Killzone 3 Review

Developer: Guerrilla Games / Publisher: SCEA / ESRB: Mature (Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language) / Played On: PlayStation 3 / Price: $59.99

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Ask a group of gamers their opinions of Killzone 2 and you’ll inevitably get a myriad of different answers. Many criticized the slow controls for being too sluggish while others found them to have a “weighty,” more realistic feel than most other shooters. Some knocked the story for being uninspired while others praised the game’s unparalleled visuals. Whichever side of the fence you fell on, there’s no denying that Killzone has always lived in the shadow of the “bigger” first person shooters on the market. While the release of Killzone 3 may not change this, it does make a pretty damn good case for why you should own a PS3. The balls-to-the-wall single player campaign, refreshingly fun multiplayer, and overall improved mechanics make for a markedly superior experience to its predecessor.

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Story

After pulling a brief “Quentin Taratino” by showcasing events six months in the future, Killzone 3 picks up minutes after the conclusion of Killzone 2. The game once again plops you in the shoes of ISA solider Tomas Sevchenko (AKA Sev) during the invasion of the homeworld of the Helghast, a race of humanoids with advanced military technology and an itch to colonize. You’re immediately reminded about fellow Alpha Team member Rico Velasquez’s execution of Helghast leader, Emperor Scolar Visari and the nuke that was detonated in the capital city at the conclusion of Killzone 2. It’s then out of the oven and into the Helghan frying pan as Sev attempts to unravel the Helghast plot to attack Earth with a newly developed biological weapon.

Meanwhile the Helghan government is in a state of disarray. Their council of evil white men can’t decide how to deal with the invading ISA forces or who should lead the charge in the wake of their leader’s death. Both Jorhan Stahl, head of the Helghan army’s private weapons manufacturing organization and Admiral Orlock, the Helghast military commander are vying for the seat of control. This puts Alpha Team right in Stahl’s crosshairs as he looks to bring Visari’s killers to justice.

The story (and the Killzone universe as a whole for that matter) often feels like a mishmash of just about every other popular sci-fi and action story to come out over the last ten years. You have the rag-tag group of space marines hell bent on thwarting the plans of the evil totalitarian bad guys, the charismatic badass protagonist, the asshole captain barking orders, and just about every other cliche that’s beyond played out at this point. That being said, the game is pretty up front with the straightforward nature of its narrative, keeping the exposition short and sweet in order to make room for maximum Helghast face-shooting. Which, let’s be honest, is probably why you’re coming to Killzone 3 in the first place.

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Gameplay

At first, you may peg Killzone 3 as a carbon copy of its predecessor, but some subtle tweaks and significant gameplay additions make for a notably enhanced experience over Killzone 2. Of course, controls are always going to be a point of contention with this franchise but it’s clear Guerrilla took much of the feedback to heart when building Killzone 3. Shooter fans should be happy to hear that the slow, floaty nature-ness” of the controls has been adjusted. Expect tighter, more precise aiming, comparable even to the Call of Duty series. While this will no doubt ensure that Killzone 3 will feel at home in the hands of more gamers, it also means the unique, immersive feel of Killzone 2 has been lost in translation a little. A bummer if that’s something you enjoyed.

Without question, one of Killzone 3’s biggest strengths is the pacing and variety within the single-player campaign. When Sev isn’t ducking behind cover and shooting Higs, he’s piloting a badass mech, stealthing through a Helghan jungle, racing on a future snow mobile, and flying around in the jetpack (the jetpack sequences are especially memorable and easily made up some of my personal favorite moments during the campaign). Not only are all these different elements implemented naturally, controlling just as you’d expect, but the game never dilly-dallies on them, keeping the gameplay throughout each of the campaign levels feeling fresh.

You’re almost always running with an AI-controlled partner and not only will they actually kill enemies but they’ll also revive you when you go down, seriously mitigating the frustration of dying, something that Killzone 2 didn’t do so well. Additionally, Killzone 3 introduces a new “Brutal Melee” system. Clicking in the right thumb stick while close to an enemy will cause you to slit their throat, poke their eyeballs out, or something else as equally fantastic and gory. And did I mention the jet packs yet?

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Graphics

I’ll go out on a limb and say that Killzone 3 is easily one of the best looking console games I’ve ever seen. Period. From a technical perspective the fidelity of the animations and textures are unmatched. But it’s Killzone’s art direction that makes it so enjoyable. The game’s lighting, motion blur, and particle effects combined with the bold color palette of whites and reds really do a lot to enhance the otherwise dull gunmetal gray that has dominated the Killzone universe.

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Multiplayer

The objective-based multiplayer of Killzone really hits its stride in Killzone 3. Pitting Helghast against the ISA, match objectives update on-the-fly. One minute you’re capturing a control point, the next you’re be planting explosives on a door or hunting a VIP. But of course, there’s also a team deathmatch mode available for you meat and potato guys.

As you progress, you’ll earn unlock points that can be spent on new weapons or abilities for each class. Building turrets, enhancing your radar, the ability to disguise yourself as the other team, and launching support robots are just a few examples of special multiplayer functions. It definitely gives the game a slight Team Fortress 2 vibe.

While the competitive multiplayer will rock your face, the implementation of co-op in Killzone 3 is a little disappointing — specifically the lack of online co-op in any fashion. The game supports full, local splitscreen co-op but nothing for the online crowd. This feels like a huge oversight on the part of Guerrilla Games. Especially when other shooters have done it so well in the past.

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Bottom Line

The release of Killzone 3 will not skyrocket the franchise into a level of popularity beyond the other two big shooters. The Killzone franchise lacks a distinct identity. Identity is  in my mind, a huge reason for the success of Call of Duty and Halo That being said, there’s enough here to make Killzone 3 a pretty worthwhile package for shooter fans, especially those that own only PS3s.

8.5/10

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