress and is basically a more run and gun mission rather than any strategy really being required. The second mission gives the opportunity to take control of two more characters and as we will explain, who you choose can greatly affect how the game plays. The enemies co-ordinate with each other and will take evasive action such as hiding behind a wall before charging out to catch you unawares. They work in squads rather then individually throughout both missions and offered a decent challenge.
The final game will have four playable characters, but only three are featured in the demo; Templar, Luger and Rico. Templar is a typical soldier who is really an all round military unit with no specialization making him perfect for missions where no real strategy is involved. Lugar is a female character much like Sam Fisher where stealth is the key. She can take less hits before being taken down but can also move in a fashion which does not alert the enemy presence. When you want to just blast through a level then Rico will be your man. He carries an ultra powerful machine gun and doesn't use much strategy at all. Each character has some unique weapons such as a knife but there doesn't seem to be any restriction as to which character can use which enemy weapon which can seem strange for the spy (Luger) class. The final game will feature over twenty five weapons. The characters can also run, but weapons can not be used when doing so and the length of time is restricted by a regenerating stamina bar.
As mentioned before the character you choose can affect the way a level is set out and how it plays. For instance in the second mission there is a section where if you are playing as Luger, you are asked to move through the vents while if the other two are chosen the door is already open. If this trend continues into the final game it will enhance the replay value of the game almost ten fold as it could potentially almost be three games in one. Playing as Luger seemed to offer the most interesting way to complete the second level, while Rico could complete it the quickest, it will all come down to personal preference.
The visuals of the game really are looking stunning. In the first demo mission, Helghast soldiers are moving across the trenches towards your character but rather then just popup, they slowly fade in. In fact during both missions we did not notice one bit of pop up to speak of and considering the level of graphics and the draw distance this is highly impressive. The environments also feature some destructible areas such as the stunning glass shattering effect. The game appears to use a ragdoll style physics engine for death animations and both the ISA and Helghast character models are highly detailed and animate well already. One thing that is looking great is the way the perspective changes when the player throws a grenade or hops over a wall. This leads you to a situation where you are not able to see the enemy so a strategy will have to be employed.
The sound effects, especially the communication between squad members is sounding decent and even though the demo does not contain music for most of the game, the score will be performed by the Prague orchestra.
The developers are also putting a great deal of focus on multiplayer with the game being able to be played on the same console for up to two players but online the game will offer the ability to chat and play with up to twelve other gamers. They are promising both competitive and team matches but it looks like that a co-operative option for the single player campaign will be left out which considering the squad style of the game is a disappointment.
Sony may be hyping this one up in a big way but from early impressions there is good reason to. Killzone should be one of the finest first person shooter games ever made for the PS2 console and from our time with the demo, offer some very unique game mechanics and a lot of replay value. Look for it November 2004.