Killzone 3 has its European release today, we get to shoot some guns.
Killzone 3 continues on straight after the events of the previous game and again follows Sev, a Special Forces operative fighting for the ISA (Interplanetary Strategic Alliance) against the Helghast Empire to stop their invasion of Earth. The Helghast Empire is in a state of internal struggle after Visari’s death in the previous game and the main protagonist (Sev) and his comrade Rico are trapped in the cross-fire between the various political factions.
Guerrilla Games had promised that this instalment would give the player a greater appreciation of the evolvement of Helghan and the Helghast Empire. The company also assured players the game would also give them a deeper look into Helghan culture.
Being almost exclusively on XBox with my reviews, it is a little difficult to ignore the massively obvious likeness to the Gears of War series. Although the Killzone franchise was here first, Gears of War 2 was released before Killzone 2 and it was from there the similarities really started to take off. Combat is mostly fought from behind chest-high walls (albeit FPS style for Killzone), close combat is particularly violent, vehicle sections are awful, support characters are legendarily thick and everyone has trouble talking. Considering the latter point, I was surprised to find that Guerrilla Games had said it was curtailing the swearing in Killzone 3. It mentioned the dialogue in the game should be focused on advancing the story rather than "gratuitous" swearing. I didn’t really notice the difference from the second game.
One of the main flaws I have with the game play is it is often difficult to differentiate friend from foe. The most obvious difference between the two being the series-defining gas masks the enemy wears with glowing red eyes, but with a number of levels either being behind enemy lines, stealth and sniper missions or vehicle sections where the NPCs appear as mere specks on the horizon, the difference is very much unnoticeable. Sure, your crosshair turns green when aimed at a friendly but when you have less than a second to determine who to shoot, inevitably a number of support NPCs will die. Plus as mentioned above, the AI is particularly inept and friendlies walk across your line of sight without hesitation, one particular moment for me happened when trying to fire the rocket launcher at an enemy convoy. The support character jumped in the way just as I fired, insta-killing both of us. Frustrating, but bloody funny.
More emphasis has been placed on close-range attacks or as the game likes to term them “brutal melee attacks” and the game really does shine in this aspect, as in some cases it’s almost quicker to walk up to an enemy and snap his neck rather than waste round after round of precious ammo on a seemingly invincible target. Oh, and reloading some of the weapons takes about as much time as a return flight to Sydney.
Just a brief note on multiplayer, it allows supports offline split-screen co-op for two players. With this mode, two players can play the campaign of Killzone 3 offline the co-op mode is not available online. There is also a "Botzone" mode available, where players can set up a multiplayer match, but against AI bots in offline mode. I have not had a chance to test the online multiplayer capabilities yet, one of the flaws of receiving a press copy of a game is that no one else is available to play.
While I’ve never praised the controls on a PS3 (or indeed any PlayStation) they work surprisingly well in this game. The sixaxis is used to great effect in the game. I do feel the motion sensor aspect is in serious danger of just being a gimmick in games like this but when opening doors, turning wheels and setting devices using the technology it all adds to the experience of the game. It has been well documented that Killzone 3 also features full Move support, although unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to try it yet.
Graphics, sound and atmosphere
From pressing start, the game immerses the user in the experience. The graphics are jaw-dropping, not in the pretty sense that most games have to a fine detail, but in a gritty realism kind of way. The ruins of a city look so realistic. Debris breaks from buildings, explosion craters on the roads and bullet holes in the scenery have the distinct realism to them. In a world where next-generation consoles sell themselves on high-end graphics, this game stands out from the crowd. Add to this the 3D support from PlayStation and we could well be on to one of the most graphically advanced games ever.
The story is well scripted, a credit to Guerrilla Games realising the series was in danger of waning and hiring quite a number of professional writers to concentrate solely on the story for this game. With it being so strong in story it was essential to have the voice actors feed emotion into the characters. I did something I’ve never done before after a particularly dramatic cut scene between two characters and checked on IMDB to see who voiced them. It was only Malcolm McDowell and Ray freaking Winstone! Well played, Guerilla Games.
With a number of FPS games not set for release until the autumn, Killzone 3 has stolen a march on the market for now. However, I think this game will last long after other titles, such as Crysis 2 and Duke Nukem Forever have been released. You don’t necessarily need to have played the previous instalments in the series to get a great gaming experience this game but for the sake of the story it does help massively. This instalment does well in connecting the previous editions and giving an insight into the back story of Helghan.
The game play and controls work well together, particular highlights being the sniping sections which are far more playable than most sniping missions in other games. The weapons are varied (with tongues wagging at the new W.A.S.P Launcher, which fires multiple missiles in a single shot) and the atmosphere is immersive. Overall, I like Killzone 3, it has taken a few strides in the right direction after the weak story of the second game. Characters have been refined, needless violence and swearing have been trimmed and game play has been tightened. Oh, and the Nazi references that had all the subtlety of a brick to the face have been reduced, as well. This could be a potential game of the year and we’re only in February.
Would have been an 8/10 but then I remember that it has Malcolm McDowell and Ray freaking Winstone voice acting.