Do you remember E3 in 2005? No, not the one with giant enemy crabs, massive damage, and "Ridge Racer!" - that was E3 2006. E3 2005 was the event where Sony showed the now infamous Killzone 2 trailer.
Much debate raged at the time as to whether it was pre-rendered footage or rendered in real time (it was pre-rendered, for the record) and much debate also raged as to whether or not the PS3 would actually be capable of displaying such visual beauty. Because, let's face it, in a pre-Gears of War world, the Xbox 360 wasn't exactly setting the world alight graphically.
Afterwards, Killzone 2 seemed to drop off the radar completely. Trade show after trade show it was conspicuously absent and people started to talk. Would Killzone 2 look like ass? Would it be another Duke Nukem Forever? Never mind the gameplay; all people wanted to know about was whether it was coming and whether it would live up to the pre-rendered footage.
Finally, some footage and screenshots emerged, and it seemed like while Killzone 2 wouldn't match the pre-rendered footage, it would at least come damn close. And, having now played the game myself, I can assure you that Killzone 2 looks amazing.
Although I was only playing a pre-alpha build (read: early days yet), I was still blown away by what I saw. Sure, some of the textures were a little bland and possibly even placeholders. Sure, there were some graphical glitches. Sure, there were a couple of invisible obstacles. However, this is a pre-alpha build, and to get the game looking this good at this stage is like writing Hamlet on your first draft.
Another great aspect of Killzone 2 is the scripted events. Now, I'm not often a fan of scripted events because I feel that they take away the narrative control that makes video games such a wonderful medium. However, in first-person shooters I feel they work really well. They help create feelings of war going on around you, and independent of you, which helps suck you in and immerse you into the experience. That's escapism in action, and it's fantastic.
Watching soilders fly past you in agony after an explosion is a site to behold, and coming up to certain events really gives the player a sense of urgency and dread that never really happens in games that follow the (Bioshock) Doom formula for gameplay. It's all very ZOMG stuff that gives you the motivation to keep going and see more and more.
In terms of gameplay, Killzone 2 also offers some new tricks. The controls held up well in this early build, and one of the best new additions is the now standard cover system. Holding L1 will allow players to take cover, and simply releasing L1 will allow them to pop out again. Whereas toggle cover systems can cause confusion and involuntary actions, Killzone 2's system assures players that they will only cover when and where they want to.
Another nice feature was the inclusion of some motion controls similar to those found in Metroid Prime 3. At the end of the demonstration level, I needed to turn a valve. Rather than simply press a button to turn the valve, I needed to hold buttons to grasp the valve with my character's hands, and then tilt the Sixaxis controller to turn the wheel.
When I could turn no more, I simply released the buttons, tilted the controller back, and then started the process again. Although it certainly has the potential to be gimmicky if overused, it definitely added to the sense of immersion in Killzone 2.
Killzone 2 is shaping up very nicely and if everything is to the same standard as I saw in this early build, it will definitely be a game that should be in the collection of every fan of first-person shooters. Killzone 2 is schedule for release early next year exclusively for PLAYSTATION 3.