Developer: Guerrilla Games / Publisher: SCEA / ESRB: M
The first thing that needs to be said about Killzone 3 is that it’s one of the prettiest (if not the prettiest) shooters ever. From the moment you start playing, you’ll feel the scale and magnitude of the game communicated through its visuals. The stone rubble you’re taking cover behind feels gritty and dirty. The guns you wield will cover you in the weariness of war through their rough textures and used look. Every piece of Killzone 3 feels like it’s been shot at with a full clip, dropped from a thousand feet, and covered in dirt and steel.
Playing through this kind of environment helps enhance what Killzone 3 is going for: set-piece moments. Like Uncharted 2 before it, Killzone 3 seems to be ratcheting up the wow-factor with grand scale intensity. In our brief preview with the game, we were tasked with taking down a titanic Helghast mech that was rampaging through the streets of the Helghast capital. Because Killzone 3 takes place immediately after the ending of Killzone 2, you’ll be thrown into the thick of Killzone 2‘s aftermath without delay. Between Helghast reinforcements, mortar and machine gun fire from the hulking titan, and destructible cover, there was never a safe moment while trying to accomplish the mission.
And that was the real takeaway: the pacing of this particular mission was top-notch. There was always a Helghast threat throwing itself at you. Once it had been dispatched, you barely had a second to breathe before the next one would launch, with the final segment of our playable time culminating in an epic airborne battle between the ISA and the gargantuan Helghast war machine. If the entire game can keep the level of pacing, it’s going to be an amazing ride.
While we didn’t get a chance to see any of the game’s promised new environments, we did sample the new melee combat system, which is very reminiscient of Condemned 2‘s context sensitive brutality. When you get close to an enemy, you’ll be prompted to press L1, which usually will cause Sev (your character) to pisto whip, punch, or otherwise incapacitate your foe. Pressing L1 again will cause Sev to murder with great vigor. In one instance, I threw a Helghast face-first into a wall, where he then collapsed. In another, Sev brandished a knife and slit the enemy’s throat three inches away from the game camera. Either way, it was a satisfying, awful end for the enemy and made me feel like a badass.
The controls, too, feel much tighter this time around. Killzone 2 earned some ire for its “on-the-end-of-a-string” feel while aiming, but Killzone 3 seems to be less wobbly, which made shooting way more fun.
Guerrilla Games has also promised less swearing in this third installment, but from as far as I can tell, the testosterone-infused war story features just as many F-bombs as its predecessor. While nobody should be expecting King Lear, the characters here aren’t exactly unfamiliar. If you’ve played a gritty, futuristic war game, you know what to expect. There is one note on the dialogue, though, that I feel deserves special mention: despite the subject matter, the voice acting was impressive to me in its continuity. Usually when games record VO, the actors do their lines separate from one another. While previewing Killzone 3, the interactions between characters really felt natural, like the actors all recorded at the same time and played off each other. Whether or not that actual occurred is unknown, but the rapport between characters certainly sounds good.
Killzone 3 launches on February 22, so it won’t be too much longer to resume the fight against the Helghast. A host of minor tweaks and the same level of detailed visual polish will lead Sony’s 2011 PS3 charge.