PS3 Interview

Mathijs de Jonge on Killzone 2

Guerrilla's game director takes us to Helghan

Killzone 2 is comfortably one of the most eagerly awaited early 2009 releases on any format, and for the PlayStation 3 console this rival to Xbox posterchild Halo is utterly crucial. Years in the making, Guerrilla's first-person shooter could be one the defining games of the next twelve months, helping Sony engender some much needed good karma after a festive period to forget. We sat down for some words of encouragement with Mathijs de Jonge, game director at the title's Dutch development studio.

The game is nearly with us, and we're eager to get stuck in. What did you learn from the original Killzone; which features were kept, and which dispensed?

Well as Killzone 1 was our first baby, its birth wasn’t entirely smooth but we were still proud of what we made. We were (and still are) very ambitious but maybe not experienced enough to fully realize our vision. That initial vision of an intense, gritty, very visceral first person shooter with Hollywood production values never changed and I feel that with Killzone 2 we’ve managed to accomplish our initial goal.

In terms of mechanics Killzone 1 established a certain level of realism for handling weapons and that was something we wanted build further on. On the other hand we felt that the actual hit responses of the enemies weren’t satisfying enough. So when we started on Killzone 2 this became one of our focus points and we developed a very cinematic hit-response system. Furthermore in Killzone 1 the player performs most actions in first person, this again is something we felt was of key importance for Killzone 2 to achieve a high level of immersion.

What opportunities did PS3 development open up for Killzone 2?

It made it possible to realize our initial vision. The PlayStation 2 simply couldn’t deal with the amount of visuals and assets we wanted to throw at it.

Having played the new game a little, I was impressed by the sheer quantity of detail and action on-screen at any moment. What were your ambitions on this front?

We try to aim for high production values in all areas, be it graphics, 7.1 surround sound, consistent frame-rate, engaging encounters, etc., and at the same time make something that’s very intense and immersive. For every encounter or mission we always ask ourselves up front; what will the “Theater of War” be like in this setting? This basically means that we populate the environment around the player with events to intensify the action.

How does Killzone 2 shake things up from an AI perspective?

Overall the AI is very polished, be it the Helghast who know how to use cover cleverly, throw grenades to push the player out of his cover, evade grenades, or the buddies that assist the player whenever he’s in danger of losing his life and are balanced in such a way that they never steal too many kills or stand in your way.

The sci-fi plot will be key to making the singleplayer game compelling. How is Killzone 2's story a breath of fresh air from other FPS rivals; and how do you tell the story in an interesting manner?

I don’t want to spoil the story too much but one thing I want to say is that Killzone 2 doesn’t have a regular black and white, good guys vs bad guys/aliens story. It’s much more gray, in the middle – are you really on the good side?

How do you blend realistic combat with Hollywood-style fun, without hindering these key elements?

That is exactly one of the challenges we faced during development. We always ask ourselves ‘if we make this feature this realistic, will it be at the cost of the fun factor’ and in some cases we had to make some concessions and lower realism to improve playability. So yes, it’s definitely something we keep a constant eye on.

How interactive is the world of Helghan, and what role will interactivity play from a gameplay perspective?

Interactivity with the world has been another point of focus as it plays an important role in immersing the player in the world, we want the player to feel he’s actually there on Helghan. Dynamic objects are placed everywhere, but also fixed objects, such as a valve you can grab hold of – which has been designed to make the player feel physically connected to the world. Another example is the wind-system that as the name suggests simulates wind. It affects physics objects, so imagine blowing something up and the parts being picked up by wind but it also affects grenades that fly back at you when you throw then in the wind. Movement is influenced as well.

Your multiplayer plans seem ambitious - are you setting out to take on genre leaders like Call of Duty?

We really aimed to make Killzone 2 stand on its own, you can't directly compare it to anything out there. Of course we looked at big titles like CoD4 but we wanted to make Killzone 2 Multiplayer its own unique experience. The Killzone universe, the graphical quality and the unique mix of tactical and customizable gameplay make Killzone 2 multiplayer unlike anything you've played before.

How important are the visuals in creating the kind of experience you're aiming for with Killzone 2?

We try to aim for high quality in all areas, so lower quality graphics would have an impact on the overall experience, but the same goes for the music for example, which in my opinion perfectly complements everything else.

Thanks for your time.

You’re welcome!

Article
We need to talk... about 'gamers'
Because that term has a much wider definition than it used to.