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Review

Review: Killzone 3

Back to Hel. Beaten and dissected.

Disclaimer: this review contains spoilers for Killzone 2 and vague plot-based discussion for Killzone 3.

Killzone 3′s plot certainly starts with one hell of a curveball, but it’s soon back to business: Visari might be out of the picture – confined to a cameo by the bullet of Rico Velasquez at the conclusion of 2009′s imposing Killzone 2 – but the ISA’s dwindling army is reduced to mere handfuls of surviving soldiers. The story picks up immediately after the last game, Captain Narville and his bunch of plucky heroes struggle to grab so much as a foothold as the Helghan army notches up the defence of its precious planet.

a story worthy of being retold

But it’s not in unity even if it’s in number: internal battles for power in the boardroom of the Helghan filling many an early cut-scene as the exposition for this twisting tale starts to dig in.

Scanty Admiral Orlock might be at the helm but he’s out of his depth, with ageing but deadly arms dealer Jorhan Stahl’s constant heel biting making way for a perfectly pitched midway interval that shows the Dutch developers have really pushed hard to create a story worthy of being retold, even if it loses its way a little bit towards the end.

It’s a tale viewed through two pairs of eyes, though, with the game playable in co-op whether locally in split screen or via the game’s much closer connection between protagonists Tomas Sevchenko and the aforementioned Rico, now cleaner of mouth and far less likely to irritate. It’s a blessing, given that you’ll spend most of the game tied to his side, the previously gung-ho attitude mostly replaced by both a willingness to further the mission and his new found ability to heal the player should he remain alive.

Thankfully, despite a sudden and rather muddled conclusion, it’s also a story generally improved over predecessors, the single-minded, single-angled plot of the forerunners abandoned and substituted with an enjoyable, twisting series of events that illustrate a certain sense of maturity even if the on-screen action remains brutally simplistic, save for a select few distinct moments where the player is asked to think a little. The narrative’s entirely linear in structure, though, the pacing dictated and pre-meditated at every junction, and you’ll spot a few cheeky references to other shooters along the way.

moments of genuine surprise

Indeed, Killzone 3 occasionally gets caught up between innovation and imitation, the decisive moments of genuine surprise and originality mixed in with tributes and love letters to shooters past. Not least of all Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, a game Guerrilla apes to some effect during a stand-out early stealth section where you’re told – over raspy, whispered comms – to stay low in the grass and take out the enemy silently.

It’s a particularly dawdling but otherwise enjoyable punctuation in what had been a good couple of hours prior of bombastic, hardcore shooting; the speed halted for a delicate recon mission before getting back to business at the level’s halfway stage, your muffled, scoped rifle making way for the welcome return of ear-splittingly loud heavy machine guns and rocket launchers. The notion that your team is always outnumbered, desperate, losing, remains true throughout the nine mission campaign, however, no matter what firepower you’re packing: a central motif.

It’s the introduction of jet packs that truly impresses, though, evening up the odds temporarily as the remaining ISA troops stage a daring rescue mission; the flight handled with typical Guerrilla weight and gravity and the mounted machine gun particularly adept at softening up Helghan armour for the time it’s available – not that they’re the only diversion to the on-foot proceedings, mind, but they’re certainly the most fun, and help turn an otherwise ordinary section into something quite spectacular.

as dynamic and explosive as the last game

Not that Killzone 3 really requires any more spectacle – it’s every bit as dynamic and explosive as the last game and whilst there’s a certain amount of graphical flash dialled down this time around (most noticeably the processor heavy motion blur) it’s made way for the ability to throw around much more on-screen action – and of course, the option to play through the game in co-op or 3D, two new features that meant some things had to go.

It’s still a great looking game in places, though – the richer palette, the dusty, grainy overlay and the amped up particle effects making the whole thing rather filmic in quality – despite a few blurry textures and a slightly unfinished looking explosion when you take down any of the armoured Helghan vehicles. It might not blow you away to the same level as Killzone 2 did but there have been enough advances in character animation and breadth of location that any rough edges are soon forgotten in the heat of battle.

And besides, the much tighter, more immediate controls are a blessing to anyone that found the slightly ‘laggy’, physics-laden movement something of a slog in the last game.  The crosshairs are snappier, your character turns and moves more quickly and the whole thing feels like it’s been given a bit of a boost. As we said in our hands-on preview, it’s still not as spritely as some similar titles but we think the developers have got the balance between weight and finesse just about right this time.

