Let me start this off with a simple question: do you like the feeling of your finger hammered down on the fire button? If you planned on picking up Killzone 3, I hope you do. Because that’s all you’re going to be doing in this game.
Killzone 3’s campaign does not reinvent the wheel. In fact, you could say you’ve played this game before. You played it when it was called Killzone 2, and you played it with a large number of other first-person shooters where the main goal was to push forward, cover to cover, and blast through wave after wave of enemies. There are moments of slight diversity where you get behind a turret for an on-rails section, as well as pilot a mech or strap on the new jetpack for some iceberg hopping; but the ultimate goal remains the same: shoot everything.
After about an hour and half I was bored from doing the same things ad nauseam. Killzone’s campaign, from a gameplay standpoint, is just unrelenting and desensitizing. It also doesn’t help that the story of Killzone 3 is a substantial letdown. I was under the impression we were going to get a little insight into the backstory of the Helghan nation in this third game. Maybe even get a little understanding as to why they do what they do. But instead, all we see are the Helghast portrayed as stereotypical evil bastards, only this time they are fighting each other to see who is more evil.
The ISA troops don’t fair much better in the character development department. Everyone in the cast, from main character Sev to asshole Rico, simply fill in the roles of war story cliches. The campaign also has a frustrating ending where there is no resolution and the game literally cuts off for the credits to roll. Much like Killzone 2, Killzone 3 tries to leave players with some food for thought. In Killzone 2 it was the cost of war; in Killzone 3 it’s the cost of victory. However, this tacked-on theme falls completely flat when you stop to consider that roughly fifteen minutes earlier you were happily taking lives by shoving your thumbs through Helghan eyeballs.
Maybe most depressing about Killzone 3’s campaign is that it can be completed in a measly 4.5 hours. I played the game on the normal difficulty, restarting checkpoints a fair bit, and still managed to finish the game in a single afternoon. For gamers out there that are picking up Killzone 3 solely for the single player experience, you have been warned; you’re $60 does not go far.
However, there is some silver lining to the game’s campaign; on my second playthrough I discovered it’s saving grace: motion control. The game fully supports the PlayStation Move and this is where Killzone 3 feels fresh amongst a sea of similar FPS titles. Killzone 3, as far as I know, is the first core title to make use of Sony’s motion controller and does so with great success. Movement is incredibly fluid and the button layout makes it so within a few minutes you’re perfectly comfortable with the setup. Playing with the PS Move is also not headache inducing, which is a common problem for motion-controlled first-person shooters, especially if you’re familiar with the genre on the Wii. Killzone 3 is the first game that honestly justifies that Move purchase.
But if you must play with the standard PS3 DualShock controller, know that Guerrilla Games dropped the whole “weight of the weapon” feel to movement that was a trouble area in Killzone 2. No longer does turning and aiming feel sluggish. I don’t think I was ever satisfied with the controls in Killzone 2, constantly tweaking sensitivities in the options menu up through the game’s conclusion. Killzone 3, on the other hand, feels much tighter from a control standpoint. From box to credits I never once toyed with the settings.
What further helps smokescreen the repetitive gameplay of Killzone 3’s campaign are the incredible graphics. Place this game right next to Uncharted 2, Metal Gear Solid 4, God of War III and even Killzone 2 as one of the best graphical offerings on the PS3. Guerrilla Games even went the extra mile by diversifying the environments in this three-quel. The game starts in the post-nuclear fallout Helghan capital, picking up from the ending of Killzone 2, but quickly shifts to a city outskirt camp with tropical-colored vegetation, and then moves on to a snowy arctic Helghan base. The range of color palettes for each locale is a welcomed addition to a franchise that is usually oversaturated with grays, blacks and reds.
Maybe even more impressive than the actual environmental graphics are the game’s particle effects. Whether it’s the ash and debris of a destroyed city raining down on your face, or the snow whistling around your head, these effects add an extra layer of immersion to Killzone 3’s setting. It makes the game’s locales feel like real places, places where Guerrilla Games went to snap a few pictures for reference material.
However, Killzone 3 isn’t without its technical faults. The game suffers from some harsh framerate dips, audio cutting out, rough lip syncing and a cutscene where Sev and Rico are mysteriously wearing different clothing (maybe this will be ironed out by launches). So for the most part Killzone 3 is a visual stunner, but it’s not perfect from a technical standpoint.
As was the case with Killzone 2, multiplayer is the absolute highlight of Killzone 3. This is where the real fight begins and the reason why the KZ3 disc will continue to spin in your PS3 even after you’ve plowed through the short campaign. Multiplayer comes in three flavors: online competitive, campaign co-op and Botzone.
The easiest one to detail is Botzone. This is simply a practice area to touch up on your skills against CPU opponents, hence the name. You’re able to determine the number of Bots and their difficulty, as well as choose your map and game-type. If you don’t want to get schooled when you first enter online multiplayer, Botzone is a great place to start.
Once you’re ready to move up to the big leagues it’s time to hit up the competitive multiplayer mode of Killzone 3. This is the real meat and potatoes experience. Carried over from Killzone 2 is the Warzone gametype, cycling through every game mode available at five minute intervals during a single session. It’s a shock that no other multiplayer-focused game has tried to emulate this game-type. Switching up gameplay variants every few minutes ensures that matches stay exciting and very tense. It also means I stay out of the menu system and instead waste hours where I should be: in matches. Guerrilla Warfare fits the bill for standard team deathmatch in Killzone 3. While the Operations game-type has ISA soldiers attacking a series of points and the Helghan troops defending those locations.
Overall, I was quite happy with the map selection in multiplayer. There might only be six maps to start, but all of them present massive battlefields and a good sense of verticality to keep things interesting. Some maps even include equipable jetpacks for reaching higher ledges faster, as well as drivable mechs to storm through heavy contested combat zones.
Leveling up returns in Killzone 3. Improving your rank earns you combat points which can be spent to buy new perks, weapons and equipment to give you an edge on the battlefield. Every class has their own set of upgrades to buy, making sure you won’t run out of purchasable items for quite some time. It also still baffles me that I actually enjoy playing as the medic in the Killzone games. I can’t say that about any other class-based online shooter.
The final piece to the multiplayer puzzle comes in the form of co-op. Co-op in Killzone 3 is completely a split-screen, local affair. That means you can’t play with a friend across the country, only with friends who can pop a squat right next to you on the couch. It’s a bummer, for sure. But I gotta hand it to Guerrilla Games for doing their part to reinvigorate the side-by-side camaraderie of a gaming era long past. Co-op is also restricted to using two dual-shock controllers. PlayStation Move is not compatible with this mode, unfortunately. Overall, co-op feels like a mode that was added as an afterthought, something to pad the Killzone 3 package. That doesn’t mean I wish it wasn’t included. It just would have been better if I could fully take advantage of the mode with two of the biggest buzzphrases currently sweeping through the gaming industry — online functionality and motion control.
It’s heartbreaking that Guerrilla Games couldn’t deliver a worthwhile single player experience with Killzone 3. Support for PlayStation Move and the incredible graphics do help, but the game’s campaign is just far too repetitious and short to be truly satisfying. Where Killzone 3 grows its legs is with the game’s deep and intense multiplayer component. I guess you can think of the campaign as an appetizer to the full steak dinner that is multiplayer. If that sounds appetizing to you, then Killzone 3 will be quite filling. But if you were hoping for the first course to rock your world, you’re going to be pretty disappointed. I know I was.