Killzone 3 Review
Posted by Christopher Ingram
Send them to Hel(ghan)
Eyes peeled wide open, and like breathing, you only blink when necessary. Your heart pounds in your chest at a million miles an hour while anxiety is released with each bead of sweat that protrudes the skin around the Move controller, with its calm faint glow in the peripheral vision. The building that once was shelter has crumbled under fire and recently slain Helghast litter the ground. The calm skies are filled with massive fleets of space vessels, but battles can still be seen raging on the horizon. The smoke and dust in the immediate area starts to settle, but safety is always short-lived when the Helghast Army has you severely outnumbered. Death has just been narrowly avoided from a monstrous mech that towered hundreds of feet into the sky, along with numerous ground troops flooding in by drop ships and tanks. It seems that with every wave that is pushed back, two more come charging forward. As the attacks get stronger, the chances of surviving become smaller, but survival is a must because Earth hangs in the balance. Welcome to Killzone 3!
In 2003 there were whispers in the gaming world that Sony was creating a game that some were calling a Halo-killer. Developed by Guerrilla Games, gritty sci-fi FPS shooter Killzone emerged in late 2004, introducing the world to the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance (ISA) and the Helghan Empire. The game aspired for greatness, but pushed the PS2 too far, creating multiple issues within the game. Even so, the Helghast Army captured the world with its glowing red eyes, gas masks and heavy armour. The harsh environment of the planet Helghan has mutated its people into beings that can’t even be consider human anymore, and the armour and mask are vital for their survival off-world. While it was a start to a successful franchise, a Halo-killer it was not.
Years before the release of Killzone 2 the world had been abuzz about the tech demos of the game shown in 2005 at E3. The game’s graphics were streets ahead of anything seen before, and the intense action had gamers craving to actually play the game to see if it was all real. Killzone 2 landed in 2009 and was received with overwhelmingly positive reviews, ISA soldiers Thomas ‘Sev’ Sevchenko and Rico Velasquez taking down the Helghan Dictator to set the stage for Killzone 3. The game quickly became a huge success for the PlayStation 3, and for some might even beat Bungie's famous franchise.
The time for Killzone 3 is now, and every excellence found in its predecessor returns, but somehow Guerrilla has found a way to improve the formula once again. Picking up right where Killzone 2 left off, the Helghast Army is in complete disarray from the assassination of its dictator, but is regrouping. Cutscenes go behind the doors of Helghan politics to find its elders arguing over military strategy, weapon development and even leadership roles. This look into Helghan politics gives insight into exactly how demented and power-crazy the Helghan leaders actually are. Near-unlimited resources in weaponry and troops, the Helghast Army seems to be impossible to defeat, and this feeling carries throughout the entire campaign.
Killzone 2 set the world abuzz with its graphics, pushing the PS3 further than any other game had at the time and proving its graphical power, but once again the graphics have substantially improved. The franchise has always been presented with dark, gritty graphics to fit the story and mood of the gameplay, but this time around vivid colours have been injected into the visuals, resulting in graphically jaw-dropping stages: a snow-covered mountainside and a beautiful jungle level filled with plant life are just two examples. While the jungle is appealing to the eye the plant life is flat-out deadly, and can be used strategically to take down enemies, as well as hiding in for brutal melee kills. This new jungle level also holds another gameplay element new to the series: stealth. The majority of the level can be expertly traversed by hiding in the shrubbery, utilising silent melee takedowns or by shooting poisonous plants to take down multiple enemies at once. This new gameplay and art style is radically different from previous games, but the perfect execution of both just builds on what was already great about the predecessor.
The sound design is just as fantastic as its visuals. Dark, brooding music fills the speakers, and the constant gunfire and explosions fit the game’s intensity perfectly. Voice acting is good, especially with the Helghan leaders, and for the first time in the series we actually connected with the two lead characters Rico and Sev. The lack of character connection, and hard to follow storyline has been an issue with this series, but not this time around. Rico and Sev are foul mouthed war-hardened soldiers who don’t care for their superior’s orders, and this time around their personalities finally gives the good guys a reason to fight. The incredible scenes inside the Helghan government, coupled with a massive twist that leads to the explosive ending, grips you from the beginning until those end credits roll.