But fans of the multiplayer aspect of Killzone 2 will know that the story mode is really only the entree, and these players will really appreciate the tweaks and adjustments Guerrilla have made to Killzone 3′s online portion, which offers a richer, more diverse set of options. Expanding the already rather comprehensive setup was no small task, but the developers have added intelligent match-making for those that just want to jump in and have fun and have made a smaller, more immediate version of Warzone called Guerrilla Warfare which lasts just 10 minutes.

it’s going to prove very popular

In addition, they’ve crafted an all new multiplayer mode called Operations, which essentially gives you a mini campaign told from two distinct sides, complete with real-time cut-scenes. This all new mode, which supports 8 vs 8 match-ups, involves the ISA trying to occupy a MAWLR mech whilst the Helghast do their upmost to stop them – it’s played out in three acts (with each one offering a variation of familiar modes like Capture and Hold) and is a really nice diversion. If this is supported with new missions in the future, it’s going to prove very popular, but the game comes with three out of the box.

Also of note is the brand new Botzone, a single player version of the multiplayer game, which allows players to practise the various game types and hone their skills – it’s particularly useful with the Operations mode, because it’ll mean you can pick up the maps and the various aspects of each campaign before you head online. The bots are smart, too, using all their abilities and working as a team as required.

However, it’s the standard Warzone that most will be familiar with – and it’s been spruced up a little too: there’s now 26 weapons (including 5 handguns) and 30 abilities which this time you can unlock in any order, meaning that you don’t need to spend weeks with the game to get the best stuff: simply spend the Ability Points you earn on whatever you choose. The game starts with a few unlocked, like the shotgun-equipped Infiltrator’s enemy disguise, and abilities can be shared as you flick back and forth between classes.

As a multiplayer game, then, Killzone 3 will rise to the top of many a PS3 owner’s collection.  As a single player game it’s really good – inventive, impressive, even smart in places, but generally playing to familiar strengths: solid gunplay, but wholly linear, and rarely pushing the envelope in terms of gameplay mechanics. Although, there is that final few minutes, technically another on-rails shooter section but completely at odds with everything else you’ve played over the last eight hours – a few more of those next time, please guys.

Guerrilla have done a fine job pushing the PS3 to its limits – and Killzone 2 fans will love this to bits.

Pros:

  • Often beautiful visuals, much more varied thematically over Killzone 2 but always consistent
  • Improved story
  • Less swearing, more cut-scenes, more mature production
  • Slicker controls mean less perceived ‘lag’
  • Rico: he came good
  • Multiplayer will no doubt last until the next one

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have the same wow factor as Killzone 2 did
  • Some sticking points with the difficulty curve
  • Ending lacks clarity, but leaves the door wide open for Killzone 4

Killzone 2 fans will lap up this continuation of one of the PS3′s best games. It’s a well made game with a much better story, more rounded characters and oodles more variety.  Gone are the sole dull greys and browns of Helghan of old, the planet now serving up rich jungles and snowy outposts in amongst the heavy metal of the urban settings, and it’s all the better for it. It’s not perfect, but it’s smart enough to know that, instead offering a ballistic run-through that’ll keep you busy until it’s complete.

And then there’s Elite mode, and that all-encompassing multiplayer…

Score: 9/10

Reviewer’s notes: this review was done from debug code marked as ‘review’. It suffered from a few disk-based bugs, such as repeating voice samples, a seemingly cut short ending sequence and stuttered loading breaks that we have, for the purposes of the score, ignored and assumed will be fixed by release.

In addition, the multiplayer aspect was based on a specially organised media event where everything worked flawlessly – we assume, given the quality of Killzone 2′s online play, that this will carry over to the retail version. It was impossible to test in real world conditions as very few people had the game at the time of going to press.

Read more: #
91 Comments
  1. nofi
    One for all.
    Since: Forever

    Enjoy.

    Comment posted on 03/02/2011 at 17:02.
    • Jaffa-the-Cake
      Member
      Since: Oct 2010

      Very good review. I was very fond of KZ2 multiplayer but the close release of COD was its downfall. This time though COD has gone downhill so more people will be willing to pick this up and adopt it as their staple online game.

      Comment posted on 03/02/2011 at 17:17.
    • Tuffcub
      On the naughty step.
      Since: Dec 2008

      So does this mean you will be joining the TSA Bootcamps? :) Excellent review squire.

      Comment posted on 03/02/2011 at 17:18.
      • Jaffa-the-Cake
        Member
        Since: Oct 2010

        Definitley. Ive been playing the open beta most of the day, like it alot. The only complaint I have is it seems to take an age to kill someone. I emptied a whole magazine of the LMG into one ISA soldier and he was still standing.

