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Previews

Killzone 2

Hands-on: See you in Helghast

We queued among other sweaty European journos for over an hour last night at Sony's PlayStation Day to get our clammy paws on Killzone 2. The least you can do is read our hands-on impressions.

The wait was made double frustrating by one guy who had the gaming competence of a Granny. We don't know who he was but if you read a preview about someone not really 'getting it', you've got our man.

Thankfully the wait wasn't a complete waste of time as we could admire the stunning visuals and soak up enough chaos thanks to the 42" 1080p presentation in front of us. The playable demo featured small sections from two new levels - Corinth Sands and Stahl Arms Warehouse. This was all spliced together to form a ten-minute taster of what Killzone will turn out like. And if there's one game you'll use to show off your £350 games console or your new HDTV, it's this one.

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The demo kicks off with our drop ship, carrying us and three other guys, crash landing in the middle of a war zone. This was similar to the opening scene of the demo shown at E3 last year, but not in the same setting.

Even now, we asked ourselves whether or not what we were seeing was real-time. Yes, it looks that good. But then the camera flies into your soldier's head and gameplay begins. There's still all that detail, all those effects with a solid frame-rate intact. We run out into a dark, grey battlefield - a muddy scene outside a facility on the coast - and straight into the action. It's none-stop chaos from then on.

Bullets are zipping around as rockets scream overhead, leaving trails of smoke. Explosions throw masses of dirt into the air while your guys scream and shout at each other. There's so much going on we didn't know where to look first.

Killzone's visuals are a different type of splendour to Gears of War or Unreal Tournament III. Those games go for ridiculously high-resolution textures. And in comparison Killzone 2 might look relatively bland, a little Half-Life 2 if you get what me mean. It's the effects plastered all over the grey war zone that make up the difference.

The blur effect is gorgeous, the lighting and shadows, all the smoke and dust effects, the way the camera shakes as you run, shoot and reload all comes together to make this one of the best-looking PS3 games yet.

That said we want to see more interesting settings from the Helghast planet, where the sequel is supposedly set.

For an alien world, it's a little disappointing to be running around Homebase-like warehouses, with explosive barrels, crates and other objects that'd look as equally at home as they do in a Medal of Honor or Halo game.

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The Helghast themselves seemed a smart enough bunch. They rush to cover, duck out now and then to fire off a few rounds, giving you a few seconds to tee up that face shot. A nearby Sony rep told us that Guerrilla was proud of the enemy damage reactions. But we found, on multiple occasions, that a spray of bullets to the chest and face just didn't have the flesh-wrecking effect we'd expect. They just sort of flinched a few times and carried on as normal.

Blowing a group of enemies up is plenty satisfying, though. They might shrug off hot lead to the noggin', but a well-placed grenade sends them flying through the air, with rag doll physics taking control as they smash into walls or land in awkward positions on railings. Grenades will be our weapon of choice we reckon.

Another explosive highlight of the demo is right near the beginning, where you're forced to take out an enemy blockade on a bridge - by blowing the whole lot to shit with a rocket launcher. Nice.

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