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Why Killzone 3 Doesn't Deserve A '7'

Review scores, eh?

This may contain mild story spoilers.

Here at TSA we often berate those that only pick up on a review’s final score rather than reading the text, but recently, as the reviews for Guerrilla’s Killzone 3 continue to roll in, there’s been a few low scores in amongst the mean that stand out from the crowd.  Indeed, even as Metacritic has the game locked at a superb 86% just now, seeing those sevens at the bottom of the list has prompted me into writing this brief blog.

There are three such reviews bubbling down there, at the time of going to press: two from UK magazines Edge and gamesTM and another from US website Joystiq. Thankfully, as far as I can tell most of the reviews from these publications use the ‘full’ 10/10 scale, so a ‘seven’ is two marks above average – and I’m fully aware of the subjective nature of writing reviews (and don’t claim to always get it right myself) but a seven, to me, seems off.

How off?  Well, during our own review the final score swayed a couple of times between an eight and a nine, not least because I found the single player campaign, whilst much better than Killzone 2’s, followed very familiar paths and personally at least I was hoping for a little less linearity.  But in the grand scheme of things, this tunnelling of the player isn’t unique to Killzone, having been seen in pretty much every FPS since Doom.

  • Follow up to 2009's first person shooter Killzone 2
  • Averaging 86% on Metacritic
  • Scored a 9/10 with TheSixthAxis
But is this lack of originality in the level design really enough to call the single player’s narrative a “travesty”, Joystiq?  Sure, it’s not going to win any awards for scriptwriting and plot but as far as I can see it’s tailored precisely to the game’s audience, something Braben was discussing last week.  It’s simple, narrowminded and needs a little  bit more editing towards the end (unless that was just my copy) but it’s fun, and at least offers a few little twists to keep things interesting.

I also didn’t find the game “dumb” – in fact, although I initially avoided the tougher levels in order to actually get through the game for the embargo, I did test the water on Elite mode and found it actually quite intelligent for a game featuring space marines in space shooting people with space guns.  I’m not apologising for Guerrilla’s design choices here, this is personal opinion, but I actually liked the beefed up cover mechanics and constant pacing, and the AI on Elite is brutal.

I also thought there was enough variety in the game’s levels throughout the story mode to keep things more than fresh – the ice level you’ll presumably all have played by now is a good example but the other eight or so sections revert to the typical Helghan urban sprawl only occasionally, with the sneaky stealth mission we mentioned in our review a distinct diversion.  And besides, it all ends up somewhere quite different indeed.

So is it all “predictable” as gamesTM say?  A little, perhaps, but that’s really a constant of the genre isn’t it?  And to call the single-player the “biggest disappointment of the year so far” seems like an unfair appraisal, at least to me.  I liked the plot development with the two main Helghast bad guys (the outcome of that surely wasn’t obvious) and thought the increased buddying up of Sev and Rico actually worked quite nicely, and I’m sure there’s been worse single player games this year.

Yes, some of the cut-scenes were a little bit ‘gung-ho’ and some sections of the game didn’t work as well as others, but you’ve then got to factor in the multiplayer, which is bigger in every way over Killzone 2.  The current beta might have upset a few of the hardcore but the new Operations mode is neat and the fully realised Botzone mode is the perfect training ground when you’re not quite ready for online.  It’s more accessible, more friendly and easier to get a game.

Obviously, reviews of a game are generally one person’s impressions and thoughts, and a big title like Killzone 3 is going to sell like hot-cakes regardless, but surely it’s worth more than a ‘seven’.  Guerrilla have become the flagbearer for PS3 tech – proper Move support, 3D gaming, split-screen co-op, and even if some reviewers don’t think the third game is quite as good as Killzone 2, we can only urge you to check it out for yourselves.

Killzone 3 is out next week, and scored a 9/10 in our review here.  We’d love to hear what you think about the single player experience once it’s out – why not pin this topic and come back to it then?

Update: although it’s not mentioned in the title, the gamesTM review is a single-player only review, which goes some way to explaining the score awarded. gamesTM will carry a multiplayer review in due course.

  1. JesseDeya
    Since: Jan 2010

    Well said. People love to hate on Killzone for some reason – I think there is some serious Sony hate flowing around the net at the moment what with the GeoHot suing and so on.

    Read Joystiq’s KZ3 review and then go and read their Halo Reach review.