        Comment posted on 03/02/2011 at 17:28.
      • rht992
        Member
        Since: Apr 2009

        i’ll be back into the battle as soon as i can but i’m out of the country on holiday when the game comes out :(

        Comment posted on 03/02/2011 at 20:39.
    • BIGAL-1992
      Member
      Since: Jan 2009

      Cheers nofi. sounds like a winner already.

      Comment posted on 03/02/2011 at 17:37.
    • Bilbo_bobbins
      Member
      Since: Jun 2009

      excellent review, thanks Nofi. I’m enjoying the MP beta at the moment and can’t wait for the full game.

      Comment posted on 07/02/2011 at 09:34.
  2. teflon
    Community Team
    Since: May 2009

    All I’ve read is the disclaimer, and the Pro’s/Con’s. I’m aiming for the fewest possible spoilers of the story as possible….

    Quite enjoying the MP Open Beta, but I’m not yet decided how it stacks up to KZ2. Feels like people die quicker, but perhaps I’m just a bit more awesome…

    Comment posted on 03/02/2011 at 17:05.
    • TheShepanator
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      The only spoilers I noticed were very tiny, and stuff you’ll already know if you’ve watched the trailers.

      Comment posted on 03/02/2011 at 18:54.
      • teflon
        Community Team
        Since: May 2009

        I haven’t watched the trailers either.

        Comment posted on 03/02/2011 at 19:05.
      • rht992
        Member
        Since: Apr 2009

        watch out bruce willis is a ghost!

        Comment posted on 03/02/2011 at 20:43.
      • slates16
        Member
        Since: Apr 2009

        aw man you just ruined Die Hard 4 on me

        Comment posted on 04/02/2011 at 13:45.
      • rht992
        Member
        Since: Apr 2009

        don’t worry the film didn’t have a story anyway

        Comment posted on 04/02/2011 at 14:04.
  3. Origami Killer
    Member
    Since: May 2010

    sorry havnt read yet, will do in a min, but only a 9, was expecting aperfect 10 :P

    and this post was just to thanks guys and TSA as the reviews are great on the website

    Comment posted on 03/02/2011 at 17:06.
  4. philbert8
    The Frankie Boyle Of TSA
    Since: Sep 2010

    Did you try it with the Move?

    Comment posted on 03/02/2011 at 17:07.
    • scavenga
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      I was wondering about that as well

      Comment posted on 03/02/2011 at 18:30.
    • MaD dOctoR 79
      Member
      Since: Dec 2010

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=levDGb1FY6E

      tells you all you need to know about move :)

      Comment posted on 04/02/2011 at 02:13.
      • cc_star
        Team TSA: Writer
        Since: Forever

        One of the most amazing vids I’ve seen.

        It tells you absolutely EVERYTHING

        Comment posted on 04/02/2011 at 02:18.
      • seedaripper1973
        Member
        Since: Forever

        The iwaggle3d chap is so fucking concise it makes my ears bleed…love his site and his endearing intrepid descent into anything ‘Move’ enabled…i suggest you bookmark it, if your’e interested in anything ‘move’…top stuff

        Comment posted on 04/02/2011 at 05:05.
  5. StevenHibs
    Member
    Since: Oct 2009

    Nice review, I’m looking forward to playing this both offline and online !

    Comment posted on 03/02/2011 at 17:08.
  6. SilverCider
    Member
    Since: Jan 2011

    Great review, I cannot wait for it’s release!

    Comment posted on 03/02/2011 at 17:09.
  7. spooferbarnabas
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    Great review Nofi! I’m really looking forward to the campaign….not so sure the mp will be long-lasting with the changes they’ve made but time will tell :)

    Comment posted on 03/02/2011 at 17:12.
  8. heywoodstock
    Member
    Since: Oct 2010

    Magnificent review as normal, nofi. Looks like the Helghast’s return is much welcomed, I can’t wait to see what Guerilla serve up with DLC. If the Dutch developers keep supporting this I indeed agree it will be very, very popular. Roll on the February release date.

    Comment posted on 03/02/2011 at 17:13.
  9. justboy
    Member
    Since: Jul 2010

    I really can’t wait to play this. bigger and better than killzone 2? yes please! I would have thought there would be an review embargo until closer to the release date.

    Comment posted on 03/02/2011 at 17:16.
  10. webby_15-0
    Member
    Since: May 2009

    i didn’t like killzone 2 so i think i’ll give this one a miss. it was just so dark and gloomy.

    Comment posted on 03/02/2011 at 17:17.
    • BIGAL-1992
      Member
      Since: Jan 2009

      It brighter in killzone 3.

      Comment posted on 03/02/2011 at 17:42.
    • posem
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      haven’t actually played 2, yet have had the K3 beta on my xmb since november. Its snowy

      Comment posted on 04/02/2011 at 11:57.

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