Killzone 2 was a slick, polished and flowing game; a critically acclaimed shooter that lived up to its now infamous 2005 E3 outing (and in some respects actually outdid it) and saw continued support from the developers and publishers in addition to building up considerable community focus on sites like TheSixthAxis via a well engineered clan system. A sequel was inevitable (and somewhat prescribed, given the ending) and thus Sony’s already healthy release list for 2011 is considerably stronger knowing that Killzone 3 is there in the line-up.
The anticipation for the next instalment in the first person shooter series is high, and although all the emphasis appears to be on Resistance 3 just now, Killzone has its hardcore fanbase and we fully expect the hype machine to start rolling into gear soon. But has Guerrilla been keeping an eye on the competition, or is Killzone 3 an insular experience that’s opted to ignore the rest of the genre?
Well, it’s half and half. First up, it’s clear that whilst Killzone 3 still manages to stand out on a technical level (even with the knowledge that the build Sony dropped off at TSA Towers is clearly marked as preview code) it does look and feel very much like the last game. Indeed, much of what we’re seeing here in terms of the engine appears to be carried over from Sevchenko and friends’ prior adventure, especially in terms of the game’s graphics and control mechanics, even if the developers have managed to squeeze in a few new tricks here and there.
The new, then, is the much increased level of intensity – the section we’ve been playing starts relatively slowly but quickly descends into a desperate battle for survival against seemingly impossible odds; not in terms of number (although there’s plenty of Helghast to plough through) but in terms of strength: a giant mech dubbed the MAWLR proving to be a multi-staged boss with much of the segment revolving around trying to down the metallic monster whilst staying alive. It’s a cleverly pitched set of sequences that builds steadily in excitement levels until a slightly damp climactic airborne ending rounds off the party.
However, to help the cause there’s also a new and improved melee system, much better character animation and some bombastic new weaponry, the WASP rocket launcher transforming into a devastatingly powerful (not to mention accurate) device that requires immediate mastery of the new artillery like ‘alt fire’ mode at the level’s mid point. There’s also more emphasis on the relationship between characters (mostly through cut-scenes) although the script is a little too ‘gung-ho’ for our sensibilities – the end of mission pep-talk a particularly cringe-worthy few moments.
Old? Everything else. Let’s just say that Killzone 2 fans won’t be disappointed but the few out there that didn’t get on with the first PS3 game won’t find much to ease them in, at least from the portion of the campaign we’ve been given to test. That’s not a bad thing, of course, Killzone 2 carved its own path in a heavily populated genre, and I for one adored the heavy handling and tightly structured pacing – Killzone 3 feels lighter and the aim is quicker, but thankfully it’s still no spritely Call of Duty for anyone wondering.
Our build also featured offline split screen co-op, which was a delight and a pleasant surprise to see even given recent rumours. There’s naturally a wee bit less fancy post-processing effects going on but, on the whole, the frame rate remains high and the action doesn’t appear to have been toned down – friendly fire is on and whilst the game doesn’t transform when you’re playing with a buddy, co-op is always welcome and Killzone 3 is only better for its inclusion. There’s no online multiplayer in the preview copy.
What there is, though, is Move support. I’ve never personally found much favour with motion controlled first person shooters, early experiences like Red Steel sullying the notion, but Killzone 3’s adaptation of a comprehensive move set split across a Navigation controller and the regular Move stick is actually pretty slick. It’s configurable, too, with tweakable dead zones and sensitivity meaning it’s easy enough to change what feels like N64 Goldeneye (with the player moving the crosshair rather than the viewpoint) to something more in keeping with regular Dual Shock control. It’s precise, a little more immersive but probably not a substitute in the heat of battle: only something the full game could confirm either way, of course.
So, whilst the environment, with its burnt orange hues and heavy metal construction, feels a little alien, Killzone 3 doesn’t aim to really do anything differently apart from improve on itself in every way – and for that you’ve got to give Guerrilla credit: Killzone 2 was a stunning game and it’s refreshing to see developers sticking to their guns. We’ve not seen enough to comment further on the campaign other than to say we’re excited to speculate where it’s heading – and whilst the new plot protagonists (including new by-the-books captain Narville) are much appreciated, despite the new ‘do, old friend Rico still deserves a slap.
We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Update: Screens have arrived!