Not Bigger, Just Better
If there was one complaint I had about Killzone 2, it was that the game didn’t exactly live up to its epic premise. Sure, there were plenty of Helghast to kill, but the game felt a little bit empty near the end. With a final boss fight that featured more running and hiding than actual shooting, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of disappointment with the game overall. I don’t have that problem with Killzone 3. Though its predecessor could be uneven at times, Killzone 3 is perfectly paced, features a fresh take on multiplayer, and of course, looks great.
Like most games of its ilk, Killzone 3 doesn’t have the deepest story. The game continues immediately after the events of Killzone 2, and continues the story of the ISA’s campaign against the Helghast. Even though the story itself is pretty basic, the game uses trace elements of non-linear storytelling (and just a hint of misdirection) to keep you guessing as to what is actually going on within the over-arching narrative. Though the game’s final act does suffer a bit from the same old predictability, the beginning and middle feature some truly memorable moments that are worth revisiting. If you are a fan of the narrative of the larger Killzone series, you’ll be delighted by the depth and layering of the story in Killzone 3.
But as we all know, a good story is nothing without proper pacing, and that is another area where I am glad to say that Killzone 3 definitely outshines its predecessor. The game starts you off rather simply, but once you get past the obligatory tutorial modes, the gameplay ramps up into a nice mix of firefights, boss battles, and vehicle levels. One thing that pleasantly surprised me was the variation between the game’s many vehicle levels. From incredible real dogfights to intense high-speed snow escapes, the splattering of different vehicle-based areas was done extremely well in Killzone 3, and I never felt bored plowing through any of the vehicle levels, which was definitely a new experience for me.
But aside from the variation of vehicle levels, Killzone 3 also features some memorable boss battles. Although there are plenty of shooting games that shy away from putting in definite “boss” areas, Killzone 3 embraces this format to grand effect. Whether you are fighting giant aircraft-carrier sized robots, or battling against elite special forces Helghast, you can always tell when a firefight is going to turn into a little bit more than just your usual shoot-out, which gives the game a pleasant (albeit somewhat familiar) format.
The gameplay is nearly perfect, but there are some small issues that may bug a few players. First off, let’s talk about the jetpack. When Killzone 3’s jetpack was shown off at this past E3, it was all anyone could talk about, and many people (including myself) were excited at the prospect of setting Helghast on fire from the air. However, the jetpack is only able to be used in one level, so if you have dreams of taking flight throughout the game, you are going to be sadly disappointed. Another issue I had was the new “brutal melee” system which requires you to get up close and personal with enemies before hitting R3 to survive (no really, the game gives you a helpful button prompt even!). However, this mechanic relies too much on your ability to either be incredibly stealthy (which is impossible on higher difficulty levels) or wait for the enemy to come to you (and that’s just a poor strategy to begin with). If there’s one thing the series has been lacking since its inception, it is a decent melee system, and unfortunately, even though standard melees work well enough, the brutal melee system just doesn’t really deliver the way I had hoped it would.
Despite these issues, Killzone 3’s gameplay feels incredibly tight and the experience is definitely unparalleled on the PlayStation 3. And we haven’t even talked about the game’s most obvious strength: visuals. If Killzone 2 pushed the PlayStation 3 to its technical limit in 2009, Killzone 3 shows how much untapped potential there is on the platform. The graphics have a heavily stylized look to them, and eschew the trend of “gritty” shooter visuals for something a bit more fantastic. Though the character models and animations are all top-quality, special recognition must be given to the game’s environments, which range from frozen arctic citadels to tropic-feeling jungle areas. No matter where you find yourself, the landscape features plenty of color and beautiful vistas. The only issue I encountered with the game’s visuals were some odd framerate drops when I played local co-op in higher difficulty levels. The game still functioned, but the action would slow to a crawl when there were more than thirty enemies on screen. Though this issue seems isolated to local co-op (playing the game on higher difficulty levels single player produced no problems), if you are planning on playing the game with a friend, you may want to opt for the standard difficulty levels to avoid encountering annoying slowdowns.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed the single-player and local multiplayer modes in Killzone 3, I have to give props to the online multiplayer modes as well. The multiplayer modes are a bit like Team Fortress 2, where players can pick specific job classes that will help further your team’s strategy. Classes like Medic and Strategist are fairly straightforward, but the game also features some specialty classes like Engineer, which allows you to build turrets in strategic locations to surprise opponents and earn kills even when you aren’t in the same room! Though I’ve only had limited experience with the multiplayer modes, the new strategic elements make for a fresh-feeling experience that will keep players engrossed in the world of Killzone 3 for quite some time.
Killzone 3 definitely represents an evolutionary leap, both for the series itself and for the shooter genre on the PlayStation 3. Though the Xbox 360 has certainly had its share of amazing exclusives in the shooter category, spending as much time with Killzone 3 as I have, I can confidently say that Killzone 3 is a strong shooter in its own right, and certainly the best shooter we’ve seen on the PlayStation 3 platform. In addition to its great story, perfectly-paced gameplay, and stunning visuals, Killzone 3 has a certain charm to it that can’t be denied (despite its at-time apocalyptic visuals.) Calling it the best shooter of 2011 thus far seems a bit like cheating (as it is only February), but no matter what superlative phrase you use to describe it, Killzone 3 is simply a game that deserves to be played, and re-played.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.6 Graphics
Visuals are both stylish and technically sound. However, occasional framerate issues on higher difficulty levels do hamper the overall experience. 4.4 Control
Controls are simple to learn and easy to use. 4.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The orchestral score certainly matches the game’s epic tone, and the game features great voice over performances (I’m looking at you, Malcolm McDowell!) 4.2 Play Value
Like all shooters, this one has a relatively short campaign, but the unique spin on the multiplayer should keep fans engaged far beyond the five to seven hour single-player mode. 4.6 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|