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.[boxout]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.
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.