Killzone 3 Review
Game: Killzone 3
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Available on: PlayStation 3 Only
For PlayStation 3 owners, the excitement around a new Killzone title is akin to that of the Halo franchise on the Xbox 360, all thanks to the phenomenal Killzone 2 which showed the true power of Sony’s console whilst offering something a little different when it comes to the feel of a first person shooter.
It’s a harsh world out there though, and Killzone 3 has to compete with the Call of Duty franchise for its loyal multiplayer users. Does Killzone 3 do enough to steal the “FPS King” crown, or does it fall short? Read on to find out.
STORY: Taking place directly after the events from Killzone 2, you’ll again resume your role as Tomas “Sev” Sevchenko, fighting alongside Rico Velasquez against the Helghan army, charmingly referred to as “Higs”. Without spoiling too much, Rico is a lot more likeable this time around, his role as moron is filled by their commanding officer (Narville) and even more so by the despicable Jorhan Stahl, CEO of Stahl Arms, the company founded by his father that supplies all the most vicious weaponry to the Helghan army.
Whilst the story isn’t going to be regarded with time as “one of the all time classics”, it is certainly an improvement over its predecessor. With Scolar Visari out of the way, the Helghan forces are without his leadership, which in turn leads to an internal power struggle between the high-ups in the Helghast forces, specifically Jorhan Stahl and Admiral Orlock.
Killzone 3 benefits from jumping around slightly with its passage of time, so instead of the story taking place of a matter of days (as with Killzone 2), it in fact takes place over a period of months. Eventually though it settles down into a definitive period of time for you to push through to the end, which is actually rather gratifying, as it does take a little while to settle itself at times.
Thankfully, it doesn’t take itself too seriously this time around either, some humourous moments are thrown in for good measure. They are pretty easy to telegraph, but it’s an excellent sign that Guerrilla Games know they aren’t trying to tell the greatest story ever and have included some silly moments to lighten the mood. There are moments you’ll either love or hate, but generally speaking you will at least care what is happening to the main characters.
GRAPHICS: It’s almost impossible to overstate quite how incredible Killzone 3 looks. A few minutes into the title you will be blown away by the interior design, the depth of field and the general definition of absolutely everything that is on screen. All of the trailers and screenshots you may have seen to date, none of them do justice to seeing this game in motion.
Despite the game taking place, at times, in a wartorn battlezone, Guerrilla have managed to avoid the pitfalls of generic blandness and instead have somehow made the world colourful, pretty even! You’ll explore jungles, warzones and even snowy refineries, and to the very last, the game looks exceptional in every way.
Beyond the simplicities of environment though, the world is teaming with life. The insects and plants are all alive on Helghan, and they add depth and immersion to a wonderfully rendered universe. It isn’t hyperbole to say that is the best looking first person shooter ever made, maybe one of the best looking titles ever made regardless of genre!
SOUND: The soundtrack is actually the first thing that hits you when you first put the disc into your PlayStation 3. The opening story exposition contains the main theme which has a stunning arrangement, lending emotion and sense of occasion to everything you are seeing. Throughout the events of the game, the soundtrack is another star of the Killzone 3 show. Thanks to incredible work of returning composer Joris de Man, this is a soundtrack you’ll be wanting to purchase!
The voice acting is actually rather excellent as well, with a little less over-the-top performance this time around. Malcolm McDowell and Ray Winstone (as Jorhan Stahl and Admiral Orlock) absolutely knock it out of the park. Believable characters that, combined with the visuals, convey a real sense of importance, making you truly feel a part of the Killzone universe. You’ll feel for the characters because they are trying so damn hard in a futile endevour and you’ll despise the characters wanting to cause destruction, spreading malevolence and dismay wherever they go.
Sadly, there are occasions where you get oddities such as Rico saying one thing to you, then interrupting himself to say another. This may be due to you running ahead, but with him constantly telling you to “shadow” him, sometimes you just want to take the lead!
GAMEPLAY: As with any first person shooter, Killzone 3 lives and dies by how well it plays with a gun in hand, and in that respect, there are few equals. Complaints brought forward from the previous title have been addressed and handling weaponry is a joy, with some seriously weighty feeling guns. The combat feels more refined, whilst still retaining that heavy naturalistic feeling. This is what gives Killzone it’s unique feel though, every weapon has girth, power and a different feeling to it. Every successful kill has a realistic feel to it, you almost feel like you’re taking down someone real as opposed to a lifeless ragdoll. Killzone 3 also feels slightly quicker than its predcessor and thanks to this, both movement and aiming is incredibly precise. Simply put, Killzone 3 is an absolute joy to control.
Brutal kills are a new feature and brutal is certainly a fantastic word for this kill method. Gouging out a Helghan soldier’s eyes or slitting his throat never gets boring. In fact, such is the lure of these visceral kills you’ll often lose your own life just because you wanted to run ahead (the feeling of running in this game is intense) and enact a brutal kill, not knowing your opponent has backup.
