Killzone 3 Review

Killzone 3 (PS3)
Developer: Guerilla Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Both of the previous Killzone installments were positioned by both Sony and Guerilla Games as the ‘Halo Killer’ for the Playstation brand. Such comparisons created bloated expectations that never helped the Killzone brand prosper. All told, Killzone 3 is another shooter amid a dozen others with its own set of advantages and flaws. When competition is as fierce as it is in this genre, making the best game you feasibly can is the only way to succeed. Comparisons rarely serve the underdog well.

Comparisons certainly do not help when the narrative in Killzone 3 is as terrible as it is. Rather than having the conflict be between the ISA (good guys) and the Helghast (bad guys), the two sides bicker amongst themselves. Worse yet, none of them present interesting points of view – everyone just yells at each other, ignorantly protesting that they are right instead of explaining why. And Sev, the protagonist, is a pacifist who, up until the end of the penultimate act, complains about the orders given to him yet chooses not to voice them. Poorly edited cutscenes, involving break-neck cuts, result in jarring events. Atrocious lip-syncing technology further disrupts these scenes. The start of Killzone 3 is also oddly incorporated – the chapter starts off six months after the events of the previous game and is used as a tutorial. After the chapter ends, you are taken back to where the previous game ended, and when you revisit the tutorial portion, events unfold differently.

All of these narrative flaws prove so irritating because the setting of Killzone 3 is gorgeous and meticulously detailed. The diversity of environments is staggering: snow-caped mountains, a junkyard, a Helghast space station, and a perilous tropical jungle are the highlights as they punctuate the more generic, dystopian battlefields. Colorful light sources, such as blindingly light pinks, rich reds, intense oranges, and many more, are subtly incorporated to creatively avoid the all-too-common brown-drenched settings of similar games.

The pacing in Killzone 3 is downright relentless yet inconsistently crafts unique experiences around its core gunplay mechanics. Killzone 3 is still one of the few first person shooters to incorporate a cover system. Battles feel more organic and realistic because of it – you will be immediately punished for attempting Rambo-style tactics. Set-pieces are crowded with Helghast scum for you to blast to itty-bitty pieces and the brutal pacing guarantees little downtime. Battles move with steady momentum as objectives are constantly changing – requisite sniper and rocket-launcher segments are included – but little else is integrated that properly excite. Environments are rarely designed to create subtle, unique scenarios. On-rail turret sections are in abundance yet their inclusion act more as visual showcases of the game’s sophisticated technology rather than engaging diversions.

These customary additions vastly outnumber the few instances of inspired variety. An early stealth-focused level set in a dangerous yet vibrant jungle has you sneaking around baddies. If you are spotted, survival becomes unlikely as a new Helghast variant rapidly approaches you, dagger in-hand. This level is perhaps the most intense in the entire game, and a definite highlight. With one new enemy type introduced, gameplay is altered to craft a unique experience that still shares the same focus of the core gameplay – heart-pounding minute-to-minute action. Jetpacks are the other highlight. Platforming is incorporated, as are more vertically oriented battlefields. The jetpacks empower you in such a way that you wish you could always use one – approaching an enemy from above and blasting him with a stream of infinite bullets is an absolute pleasure. The above portions of the game were adored because they were hugely successful at varying the basic shooting mechanics in new ways. More concepts should have been included to keep the solid gunplay from becoming as numbing as it does towards the end.

Many of the game’s single-player issues vanish when battling online. Team deathmatch is present, as is an oddly designed variant that has you either defending or capturing set points for the entire duration of the match, but the most exciting one is called Warzone. The objects are constantly changing in Warzone (get more kills than the other team, assassinate or protect a certain player, capture or defend certain spots, etc.), which helps it maintain the intensity of the single-player campaign’s action and ratchets it up to absurd levels of craziness. Killzone 3 delivers the most chaotic yet accessible online experience I have ever experienced.

It will not take long to craft a build that suits your playstyle online, thanks to an intuitive, streamlined experience point system. You are awarded points by performing certain actions in battles, just like the plethora of other online shooters, but progression is not locked. You earn skill points that can be used to purchase abilities, guns, and perks for whichever character class you prefer. Within just a few matches, you will have a competitive build. Even with my brief experiences online, repetition already reared its ugly head – everything had immediately become too comfortable.

Beyond Killzone 3’s often-epic set-pieces and varied locations, the game is absent of personality. The repetitious act of regularly switching from relentless gunplay, to awkward cutscenes with downright atrocious characters no one could like, to all-too-frequent railed segments, desensitizes you to its few commendable aspects. When it comes down to it, Killzone 3 is a competent, if a mechanically indistinctive, shooter that excels online. But without all the clout and bolstered expectations the previous titles endured, gamers can more easily ignore its flaws and play the best installment in the Killzone franchise.

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