PS3 Review – Killzone 3

All hope seems lost. The attack on Helghan served only to rally the enemy’s resolve and the ISA forces are systematically being hunted down. This is the world of Killzone 3, and Guerrilla Games has plans on it being the premier shooter on the PlayStation 3. Along with Move support and 3D, is the third time the charm?

The Killzone name has always had a huge burden on its shoulders. As the original title was billed as a “Halo-killer,” and Killzone 2‘s infamous E3 2005 trailer had everyone calling foul, Guerrilla Games has always had big shoes to fill. The third entry in the series is the culmination of everything the Dutch developer has learned over the last decade and ultimately provides a top-level shooter that feels more like an experience than just a game. I never imagined how emotional an experience a first-person shooter could be, but Killzone 3 thoroughly shocked and surprised me.

Killzone 3‘s story is nothing short of absolute grandeur. Picking up immediately after the surprisingly depressing end of Killzone 2, Sev, Rico, Narville, and the rest of the ISA team must escape Visari’s Palace from the ever-drawing Helghan forces. The mission seems to be over, as the Helghan now have no leader, and the ISA are working as hard as possible to get off planet to avoid the incoming implosion. Naturally, things don’t go quite as planned. The enemy forces are not in such disarray as previously thought and they strike back with incredible efficiency. Roles are reversed from an invading strike force to an escaping target and the pressure never seems to let up.

Killzone 3 is much more than this. It begins as a standard science fiction military shooter, but quickly morphs into a tale incredibly powerful and emotional. War isn’t about two opposing forces colliding, but the people that make up the body of an army. The ISA soldiers are constantly at odds with each other from a complete breakdown in military discipline. The Helghan military leaders struggle to claim the throne of power from the now-leaderless empire. Even among the sides of “good” and “evil,” certain characters are more likable, or at least more respectable, than others. The Helghast have always been the enemies in the Killzone universe, but they are shown outside of their glowing suits as human beings with faults all their own. Also, while the game has three main protagonists, the cast of secondary characters introduced and dispersed throughout the game really add to the experience and provide a nice variety of personalities.

Killzone 3 was never meant to be a run-and-gun shooter and if you play it as such, you are bound to quickly learn that such a strategy will get you nowhere. The controls in the game are finely improved over that of Killzone 2 and it provides satisfyingly tactile experience. The game is much more responsive than the last, but all of the different weapons still manage to have a unique feel and weight to them in battle. It’s these subtle differences that keep the game fresh throughout the entire campaign. Among the new mechanics introduced, a few really stood out. First, and most obvious, is the new Brutal Melee system announced with the reveal of the game. The best part about the new melee is not how visceral it feels to gouge out a Helghast’s eye with a knife, but the variety of death animations and how truly random each one is. Sometimes a melee will be an instant kill, while others merely set up a combo opportunity to melee again or to shoot at point blank range. This level of surprise keeps you on your toes no matter what part in the game and keeps you thoroughly engaged.

Also introduced in Killzone 3 is a lead-in to the game’s cover-based nature, the ability to slide. It feels unbelievably natural to be running towards a wall, slide into it for cover, and lean up to survey the surroundings and fire a few shots. All the forms of combat feel fluid and strong, and make for an incredibly immersive experience. Lastly, but certainly not least, is the ability to be revived by your companions in singleplayer mode. It is only possible when traveling along with a partner, but not only does is promote strategic planning and staying within range of your friend, but the game isn’t broken up by death after restart after death, over and over again. After so much time and effort is put through to revive people around you, they finally return the favor and the game really benefits from it.

It’s not just the combat that flows well together either, it’s the entire progression of the game and even the stages themselves that work well. Each stage is divided into small sections that give an entire mission a larger feel than it actually is. In Killzone 2 you knew when you were done with a level by the trophy sounds and the change of scenery. In Killzone 3, the levels aren’t split up between Location A, do mission, move to Location B, lather, rinse, repeat. Each gorgeous locale beautifully transitions from one to the next, and it’s entirely story driven to boot. And there are plenty of locations you’ll want to just take time and explore. From the destructible metropolis cities, to the lush damp jungles, to the snowy mountains, to scientific facilities, Guerrilla Games did a phenomenal job detailing Killzone 3 with a larger color palate than gunmetal grays and desert browns. Continue reading…