Speaking of backup, new to Killzone 3 is the ability of the leading AI characters to revive you if you are downed during battle. Previously, only you could revive them (and still can) but now they can also bring you back from the brink. This really comes in handy, especially on harder difficulty settings. Rico won’t be suicidal about it though, he’ll come when it’s safe. That said, it can be frustrating as sometimes you will be able to see Rico or Narville, so close to you, yet they won’t revive you! On the whole though, it’s a welcome addition and works more often than not.
Vehicle sections are often frowned up on in the FPS genre, but Killzone 3 has some of the most fun and action packed vehicular experiences in a long time. From gunning down enemies whilst onboard a dropship to flying around in a jet pack, each vehicle section is an incredible amount of fun. The game actually offers quite a few vehicle sections throughout its course, but it would be unfair to spoil the surprise by revealing the exact content!
Killzone 3 isn’t perfect though, there are a few occasions where the immersion is well and truly broken by some strange choices. You will frequently lose your weapon loadout between levels, for no apparent reason. The cut-scene integration is less than stellar, rather than be smooth transitions they are rather deliberate and blunt. The occasional slowdown (more prevalent in co-op) can upset the balance too and you are left wondering if an install option should have been included, as the game is constantly streaming from the disc.
Of course, Killzone 3 is fully enabled with PlayStation Move motion controls and they are implemented in a way that they feel completely natural. After calibration you will almost certainly have to adjust some settings to meet your own personal needs. When you have it all set up though (if you find it too fiddly, be sure to adjust your bounding box settings as they are usually the culprits), it becomes a wonderful addition, or perhaps, alternative to playing with the Sixaxis/DualShock 3. Most people will probably go back to the DualShock, but if you don’t at least have a go with Move controls, you will truly be missing out on a really interesting method to play Killzone 3. Perhaps the hardcore now have a reason to invest in the Move technology, it’s just that good!
Included in Killzone 3 for the first time is co-op campaign, sadly though this is offline split-screen only. Playing the co-op campaign from start to finish is actually the same as playing the single player, only you have an additional soldier alongside Sev all the time in the form of Nakto (from the previous game). Nakto is never in cut-scenes and save for a few additional lines of dialouge (“Nakto is down, go save him” or “Your buddy is down Natko, go help him”) he may as well be a ghost.
Performance rarely suffers during co-op and in truth, despite the lack of any real appearance from Nakto, the game lends itself extremely well to co-op play, allowing you to outflank enemies whilst your partner draws their fire. Guerrilla have publically said they felt that online co-op wouldn’t have worked and that’s a statement which you can’t help but be baffled by. If you played as Sev and Rico this may have been understandable, but given that co-op adds Nakto into the mix (who is with Sev at all times), the lack of online support for this mode is difficult to fathom. There are opportunities in the campaign that could have allowed for split paths (much like the Gears of War co-op) but they don’t take that route, meaning you are never far from your partner. Again, the lack of online co-op is rather puzzling.
LONGEVITY: The single player campaign, on the normal difficulty setting, will take you between 6 and 8 hours, though experienced players could clock it it under 6. There aren’t any collectibles (there were in Killzone 2) and the only real impetus to play through it again is for any trophies you may have missed or to complete the campaign on a higher difficulty.
On the higher difficulties the game will test even the most skilled player (you can even turn off the hud and aiming reticule), elongating the experience, but on the other hand, co-op significantly reduces the length. Complaints aimed at the campaign length though are slightly misguided. Killzone 3 has an enjoyable story arc from start to finish, with a few excellent tricks up its sleeve. Any longer and it just wouldn’t be as fun.
It’d be remiss not to mention the fantastic “Botzone” mode. An offline version of the multiplayer, this is an excellent place to hone your skills, allowing you to get to know the maps and gametypes whilst setting the enemy AI to whatever you feel suits your level.
The proper online multiplayer is what gives the game its staying power though, it has an amazing amount of depth. The various different classes combined with plentiful unlocks adds up to a muliplayer mode with some serious longevity. Sadly, at the time of writing, the multiplayer servers were not active but Guerrilla seem dead set on supporting the title properly, even announcing an post-launch patch they have designed with the information reported from the multiplayer beta.
With map packs already announced for the future, it seems Killzone 3 will be able to live in your disc tray for as long as Guerrilla support it.
VERDICT: Killzone 3 has both the style and substance to make any other FPS look like childs play. With visuals to die for, a stunning soundtrack and action sequences like no other, you will be left wondering how your console isn’t bursting into flames. Killzone 3 is an utterly essential title that is yet another fantastic reason for people to own a PlayStation 3. Sony and Guerrilla Games have another hit on their hands, buy it now!