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Genuine trailers and next-gen ambitions: Guerrilla Games on Killzone Shadow Fall

Sony's FPS studio discusses its PS4 launch game and reveals how it informed the DualShock 4 design

On stage, against a blue background at E3 some eight years ago, Sony's Kaz Hirai introduced a series of videos from development studios promising "a glimpse into the future" of PlayStation 3.

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The infamous fake Killzone 2 trailer

One of these trailers was, and in another sense wasn't, for Killzone 2.

It depicted a platoon descending from the heavens into Helghan territory in what could still be - even today - the most flamboyant and phoney demonstration of console graphics.

Despite claims from Sony's Jack Tretton that "this is real gameplay everybody's seeing out there" and Phil Harrison's promise that the footage was "running off video [...] done to PS3 spec", it was clearly fake. (Inevitably, it was revealed to be pre-rendered "target" footage).

In retrospect, the Killzone 2 trailer did the opposite of what was intended. Instead of triggering a craze of anticipation, it cultivated disbelief and cynicism against Sony.


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Guerrilla Games co-founder Herman Hulst

Some eight years later, Guerrilla Games' co-founder Hermen Hulst stood centre stage at Sony's press conference in New York to present a new Killzone game for a new PlayStation with a fresh approach.

Hulst and Guerrilla's team appeared to be playing the game live on stage with a new DualShock 4 controller in hand. And as an extra "take that" to the doubters, Hulst used the PS4's share button to send the gameplay video to the game's Facebook page, silently encouraging them to peruse it in more detail and come to their own conclusions that yes, it was real this time. And though it wasn't particularly original, technically it was impressive.

Set 30 years after the events of Killzone 3, Shadow Fall initially takes place in Vekta City. After the planet Helghan was destroyed at the end of Killzone 3, the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance allowed Helghast survivors to seek refuge across cities including Vekta.

Civil unrest between Vektans and Helghast has reached a critical point in the three decades since the latter took shelter in the city. A great wall in the city separates both sides.

The demo shown at Sony's PS4 conference depicts the exact moment that the friction triggers an all-out civil war.

You play as a Shadow Marshal - a top-ranked special forces operative in charge of keeping a delicate balance between the Vektans and the Helghast - a situation you appear to have lost control of.

"The Shadow Marshal is something we first introduced in the first Killzone, and that's the guy who's going to take charge of what's happening in this world," says Shadow Fall's game director, Steven ter Heide.

"There's a series of escalating events that will happen across the game and you need to make sure the cold war stays where it is. As you know these things can become a powder keg ready to explode, so that's sort of the premise where we're coming from with the game," he tells CVG

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Hulst continues: "We've put in a lot of effort over the last couple of years and this is a brand new direction for the game. It's a new hero, a new conflict, it's an all new world that we're creating. We're trying to create this living, vibrant world that people want to be in and want to have a reason to fight for, so that's kind of the premise that we started with."

While the gameplay footage shown at Sony's event was graphically impressive, critics have said that the gameplay itself doesn't look like a huge step forward from the "take cover, shoot, take cover" routine that has been the trademark of the current generation of shooters.

Guerrilla is eager to point out to us, however, that the demo showed only a fraction of the overall picture.

"The thing is, when you demonstrate a title for launch you want to do something that's in your game and is part of the core experience," Hulst explained.

"This was the first time we gave very deep, profound feedback on a next gen console, and that's really awesome"

"So we picked something that's very central in our game, with Vekta City, this futuristic city which is at the heart of the game experience, and obviously we picked something that demos reasonably well.

"There's going to be - and we'll talk about this at later events - a lot of player choice and things like that, but some of those things don't demo as nicely, so we picked something that has a beginning and an end while at the same time shows off some cool new features.

"We talked about the new look, the new player experience and the new conflict and went through the game and its major story arc and picked something from it that we felt for all those reasons worked quite well."

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