Killzone 3 review
This Is An Outrage - ously Good Game!
Four games later and it’s safe to say that the Killzone franchise has finally cemented a reputation for being one of the premium First Person Shooters on the market, aside for Liberation; which was third person. The first Killzone was released nine years ago and despite impressive visuals the game was quite a resounding disappointment. Liberation was the next game to be released, exclusively for PSP, and while it failed to set the gaming world ablaze it did reasonably well on a platform so underappreciated at the time. It wasn’t seven years after the original’s release that the series would return to the main branch of Playstation consoles, this time on PS3 with Killzone 2. A much more refined gameplay and multiplayer system saw it receive widespread critical acclaim and go on to sell millions of copies worldwide. Now, two years later, the legacy continues will Killzone 3.
Gamers will never remember any of the previous titles, excluding perhaps Killzone 2, for their plots. The game resides in a universe some centuries into the future and focuses on the struggle between the colonial governments of Vekta & Helghan, two former Earth colonies who had fallen out over political reasons. While Vekta maintain that their actions are always born from retaliation, it’s interesting to note that the entire conflict began after the Helghast where the victims of decades of oppression. Killzone 3 starts from the exact point where Killzone 2 ended, with the death of Helghan’s Scolar Visari at the hands of a vengeful Rico Velasquez. The player again assumes control of Sergeant Thomas ‘Sev’ Sevchenko and with the Helghan leader now dead, the ISA decide it is time to evacuate. The plan, obviously, doesn’t go as cleanly as hoped and results with a large contingent of the remaining ISA forces marooned on Helghan; Sev & Rico included.
The plot then moves forward six months, with Sev and the returning Captain Narville hiding in the Helghan forests while desperately hoping for a rescue that seems like will never arrive. We’re shown their camp, the weary faces of tired and homesick soldiers, and we see a grim struggle for survival. The opening few hours of the game’s plot paint a desperate yet thrilling vision of where the game looks like it’s going. Then the game does a complete U-turn and heads in a totally different direction with the ISA suddenly on the attack. While the sudden new direction isn’t terrible I have to say I was finding the original tone of the game much more compelling. There are a few moments when the game seems to remember its earlier premise, but the sudden and unexplained recovery of entire armour & air divisions at the end throw everything supposedly ‘desperate’ about the ISA out the window. Another annoying habit of the game is the absence and redesign of some of the older characters. Captain Narville in particular, while I personally like him more in Killzone 3, is barely recognisable from his earlier version seen in Killzone 2. Players will also notice that Shawn Natko, one of the main supporting characters from Killzone 2, is COMPLETELY missing. No mention, no appearance, no hints at all until you play the newly implemented local co-op; he’s the second playable character for some random reason. Also; anyone else thinks Kowalski was actually Dusty from Medal of Honour in disguise?
With every addition to the Killzone franchise Guerrilla seem determined to set a new benchmark for visuals. Killzone 3 is no different, and is easily the best looking console game to date. The detail, presentation, and now variety of locations that you will visit have no rival. Everything from the second game makes an enhanced return, from the ruined capital of Pyrrhus to the wasteland refinery like levels. Only now they look better, and to go along with it there are also snowy terrains and exotic jungle expanses for you to enjoy slaughtering the Helghast in.
Gameplay has always been okay in the Killzone franchise. Tuned and operational so it has never gotten frustrating, but sometimes it does get boring. In Killzone we had the standard set up, in Killzone 2 we had a new ‘Peek & Lean’ cover system, and now in Killzone 3 we have the additions of jetpacks and ‘brutal melee’. Brutal melee, as the name suggests, is brutal. It is without a doubt the most grimly satisfying piece of gameplay mechanic to have ever been invented. With a few presses of a button you will completely and utterly ruin some poor Helghast’s day as you methodically beat him into submission and finish him off with a wet stab to the eye or snap of the neck. The same system carries over into multiplayer, only with the combo feature and instead only relies on the finishing blows. It never gets frustrating, as in the event of a dual melee the two characters will only hit each other, leaving both players with a drastically low health bar and in a rush to finish on another off. It is drastic, but arguably fair.
The online multiplayer has also been given a facelift, with the badge based skill system instead being replaced by a more simple and enjoyable class system. Each class can use a variety of weapons and has access to a unique template of skills, which the player can then upgrade using unlock points that they receive with each level up. The purpose of this is to avoid the tedious requirements that where necessary in the previous Killzone 2, where players would lock themselves in specific rooms to boost their way to specific ribbons that would otherwise be impossible in standard gameplay. For example relying on turret kills in a game was always a bad idea, and now in Killzone 3 they no longer need to worry about letting their turrets do the work in order to unlock the repair skill. The single player gameplay also has more balance to it, with the standard gameplay taking second seat at times to a vehicle based level. The transition is fluid and usually enjoyable with the level lasting no longer than should be before it gets tedious. One fault that has been left uncorrected is with the increased number of cutscenes in the game there is an uncharacteristic break in gameplay while the game shifts from gameplay to theatre mode. They serve to break the flow of the game, and take the player out of the action when I would be content the majority of these events from first person. It wouldn’t have been difficult to make the transition without a black out loading screen as well, but Guerrilla Games know better so I’ll leave it at that. Also, finally, co-op has been implemented locally. Why locally? Not a clue, but Guerrilla are at least halfway there to getting it right I suppose.
The usual orchestra numbers return although this time accompanied by more eastern sounds and synthetic tracks to give the soundtrack a more variety of sounds. While some could argue it’s inferior to past games, I find the new sounds refreshing. Voice acting is sometimes a shambles with the impressive Brian Cox now all but gone from the line up the addition of veterans like Ray Winston as Admiral Orlock fail to live up to his shadow. If not for the expectation, however, the voice work in general is better than most other games.
The campaign will last you about six hours on a normal play through, more so on the elite difficulty. Fortunately for the Killzone universe what it usually lacks in engrossing plot weight is always countered with addictive online multiplayer; and Killzone 3 is no exception. The online will keep you tided over long after the gloss of the technically impressive campaign has worn off, and you may find yourself reaching to play it much later in the year. Will it out last classic Call Of Duty addiction? Probably not, but it’ll do for a few months at least.
In the end, Killzone 3 is another fantastic overall game but one that still falls short of perfect. While Guerilla have finally managed to inject a sense of individuality into their flagship franchise, it seemed to have come at the cost of that final lick of polish Killzone 2 so proudly demonstrated. The plot, as usual, will keep oscar critics out of reach but there were some strong signs of improvement that could hopefully be improved on in the very likely Killzone 4 sometime in 2013. So keep going Guerilla; you may not be the toast of the ball quite yet but we know one day you will be.
Final Score: 8/10
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