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Killzone 2 GC Multiplayer Hands-On Preview
Post by trog @ 06:59am 27/08/08 | Comments
Following mediocre first impressions of Killzone 2 in our singleplayer preview, AusGamers now goes hands-on with the games multiplayer component. Read on to find out which way the thumbs are pointing this time.

We've already done a pretty extensive preview of Killzone 2's singleplayer recently but we've just checked out the multiplayer component in an extensive hands-on session at the Leipzig Games Convention and it deserves it's own mention - because it's pretty cool.

As fun as it was to bag out the first Killzone 2 trailer released a while back (hilarious pre-rendered comments abounded), it is hard to deny the game - even in its current, non-finished form - is looking pretty spectacular, visually, making the most of what the PlayStation 3 hardware has to offer.

There were four main goals in the development of the multiplayer component:

1. "Ensure everyone can enjoy it". Not a bad idea. Almost seems a bit obvious, really. I mean, it's not like you set out to make a game and put "make sure people hate it", or "ensure game is not too much fun" on your "TO-DO" list.

2. "Let gamers play the way they want". Making sure newb gamers can enjoy the multiplayer is pretty important, but you also need to provide enough depth to make sure hardcore types keep playing it (or at least, buy it - I guess whether or not they keep playing it after it has been bought is sort of academic).

3. "Inspiring team play". Team-based games are all the rage, so making sure team elements are factored into the design is pretty important. A few elements have been borrowed from Battlefield here - such as the ability to form squads and subsequent spawning on squad leaders. You can have four players in each squad and up to eight squads per team - so in a 32 player game you'll be able to divide up into neatly managable groups, which should help control the chaos.

4. "Community". Again, in this day and age it's a bit of a no-brainer to have community features. Clan support is a big one, ensuring it's easy to track and play with your friends. There's an extensive statistics system, offering global rankings (again, some inspiration from Battlefield here). There are 12 ranks you can progress through, with 46 ribbons and medals on offer; each rank unlocks some new features as well to give you some more drive to spend more time online.

There's also a neat-sounding betting system utilising "valour" - you'll earn valour through winning games and you can risk it to win more valour by betting it in clan matches.

Killzone 2 also has a class system, although instead of picking a class you pick a "Badge". Each Badge has two abilities - for example, a medic Badge has the ability to revive downed team-mates and the ability to hand out med-packs (hey, sounds like Enemy Territory!). You can also combine Badges to create hybrid classes, so you can have a Medic/Engineer type who can revive troops and repair things, for example.

Creating a game is fairly standard - pick the map, pick the mission, select which weapons you want to have available, pick which Badges you want available, and then mess with individual settings (like bomb timers, for example). You can of course just bounce through these options and select the defaults to get directly into the game, but if you're really keen to customise your match and your player you do get a fair bit of control.

32 players is a pretty big game in terms of player numbers. Peer-to-peer won't really fly for that sort of game, so it uses a client/server model - which means if you're hosting a game, you're hosting it for all the players, so you'll need to have a decent connection, both upstream and downstream. As always I gave them the drill about hosting servers in Australia - while they're not planning to have full-time dedicated server software available, they're definitely planning testing of the multiplayer game in Australia (as well as other markets), so hopefully they'll make sure it'll work happily for us.

The big announcement that came out of Leipzig for Killzone 2 was the revelation that there'll be bots for online and offline play, making sure you can always play a multiplayer game even if you're, well, alone. Bots also help to make sure servers reach that critical mass point they need to attract more real players, so it's a good solution.

Obviously, anyone that's even seen a PC-based FPS game in the last few years will probably have noticed a few similarities in Killzone 2's multiplayer (also, I pointed them out above). I've long been critical of console shooters for being miles behind their PC counterparts in terms of features and functionality, so while it'd be easy to criticise Killzone 2 for just yoinking stuff off other games, the reality is that it's actually nice to see a console-based FPS title that is as fully featured as a PC counterpart.

The net effect of it in any case is extremely positive. The multiplayer is great and even though - as always - I spent a lot of the time wishing I had a mouse and a keyboard, it's easy to get into and looks like there'll be enough skill differentiation at the higher ends of the spectrum to result in a game that might have some legs over the long run. I found the run mode a little painful - push down on the right analog stick - but apparently you can remap most of the controls, so aside from that there's very little to complain about in terms of handling. The class elements and the teamplay - especially the squad stuff - combine really nicely to create a multiplayer game that is shaping up to look pretty competitive.

It's still not clear if it will be reach the same sort of success as something like Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4 in the multiplayer department, but it's on the right track. It has a lot of attractive features, plays very nicely, and looks great. If you've played Battlefield 2 before you might not be as impressed, but for PlayStation 3 owners new to feature-packed, community driven FPS games, there's going to be a lot of cool new things to play with. Stay tuned.



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