Killzone 3 is also tough as nails. This won’t surprise veterans of the series, but a single enemy can easily deal death quickly if unprepared, even on the Normal difficulty setting. The cover-based system from Killzone 2 has been overhauled here, and utilising cover is paramount to surviving the massive amounts of swarming Helghast. Even under cover grenades will come hurtling in, and when peeking out to fire shots bullets whistle past. Finding the right angles to fire shots, and only moving when not under heavy fire is the only way to survive. At times the game can feel cheap when death happens instantly in an intense fire fight, and finding the right strategy to get through these sections can be a tad frustrating at times. Frequent checkpoints keep the frustration at a minimum, not to mention these sections usually pit you against anything from tanks to fortified bunkers, meaning the action is so intense that replaying these sections just builds the game’s atmosphere. Thankfully the arsenal of weapons keep the Helghast at bay, with the standard assault rifles, rocket launchers and a few surprising additions. Not forgetting the jetpacks, which aren’t utilised enough in the campaign.
If we said multiplayer was good it would be a huge understatement, with one of the most balanced online modes on the market. Using a class-based system brings multiple gameplay styles and weapons to master, with each playing drastically differently. The Marksman can become invisible to camp unseen in open spaces and the Infiltrator can disguise himself as a friendly, but the Tactician can mark all enemies on the map, even those in disguise: every skill is countered by another. This creates balance across the class’s and makes mastering the classes challenging as well as keeping any one skill from being overpowered. Skill are allocated by gaining experience and levelling up, and placing skill points is completely up to you: they can be spread across multiple classes, or used to level one class up faster.
Online modes include Guerrilla Warfare (standard Deathmatch), Warzone and Operations, in which players battle for control over multiple objectives, and the top players are featured in story-like cutscenes throughout the battle. Warzone is something special indeed, as the objectives are constantly changing every few minutes in one single match. The match might start off with Body Count (Deathmatch) before changing into Search and Destroy, and then to Capture and Hold, etc. This keeps the action frantic, and as the objectives are in different places around the huge maps the skirmishes are constantly moving from one point to another. Let’s not forget that some maps offers the likes of giant exoskeleton robots that can be manned, or multiple types of turrets, and we simply can’t forget the jetpacks. Strapping on a jetpack and gunning down the enemy while blasting through the sky with turrets at full blast is simply amazing in online multiplayer matches, and is not to be missed.
Multiple control methods are employed in Killzone 3, so let's start off with the basic DualShock. The series has always used a ‘heavy’ feel to movement: bulky soldiers use big weapons and the game’s weight controls were intended to bring a realistic feel. The series has split gamers on this issue, and while the controls and gameplay in Killzone 3 has been sped up a bit, the same substantial feel remains. For us, this makes DualShock the least favourable option, with a sluggish feel when moving and aiming.
Move implementation, however, is nothing short of perfect. Aiming across the screen is quick and effortless, and the superb precision means that many a Helghast will be breathing bullets instead of toxic gas. The ‘heavy’ character movement actually plays to Move’s strengths by allowing for more time to move the camera as desired, and still being able to have full control of movement. Adding the Sharp Shooter creates the feeling of actually shooting a gun to the game; pulling the trigger and watching the bullets land with pinpoint precision is amazing, but the weighty gun does have its downsides. Most notably it becomes tiring on the arms, and also for many will require a different setup, with switching settings between Move and Navigation setup to Sharp Shooter when the arms tire. Manoeuvring the screen and character movement with the gun might seem daunting at first, but a bit of practice will prove the accessory’s worth.
Overall we found the Move and Navigation setup to be the ultimate control method here. With the right set-up, Move will raise any player’s game, with our Killzone 3 PlayStation Move tips helping to achieve that perfect setup. Expect a future Sharp Shooter guide and more Killzone 3 Move tips too.
There is hardly anything bad to level against Killzone 3. At times when a level is loading a vocal clip might repeat itself, and when navigating the jetpack with Move the controls become a bit too sensitive for our taste, but there are no major flaws here to hold anything back. Some complaints of the 6 - 8 hour campaign being too short have been heard, but the constant action throughout the campaign means there is never a dull moment, and had us starting a new game the instant the end credits finished rolling. Guerrilla even threw in stereoscopic 3D support and the Botzone mode for perfecting those multiplayer skills against AI opponents, allowing gamers without Internet access a way to experience the full wealth of online game modes.
The sci-fi war campaign to escape the overwhelming Helghast Army and save Earth is gripping from beginning to end, and the perfectly balanced multiplayer guarantees hundreds of hours of enjoyment for many. Add to this the best implementation we’ve yet seen with PlayStation Move and the Sharp Shooter attachment as well, and Killzone 3 finally fulfils its whispered potential from 2003, becoming the Halo-killer once and for all.