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Killzone 2: Let's Talk Multiplayer

Got in a couple hours of multiplayer today... liked it. ITT: I describe what I saw.

Sev's extreme hairstyle decisions will not be a factor in the multiplayer mode.
Sev's extreme hairstyle decisions will not be a factor in the multiplayer mode.
Killzone 2's take on multiplayer gameplay and loadouts has a lot of things that will seem immediately familiar to people who have played other shooters. But nothing is presented in quite the same way you're used to. After a Sony-hosted multiplayer session today, I now have a couple of hours of multiplayer time under my belt. Between that and exploring the unlockables and statistics screens, this is what I've picked up so far. If you've been following this game from the get-go with a white-hot intensity, you probably know at least some of this stuff already.

The big thing to "get" about Killzone 2's multiplayer is that the game isn't really broken down by game types, like team deathmatch or capture the flag. Those styles of gameplay are instead integrated at a higher level. Each map and each match is capable of serving up five different objectives. And the game serves these objectives to you on the fly. So you might join a game and get thrown into a Body Count mission, which is the game's take on team deathmatch. If one side hits the kill count or if time expires with one side ahead of the other, the leading side wins that mission and earns one point. After a brief respite from mission-based activity, the game launches into the next thing. The other mission types are as follows:

  • Assasination - Essentially a VIP gametype. One player is designated as the target, and the defending team must defend while the offensive team must take out that player before the defending team's scoring meter fills up.
  • Search and Retrieve - This is one-flag CTP. A propaganda speaker spawns in a central location, and the teams must fight over control over it and carry it to their respective capture point. By default, the first to get three captures wins.
  • Capture and Hold - This is your basic control point mode, which places three capture points on the map. You stand near the points to control them, and your team's scoring meter fills when you have points captured. First team to fill the meter takes it.
  • Search and Destroy - This is another offense/defense mission, where one team wants to plant two bombs to destroy a key target while the other team wants to stop them and, if necessary, defuse any planted explosives. The bombs won't go off individually, though--you need to plant at both locations and prevent the other team from defusing them while a 30 second timer ticks down.

If I had to pick a one-word motif for the game's graphics, I'd probably say
If I had to pick a one-word motif for the game's graphics, I'd probably say "smoky."
By default, games support up to 32 players and rotate through all of these mission types, and typically, the first faction to win five missions wins the match. But when you go to create a game, you're given a lot of options to play with. The game gives you five preset configurations, including a one-on-one type that only goes through the smallest maps, and another that restricts all players to pistols only. But you're also given six custom slots that let you build your own variants.

When creating a custom game, you can set which of the game's eight maps will be in the rotation, which of the five mission types will pop up, the player count, if bots will be present, if enemies show up on the radar or not, if the game will force team balance, and which weapons are allowed to be used. You can also set options for the enabled missions, such as the point limits for Body Count, the time limits for Assassination, and so on. You can also dictate which badges, if any, are allowed to be used. Badges are persistent rewards that players earn over time. This is where the class-based aspect of Killzone 2's online mode comes into play.

When you first crack open your copy of Killzone 2 and jump online, you'll have precisely one option available to you--do you want the ISA's assault rifle or the Helghast's? You have no class at all, you're just a basic soldier. As you play and complete matches, you'll earn points that increase your rank and you'll perform tasks that earn ribbons. The first few ranks give you basic functionality. When you hit the second rank, Corporal, you'll be able to create squads. Much like the Battlefield series, you can spawn on your squad leader, making squads key to keeping the pressure on the enemy by letting you spawn in forward positions. The next rank lets you create a clan, and there's a whole clan management system built into the game that lets you challenge other clans and wager your clan's "valor points" in tournament play.

Once you hit the fourth rank, you'll start to see more in-game bonuses, like the ability to equip a submachine gun or shotgun on your default soldier. Past that, you'll also start to unlock classes. The first to come is the medic class, which gives you the ability to revive fallen soldiers on the battlefield. This ability is why you should always put a few bullets into any squirming, downed enemies you see lying around. Other classes include the engineer, which is limited to a shotgun but can deploy automated turrets and can eventually unlock the ability to repair things like ammo dispensers or mounted guns. There's a spy class that can disguise himself as the other team, and so on. If this starts to sound all Team Fortress 2-style to you, you're not wrong, there are some similarities to be drawn between the classes found in both games.

This engineer can also hold a shotgun and built turrets.
This engineer can also hold a shotgun and built turrets.
When you use your class abilities properly or accomplish other tasks, you'll earn ribbons. Take the killing specialist ribbon, for example. You'll earn one of those when you get at least ten kills in a match. When you get any ribbon eight times, it unlocks something else. That killing specialist ribbon leads to the ability to carry more grenades, for example. If you avoid getting penalized (which seems automatic in games that don't have friendly fire turned on) you'll get the example soldier ribbon. Eight of those gives you a badge that increases your starting ammunition. The game doesn't dump loads and loads of ammo on you when you spawn, which makes this sound pretty appealing to me.

Other badges unlock secondary abilities for the classes. The medic earns the ability to toss health packs out for healing. You'll be able to call in air strikes with another badge. You'll also earn the ability to combine your badges in different ways, though since I'm only about two hours deep into the multiplayer, I haven't quite seen how that works yet. Regardless of that, it all adds up to what seems to be a fairly customizable player character that lets you play different roles in battle. At the same time, the initial limitation of the classless soldier lets new players get their feet wet without having to make a bunch of decisions about what to carry and how best to play a class. By the time you unlock the additional classes, you'll have a better idea about what your strengths are and what sorts of weapons and abilities fit you best.

If you listened to this week's podcast, you heard me talk about the accuracy of weapons, and how they had me a bit worried. Many of the maps in Killzone 2 are frickin' sizable, and tapping off one or two shots gives you a good level of accuracy. So I was worried that players would just get perched with a clear view of the map and be able to snipe people down, even without using a sniper rifle. That doesn't seem to be much of an issue when you're playing with real people, though, as they move way more erratically than the bots do. I expect that some really good players will be able to destroy really new players on some maps, but so far, it doesn't seem like a "problem" or anything like that.

That's pretty much all I have to report at this time. I'm playing through the single-player, as well, and we'll have two more parts to our video quick look series on the game in the weeks ahead. As this isn't the final version of the game, we're going to hold off and review it much closer to its in-store date, when actual, final versions of the game are available. But if you want my early opinion--which I suppose is still entirely subject to change--this is a game that PS3 owners will want to go and get on its in-store date.

PS: The loading screens are awesome and quite possibly the best use of SIXAXIS technology to date. More on that later!
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+