The Killzone 3 developers were inspired by many things, including a flea.
They've got a flea in their new first-person shooter. It is 280m tall and more of a walking tank with flea-like dimensions, including a big body, spindly legs, a forward-tilted tilted head and a look of no apparent kindness.
The flea in Killzone 3 is called the MAWLR. It's a massive enemy tank and was the centerpiece for what Herman Hulst, managing director for the Dutch studio Guerilla Games that is making the February 22 PlayStation 3 exclusive, wanted to show me about his upcoming game.
The MAWLR does make for a great talking point. It's the kind of object in a video game a lot of developers would like to brag about. It's a virtual 280 meters tall, Hulst said (that's more than 900 feet, my fellow Americans). It's got as much detail in it as an entire level of Killzone 2, which itself was an amazingly-detailed PlayStation 3 game.
OK. It's big. I think you can see that clearly. Screenshots like the ones we have here for the MAWLR sometimes look better than what's really in a game. That's true here, but do not doubt the impressiveness of the MAWLR. (Click any of the shots here to enlarge them and gawk more.)
Hulst played Killzone 3, fighting this MAWLR, while I talked to him. He was in a level of the game that is built around this monstrosity. You fight it on foot, shooting up at heating vents or something, making stuff explode as if you were trying to shoot the top off an angry, walking mountain from down at base camp. You fight it from cover. You fight it from the air when you get on an automatically-controlled floating platform and coast around this thing, blasting it until it's left as formidable a foe as a squashed flea.
Hulst fared well at Killzone 3 except for the moment when he discovered, while under heavy fire, that the pervious person playing the game had switched to a Call of Duty control scheme. He brought me back to an old Metal Gear Solid 4 bit of hype when he mentioned that one of the operating principles for conflicts in Killzone 3 is that there won't be anywhere safe to hide. The MAWLR was busting down the walls from where Hulst was firing. He had to keep running as he was gunning.
The chaos Hulst showed me seemed like the kind of chaos made for two. You can play the mission he showed me in co-op, but split-screen only, not online, he said. I think it might be more fun to see the MAWLR un-cut by a split-screen on my TV, though. It is an impressive sight, an Empire Strikes Back walker for this Killzone 3 that has already shown to have a good helping of snow.
Big as the MAWLR is, I couldn't help but notice that it was grey. Guerilla gets knocked for its colour choices sometimes. The games in the series are so grey, so brown. "It's a gritty game," Hulst told me. He's seen the colour criticisms of course. "We're not going to make a pastel-colored game because some people ask for it to be more colorful," he said as he moved into the aerial combat stage of the level. "At the same time, I think there was a need for more variety." He was gunning at this giant flea's head when I noticed how amazing the lighting was all around this giant walker. The lights beaming around it were mostly white and yellow, but they glowed with great brilliance. I complimented Hulst on that, noting of course, this was an impressive display of, well, white. He can't win.
When he said there would be more variety, I thought he might mean Killzone goes to the jungle this game. He didn't want to spoil, but promised me we'd see interesting locations. I asked him if he could at least confirm that the colour green would make a big appearance in this game. "I'll put a green filter in just for you," he replied. Here I was, a journalism flea, annoying him.
The MAWLR fight is spectacular. It looks like it'll be heart-racing and spectacular like a good Call of Duty sequence, but grander and more sci-fi. I don't think the game will feel quite as linear as a CoD, though. Hulst said Killzone's enemies will be smarter in this game than they were in the past. The inability to feel safe thanks to more destruction and craftier enemies - some of whom can fly - is interesting, and would be a good way to keep the levels feeling unpredictable. But if I can know I get to fight a 280-meter flea, I don't mind being able to predict what's coming.