The Killzone brand has always been saddled with unrealistic and slightly unfair expectations. When it first appeared on the Playstation 2 it was branded a Halo killer and while it was a serviceable piece of gaming, it was not anywhere near the level of Bungie’s epic title. Following the tepid reception of Killzone, Sony and developer Guerrilla Games pulled out all the stops in the now infamous E3 trailer for Killzone 2 which ultimately put expectations that it could never meet on its shoulders. Despite the lofty expectations Killzone 2 ultimately delivered a top-tier shooting experience and put the game on the map as one of the best in the genre. And all of that brings us to Killzone 3.
This time around it seems as if Sony and Guerrilla have learned their lesson, the grand boasts and ridiculous assertions were put aside and Killzone 3 was developed and released without the big fanfare that one has come to expect from Sony’s now flagship shooter series. So do the relaxed expectations on Killzone 3 help it? The answer to that is complicated but it mostly boils down to yes as the game is able to stand on its merits as a game instead of its potential.
If Killzone 3 is your first jaunt in the Killzone universe be warned, it is not kind to the uninitiated. The Killzone universe has a lot of noteworthy back-story and Killzone 3 throws you into the events with the expectations that you have finished Killzone 2. The narrative in Killzone 3 jumps around between events directly following the ending of Killzone 2 and six months later. The story focuses on the withdrawal of the ISA forces from Helghan in the moments after the ending of Killzone 2 but that is just the opening salvo into a deeper story about survival and rescue.
Maybe using the word deeper to describe the story in Killzone 3 is giving it a bit too much credit. Guerrilla is not exactly known for their strong focus on narrative and that holds true for the campaign of Killzone 3. The story serves the purpose of piecing together the numerous action set pieces and it does that reasonably well but if you were coming expecting a deep narrative you may want to pass on by. The action set pieces are the real star here and Guerrilla nails them out of the park.
Each segment of Killzone 3 is a pure rush of adrenaline and it hardly ever stops to make sure your heart has not exploded. The game has players jumping from gunfights to tank battles to jet-packing around a seaside Helghan base to piloting a mech and then some. There is nothing quite as much fun as bringing down a droop ship full of angry Helghans with a well placed shot from a tank. All these individual pieces feel great and are designed expertly, showcasing what Guerrilla has learned not just from their previous efforts but also from the efforts of their competitors. Killzone 3 often times plays like a conglomeration of Modern Warfare 2, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Halo: ODST. It also feels like it was designed for someone with attention deficit disorder.
While each individual level feels expertly crafted, when put together there is just no flow to the game. Each individual set piece ends just as you start to get a hang of things and the game never lets itself breathe and evolve naturally. It is almost as if Guerrilla did not have enough confidence in the core mechanics that they try to rush the player from piece to piece. By doing so, either deliberately or not, the game does itself a huge disservice because the game has some of the best gameplay of a modern shooter.
The shooting in Killzone 2 received a lot of flack for its unconventional control. Killzone 3 takes a more traditional approach that makes the game play more like Call of Duty or Battlefield but all the while retaining much of the character that made Killzone 2 unique. Shooting and ultimately killing enemies in Killzone 3 feels greatly satisfying, something that the Call of Duty series oftentimes lacks.
In addition to the superb shooting, the vehicles that the game puts you in all feel appropriately like the death machines that they are. The most satisfying of all these though is the single man jet-pack rig. I will admit that the inclusion of the jet-packs in the game initially worried me, given that Halo: Reach did such a wonderful job implementing them into that universe. Guerrilla allayed those fears though by making Killzone 3’s jet-packs unique, powerful and a whole lot of fun to play. Initially the jet-packs feel appropriately unwieldy but the use of them quickly becomes second nature and allows the players to approach combat situations using different strategies. For a game, and series, that often feels like everything is scripted the ability to use differing tactics is a big deal.
While the use of different strategies is something that comes up only a few times over the course of the campaign, it is something that comes up on a regular basis in the multiplayer modes. Killzone 3 offers up the standard deathmatch mode that gamers have come to expect but it also brings back the popular Killzone 2 mode Warzone. In Warzone teams are given specific tasks for each round, be it the standard team deathmatch or something more complex like assassinating a VIP. Rounds move quickly and can seem chaotic but a good team that focuses and works together can dominate an opposing team in a match.
Killzone 3 also has a new objective based mode called Operations which plays out very similarly to Battlefield: Bad Company 2’s Rush game mode or Halo: Reach’s Invasion game mode. Operations pits the ISA vs. Helghast in an offensive and defensive struggle. The attacking team has an objective to be completed while the defensive team is trying to hold them off. At the end of each round a cinematic scene is portrayed featuring the points leaders for the winning team.
In addition to the online multiplayer, players will be able to hone their skills offline in the Botzone where simulated multiplayer shooting galleries can be created. Call of Duty: Black Ops had a mode similar and personally I feel that it adds to the game, especially for those that either can not play online or do not feel comfortable playing online competitively. For those that do enjoy playing online though, Killzone 3 has a deep class based character progression system that largely emulates Battlefield: Bad Company 2 complete with awarding dedicated players with large experience rewards via the medal system.
All in all as a multiplayer shooter, Killzone 3 is the total package and something that Sony has been lacking in the exclusive market. Killzone 3 should easily climb to the king of the competitive multiplayer hill on the Playstation 3.
It should also climb to the apex of technical know how on the system. Killzone 3 is a graphical tour de force and looks far better than its already beautiful predecessor. Surprisingly Killzone 3 is quite the colorful game and features some very diverse locales that help to showcase this. Maybe it is just nice to see a game, particularly a modern-day shooter, that features more colors than just, black, brown and gray but Killzone 3 really caught my eye with its varied use of the color palette. Killzone 3 does not just shine in the visual department though because the audio is top-notch making the game one of the best looking and sounding games to ever hit the platform.
In the end Killzone 3 delivers the best Killzone experience to date and firmly cements itself as the must have Sony exclusive franchise shooter. It can proudly rest amongst the shooter elite making the choice to play Killzone 3 an easy one. Put simply, if you enjoy shooters then Killzone 3 deserves to be played.
4 out of 5.