PlayStation 3 Video Game 'Killzone 3' Aims to Ramp Up 3D Action Experience

 

AMSTERDAM, the Netherlands -- The film industry used James Cameron's Avatar to usher in a new age of 3D filmmaking and generate incremental revenue at the box office. Sony Computer Entertainment hopes that Guerrilla Games' Killzone 3, which shipped Tuesday, will do the same on the home entertainment front, enticing PlayStation 3 gamers to upgrade to 3D TV sets for a stereoscopic 3D action experience.

Killzone 3 is the first game for PS3 that was built from the ground up to take advantage of 3D gaming. Previous 3D games, including Polyphony Digital's Gran Turismo 5 and Treyarch's Call of Duty: Black Ops, added 3D functionality later on in the development cycle. Hermen Hulst, managing director at Guerrilla Games, said 3D was part of the original design of the game-play experience, just as Cameron created Avatar for a 3D viewing experience from Day 1.

Michael Pachter, video game analyst for Wedbush Morgan Securities, forecasts Sony will sell 2.5 million copies of Killzone 3 in its first six months. That matches the total amount of Killzone 2 games sold to date.

Hulst said a team of 200 people, the bulk of which worked at Guerrilla's Amsterdam studio, spent the past two years developing a first-person shooter experience that literally puts the player in the middle of a frenetic science-fiction action story.

"We tried to make this game exciting for both the Killzone fans and the whole new audience by getting that sense of a massive, epic science-fiction war going on and creating that amped-up experience that only a science-fiction shooter can give you," said Jan-Bart van Beek, art director at Guerrilla Games.

The first game saw the Helghast invade the planet Vekta, a stronghold of the ISA (Interplanetary Strategic Alliance). Killzone 2 saw the ISA retaliate by attacking the planet Helghast. The third game picks up after that attack and finds the ISA soldiers outmanned and on enemy territory.

"We've designed this game to play out like a big-budget Hollywood spectacle," Hulst said. "While our team focused on creating an intense action experience of survival that traps the player on a planet swarming with well-armed enemies, we worked with Hollywood talent to help bring the cinematics and storytelling to life."

Malcolm McDowell (Halloween) and Ray Winstone (Beowulf) headline the cast of Killzone 3. Players will once again take control of ISA soldier Tomas "Sev" Sevchenko, voiced by Andrew Bowen (Dollhouse), and Charles Everett (Law & Order) plays Helghast war veteran Rico Valaquez. The actors used the latest performance capture technology to bring both the action and dialogue to life at Sony Computer Entertainment's San Diego Studio.

"You actually work harder than you do on a movie," said McDowell, who brings the evil Jordan Stahl, the leader of the Stahl Arms, to life in the game. "When I'm 85, I can be doing video games because they can put a young man's face; as long as I don't do a crackety voice, I'll be all right."

Winstone, who plays the Admiral Orlock, military commander of the Helghast Empire, said working on Killzone 3 was like going back to school in a way.

"You play the scene and you start to get your imagination back," Winstone said. "So if you're looking at a dragon or a castle, you've got to imagine these things."

Hulst said the Hollywood team behind the cinematics for the game were able to apply techniques they've learned over the years working on 3D films like The Polar Express, Monster House and Beowulf.

"I've been working in motion capture for the past 10 years, and I can honestly say this is probably the most complex project I've ever seen," said Michael Mumbauer, who left Hollywood to become senior manager at Sony San Diego's Visual Arts Group.

Hollywood director Jim Sonzero (Pulse) oversaw the cinematics for the game.

"They've managed to pull together a collection of artists that can move at the speed of light and adapt, and we rose to the occasion to deliver a killer product," said Sonzero, who previously directed Capcom's Resident Evil 5 cinematics.

Sony also worked with Digital Domain, whose Jon Gourley (Red Tails) oversaw the visual effects for the cinematics. And Michael Condro (Surf's Up) served as co-director of photography for the project.

In recent years, Sony has pushed interactive storytelling with blockbuster games like God of War 3 and Naughty Dog's Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Hulst said the game industry, as a whole, has taken a page from Hollywood and focused more on storytelling and character build-up.

"You see more talent from Hollywood gravitating to games and more focus from the game developers on story and character creation and improved dialogue," Hulst said. "The game industry is a maturing entertainment medium and the competitive landscape for consumers' time, whether it's playing games or watching movies or TV shows, has evolved."

Hulst added that while game play is still the driving force for success, the next frontier in interactive entertainment puts more emphasis on the background story, the execution of the dialogue, and the way you build characters up.

Killzone 3 was designed with that in mind. And the game adds another dimension of immersion with the stereo 3D experience on PS3.

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