Does Killzone 2 reflect the PS3's full potential?

It's always fascinating to look back at the early shots of flagship games for new consoles – to dream of what might have been, to rue what wasn't, or even to make grunts of sheer surprise that it did actually work out as planned.

As a case in point, today sees the release of Killzone 2 – the current great white hope for the Playstation 3, and sequel to the first-person shooter that was once mooted as the Playstation 2's Halo-killer.

Killzone 2's been one of the vanguards of the Playstation 3 marketing push since 2005, when an E3 video, presumed by many to be in-engine footage, but in fact was an optimistic 'target render', wowed the crowds into thinking Sony's upcoming console would be some kind of technological revolution.

Fast forward four years and it's a very different story. The Playstation 3 has, though it's recovered a little from its initial sales doldrums, become something of an underdog platform.

The Xbox 360 is now the console of choice for the habitual gamer, while the Wii has the family/casual vote all sewn up. The net result for the PS3 is, in internet discussion circles, a peculiarly hyper-defensive fanbase who seemingly blame the rest of the world for their champion's fall from grace.

Last year's Metal Gear Solid 4 was supposed to be PS3's shining light, but despite its followers' tendencies to viciously tear any dissenter to pieces, it hardly drew the console's popularity level with the 360. Much, then, relies on Killzone 2.

Killzone 2 biggest PS3 game yet?

As a hyper-violent, militaristic first-person shooter set in a bleak near-future, it ticks all the current best-seller boxes. And while it has little to no interest in pushing the medium forward beyond its surface-level whizzbang, it's hard to imagine a title more precisely tailored to the archetypal gaming audience of 2009.

There's a good chance it'll be the PS3's biggest yet. It's already become the most pre-ordered PS3 title ever – what remains to be seen is if it can sell any more PS3s. Speculation has it there's another PS3 price-cut in the offing – so KZ2 could be the first move in a two-step plan to win back gamers' goodwill.

It's certainly a great-looking game, but cast your mind and eyes back to those first videos in 2005 and it's hard not to think that, had KZ2 really looked like that, the PS3 would surely be more in ascendancy today.

KZ2 may not quite live up to either those first videos or to the rather more truthful, but still tinkered-with shots that followed in 2007, but it's certainly the PS3's most spectacular-looking game by far.

While its characters can't quite shake that uncanny marionette feel common to a great many games new and old, it's the little details that make it – incidental clutter and dust, distant scenery and thumping great explosions.

The sort of stuff that tricks you into thinking there's a world around you, and you're not really just trudging down pre-determined paths while waving a cursor around. Photo-real it isn't, but – aside from an unfortunate over-reliance on the colour grey – it's about as good as console graphics get today.