Killzone games have a few notable attributes: Graphics that show off the power of Sony's gaming hardware. Smart enemies. Dumb stories. And a main character who's several feet shorter than every other person in the game.
For me, it was one of those "Once you see it, you can't unsee it" kind of things. Someone pointed out to me that when Killzone 2's protagonist Sev ran up to another character, his head came up to their chest. Since then, I couldn't not notice it.
It's not that it's a bad thing, really — who says that the protagonist of a video game can't be a little bit shorter than everyone else! But there was still something off about it. It didn't seem like a deliberate character decision; it just seemed like the guys making the game hadn't noticed.
Last week at a Sony PS4 press event, I asked Guerrilla Games lead designer Eric Boltjes about the character height. "It's odd," he said, "when you work on a game, some things that are blatantly obvious to people that are playing it for the first time, you kind of really don't see."
Will the protagonist in their upcoming PS4 launch game Killzone Shadow Fall be taller? Boltjes laughed, and answered in the affirmative. "Well, some stuff has changed in the way we do first-person cameras. So, it looks like he is [taller]. The camera is slightly higher on where we project him. So, yes."
In fact, Boltjes said that one of the first things Guerrilla did when beginning work on their upcoming sequel was rework their protagonist's height.
"We basically redid most of our animation model for first-person," he said. "And one of the first things we said was well, in Killzone 3, you walked up to a guy and you were looking at his chest. And we were like, well, that needs to be fixed. So that's what we did."
My general impressions after playing a couple levels of Shadow Fall: The game plays much more snappily than past Killzone games. Killzone 2 was the last game in the series I sank any real time into, and Shadow Fall feels much lighter and more responsive. Aiming felt good with the PS4's new controller, and the game certainly looks lovely. The story still seems like a bunch of overserious nonsense, but I've never really liked the Killzone games for their stories. It's out in a couple of weeks, so I and the rest of Kotaku will have a much more complete sense of the game soon.
One other noteworthy tweak: I asked Boltjes if they'd adjusted the awkwardness of using a sniper rifle. Which, as lampooned by Mitch Krpata in a now-classic Insult Swordfighting blog post, often seemed like it required three hands to operate.
"They're a little bit easier," Boltjes allowed. "Basically, you can zoom, you have to aim, you have to fire, you can also change the zoom distance depending on which sniper rifle and which scope you have, so that needs almost five fingers if you want to do that right."
I offered that hey, in real life, sniper rifles aren't exactly easy to use. "It shouldn't be easy, right?" Boltjes said. "Because usually it's a one-shot kill, we don't want to make it too powerful. It should take a lot of skill to get that kill. So hopefully you'll see that in this game."
We'll have more on Shadow Fall soon, as we'll be playing and reviewing the finished game.