    Joystiq on KZ3 – “Unfortunately, the spectacle of the graphics can’t rectify the travesty that is the game’s narrative. Killzone 2 didn’t have a story, some complained. I’d much rather have nothing than the heavy-handed, absurdly edited tale of Killzone 3. There’s a feature length film’s worth of cutscene tucked away onto the Blu-ray disc, and were it placed into theaters you would walk out in anger and ask for your $12 back. The performances are strong, but the script is miserable. The lack of characterization makes it difficult to care about the plot, and the cutscenes’ inability to convey something as simple as cause and effect makes it impossible to even try.”


    Joystiq on Halo Reach – “The Campaign is easily the series’ best…. Reach, being Bungie’s last Halo game, is a setup for heavy-handed melodrama, but the plot is never that distracting. It’s not much more sophisticated than a decent Saturday morning cartoon, but it fills out the framework of an excellent game and satisfies the broader franchise story arc…. I actually zoned out for several of the cutscenes, simply because I needed a rest. The gameplay is that engaging.”


    Yup, American’s sure do love them some Halo.

    Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 09:16.
    • pachinkoboy
      Since: Feb 2010

      BURN baby Burn!

      Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 09:24.
    • cc_star
      Team TSA: Writer
      Since: Forever

      Brilliant comparison of two pieces of text where each games strengths & weaknesses are comparable, but the writing is skewed downwards & upwards to make a point.

      Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 10:08.
    • Randomguy
      Since: Jan 1970

      Except by the little fact that both reviews were written by completely different guys with completely different opinions. *sigh*

      I don’t see the brilliance in comparing different writers opinions.

      Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 13:44.
      • colossalblue
        Team TSA: Editor
        Since: Forever

        Because it’s interesting to see how two different approaches can shape the perception of similar aspects of a game?

        Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 13:49.
    • Lord_Gremlin
      Since: Nov 2009

      Wow, it’s all clear now. Sucking on microsoft’s dick…

      Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 18:48.
  2. Grey_Ghost13
    Since: Aug 2009

    After playing the beta and the demo level all I can say is I can’t see it being a 7, but then I don’t know if it’s a 9, yet (I haven’t played the whole game yet so I’ll wait until then). But so far I see it as an 8.

    Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 09:16.
    • anzac-aldo
      Since: Feb 2011

      Exactly my thoughts. If its TOO linear, with a very basic storyline, then i’m thinking 8 – 9. But I thought Killzone 2 was amazing, even WITH the difficult controls (personal dislike), and the story wasn’t mind blowing in the second one. So I find it hard to comprehend, that Killzone 3 could be any less than worthy of 8/10

      Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 12:33.
  3. Foxhound_Solid
    Is a smart cookie.
    Since: Dec 2009

    Killzone is the best FPS around, simples. Resistance is a close second. Regardless of the smear campaign and the Sony hate – its an awesome series and continues to grow and grow. I for one cannot wait to see how the story unfolds. CAN.NOT.WAIT.

    The demo was excellent and I love the tweaks they have made. This is one game I have every intention of playing co-operatively and with Move.

    3DHDTV is looming for me now.

    **wallets wets itself**

    Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 09:19.
  4. pachinkoboy
    Since: Feb 2010

    We need more articles like this on TSA. Great read.

    Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 09:25.
  5. Phil_E
    Since: Forever

    lets hope uncharted 3 doesn’t get a 5 for the ‘predictable’ inclusion of some sort of monster

    Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 09:26.
    • Symposium Cacophony
      Since: Aug 2009

      Wouldn’t surprise me if there was to be a Ratchet & Clank cameo… say like one of the monsters in the desert where you had to collect crystals… I think that was 2

      Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 09:42.
  6. tonycawley
    Pint! Pint!
    Since: Feb 2009

    Some good points, but I’m a little surprised about such a lengthy article that was born out of the difference between 1 or 2 marks out of 10. You said yourself you were swayed between an 8 and a 9, so let’s say that’s an 8.5. These guys have scored it 7. If they awarded percentages that could have been as high as 74. Not such a massive difference is it? 11%

    Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 09:27.
    • affa
      Since: Dec 2010

      I think the issue is that in the gaming industry, review scores tends to be skewed high. 5 isn’t really ‘average’, and 7 usually translates to ‘meh’. Should it? No. But it does, on most review sites. A 7 really does read as a failure to most people. So while it’s only a point and a half, it’s a big point and a half when the vast majority of games are rated from 7 to 9.5.

      Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 12:27.
    • KeRaSh
      Since: Nov 2009

      There is so much Killzone love going on here at TSA, it reminds me of the time when GoW 3 was around the corner. I myself don’t understand it. While it’s a solid FPS series, I would never go as far as some people around here and call it the single best FPS on the PS3 (or on anything, ever). I recently got KZ2 and I just didn’t feel it. Comparing the experience to Resistance 2, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I don’t understand how people can get so worked up about other reviewers not loving a game as much as they do.

      Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 12:35.
      • Grey_Ghost13
        Since: Aug 2009

        Because publishers tend to pay dev teams based on metacritic scores now and a single bad review can have a negtive impact on sales, especially if the review is possibly biased.

        Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 14:03.
      • KeRaSh
        Since: Nov 2009

        You can turn it around by saying a dev gets too much money for a good but not great game because some reviewers are biased…

        Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 15:24.
  7. hiab-x
    Since: Dec 2008

    Most of the negatives I’ve seen so far, appear to be from a bunch of whining kids who punch walls and spill milk over themselves when a demo doesn’t match up to their exact expectations of what they think it should be. It’s sad to see so much hate for something that isn’t even out yet. I think once it’s being played by several thousand happy players, the voices of dissent will s.t.f.u.

    Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 09:31.
  8. Kronik76
    Since: Jun 2009

    I find it quite amusing that you TSA staff get wound up when people disagree with your review scores, yet here you are doing exactly the same with reviews from rival sites. You should have called the article ‘Why we’re right and they’re wrong’ with the subheading ‘In our opinion’.

    Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 09:55.
    • nofi
      One for all.
      Since: Forever

      Just a matter of opinion. I said a few times that it’s all subjective and nobody’s right or wrong. :)

      Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 09:56.
    • BG123
      Since: Apr 2010

      This comment is hidden.

      Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 10:16.
      • paulleeper2430
        Since: Dec 2009

        i didn’t even finish halo reach the story was that boring

        Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 11:08.
      • KeRaSh
        Since: Nov 2009

        You misspelled Killzone 2… ;)

        Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 12:38.
      • Burgess_101
        Since: May 2009

        i must say i didnt enjoy reach doesnt compare to the Halo CE of old what i love about killzone is the grittiness of it all and the guns have a weighty lethal power to them all halo weapons feel like pellet guns .

        Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 23:22.
    • anzac-aldo
      Since: Feb 2011

      That might be true. But if every reviewer gave the game a 7/10, it wouldn’t make as many sales. Besides. A game review IS an opinion. If TSA feels that 7/10 is a ridiculous score, then I’m glad they’ve put the effort in to convince gamers not to judge so quickly.

      Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 12:36.
  9. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    My main problem with the 7 reviews is all the criticisms could be levelled at any FPS not just Killzone 3, I dont see why not having a good plot is suddenly a major concern.

    Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 10:02.
    • BG123
      Since: Apr 2010

      This comment is hidden.

      Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 10:27.
    • Person678
      BOOM! Headshot!
      Since: Jan 2009

      Basically the same as the co-op complaints with Killzone 2. Did anyone mention that about Modern Warfare 1? No.

      Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 10:56.
    • OneShotWook
      Since: Jun 2010

      I’m with you on this Tuff,so many years of corridors and being a gun that it’s pretty much multiplayer that sells me an fps now.
      Come to think of it i couldn’t call to mind the plot of an Fps driving me since Deus ex1(i loved condemned 1 however but i think mostly for the atmosphere).

      Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 11:16.
      • minerwilly
        Since: Feb 2009

        The last great FPS single player campaigns i played and really enjoyed where HL2 (of course) , COD1 and COD2 all on PC i should add, i must have played KZ2 for about 30 mins before getting addicted to the MP for 3 months .

        Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 16:23.
    • upselo
      Since: Aug 2009

      Doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing ? Should plot be a major concern ?
      If it is not for you, is it wrong for him to consider it a valuable criteria ?
      I’m especially surprised by the line “tailored precisely for this audience”. Then what, if the game is not tailored for me, I’m not allowed to say it doesn’t please me ? Well I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise, but it should be said anyway.
      And that’s not even touching the subject of FPS fan unable to appreciate or want an interesting plot from an FPS.
      There are a lot of great war movies.

      Comment posted on 16/02/2011 at 02:11.
  10. wotta
    Since: Feb 2010

    I agree Alex, the 7/10 scores are overly harsh. Personally I think there is great variety in the single player campaign and I’m sure anyone who purchases this game will not be disappointed.

    Comment posted on 14/02/2011 at 10:06.

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