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Joystiq hands-on: Killzone 2

It is nearly impossible to introduce any feature that references Killzone 2 without mentioning its infamous first showing at E3 2005. After an internet fury over its controversial trailer, the shooter from Guerrilla Games was presented at Sony's annual Holiday Preview event this week in Toronto, Canada. Impressions after the break.

Gallery: Killzone 2 | 43 Photos

We're going to go out on a limb and say that a pre-alpha has no business looking as good as Killzone 2. You've seen images and video before, but to reiterate, Killzone 2 is gorgeous. Looking back, we seem to remember the original Killzone pushing the limits of the PlayStation 2 as well, but then falling short when players picked up the controller.

The section we played begins as you and other soldiers land in the middle of a ruined wasteland to destroy an ammunition stronghold atop a guarded bridge. While the process seems daunting at first, a nearby fallen soldier drops a rocket launcher that immediately provides one of the most satisfying events in the game. Once a chain reaction of explosions completely obliterates the bridge, you and the rest of your team continue through the trenches fighting off the Helghast army.

In two play sessions with Killzone 2 -- equaling around 30 minutes of total game time -- it took some time to get comfortable with the weapon sensitivity. Often the game either felt too floaty or sluggish and we can only pinpoint the issue as lying with the gameplay style. Guns move realistically and Killzone 2 takes this idea and pushes it with added blur effects and an innovative first-person cover system. We're not saying the gunplay doesn't work, but players should recognize the game will immediately feel different when they first get to play it.

The cover system in Killzone 2 works the same as many other shooters -- tapping a button sticks the player to a wall. The difference is, unlike other titles that change the camera angle to a third-person perspective, Killzone 2 stays within the first-person perspective at all times. While stuck, players can look over and around the object or wall all while maintaining their cover. It works so well that we hope to see the mechanic adopted in future shooters.

Killzone 2's pre-alpha beauty appears to come a price. Checkpoint loading happened very often during the demo and usually resulted in a longer-than-normal gameplay stutter. Destructible environments look amazing but it appears that only specific sections of the game can be destroyed. As a test we fired a rocket at a random wall and were only treated to a dark smear of smoke where we expected to find a gaping hole of destruction. Throughout the day, we also saw that the Killzone 2 demo station crashed at least twice. Of course, this and any other graphical hiccups we experienced are from a pre-alpha build and may not have any bearing on the final product, but it still warrants a mention.

Having been a fan and defender of the original Killzone, Guerrilla Games' latest has been on my personal must-buy list since the first actual gameplay footage was shown. Having played the game, my opinion has not changed. Killzone 2 has gone beyond the silly notion of a required Halo-killer for the PlayStation 3. It isn't Halo. It isn't Call of Duty. Killzone 2 is Killzone and the game looks and plays well enough to be considered something special on its own. No comparisons required.

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