Killzone seems to be the series that everyone loves to hate. Before writing this, I did some reading around the web and it seems that in just about every forum people are complaining. Most of it is pretty baseless; some of it is well-grounded. If you’re on the edge about Killzone 3, I advise you to stay away from such outlets (then again, this is true for most games) and just decide for yourself. Play the demo, rent the game, whatever you need to do to make up your own mind. Reading reviews helps as well, so here’s mine.
Heads up, the next few sentences will spoil the two major plot points of Killzone 2 for you. Killzone 3 picks up literally minutes after the end of KZ2. Rico, in his infinite stupidity, has just killed the Helghast dictator, Visari. In the moments just before that, Visari nuked his own capital city of Pyrrhus with a stolen ISA-built nuclear bomb. Needless to say, the planet of Helghan and its people are not going through very good times. Then, again, neither are the ISA. The greater Helghast fleet has just arrived and the ISA has decided to pull out and get the hell off-world before getting wiped out by Helghast citizens who are enraged at the death of their emperor. The story starts right here and it starts very strong. The sense of urgency in getting off-world is conveyed well and the characters are already more developed and interesting than they were in the entirety of KZ2.
Sadly, the story suffers from some serious pacing problems. At one point near the middle, the game jumps ahead six months. Despite this, nothing seems to really have changed all that much and so the jump feels really jarring and might pull you out of the story briefly. The story would have worked much better if the jump had been a week or two because that’s really all it feels like. There’re also weird transitions between gameplay and story cutscenes. A couple times during the story, you’ll watch a cutscene and then the next thing you know, you’re in a vehicle once you start playing again. And you have no idea why you’re in this vehicle. It just seemed weird to me but let’s put that aside; I’ll talk more about vehicles in a moment.
The real draw of the campaign is the characters. Now that Visari is dead, new Helghast leaders have risen up to battle over control of the planet. The main antagonist of the game is a man named Stahl, CEO of the Stahl Arms Company, which you may know is responsible for manufacturing weapons on Helghan. Stahl is an outstanding and personable villain, due in no small part to the great voice work of Malcolm McDowell.
Sadly, the game doesn’t really have an ending. Nothing is answered and more questions are raised. Also, what happens at the end pretty much confirms my (and many other people’s) theory that the ISA are really the bad guys in the Killzone series and I’m curious if that will ever come out. Personally, I’d love to play the next game as the Helghast because they are far more interesting and developed than the generic ISA.
The campaign is a decent length, about on par with KZ2. It’s populated by some really great set pieces and some visuals that put the previous game to shame. The jungle segment in the middle of the campaign immediately comes to mind as one of the most visually interesting things I’ve ever seen in a game. It’s one of few times that something on an alien planet actually looks alien instead of just a slightly different version of earth.
The biggest problem the campaign has (aside from odd story pacing here and there) are the aforementioned vehicle segments: there’s a ton of them. KZ3 probably has more vehicle segments than any shooter I’ve ever played, with the possible exception of Halo. Sadly, only a couple of these segments are very good. The new jetpack and the exoskeleton (the mech from KZ2) are fun to pilot and use. It seems like the developers agree because these are the only two vehicles to make the transition to multiplayer. Everything else just feels kind of bland and most of the time you are only shooting, not driving. The very last thing you do in the game, in fact, is ride around in a vehicle shooting at stuff. This ending vehicle segment goes on for way too long.
I almost feel like there are so many vehicle spots just because KZ3 has Move support. As if they needed to include some rail shooter mechanics to add some more playability to the motion controller. Then again, maybe not, since first-person shooters are rather compatible with motion controls inherently. Regardless, the vehicle segments are too numerous and too frequent.
Despite this flaw, KZ3 has made huge improvements over its predecessor. The controls have been repaired and finally feel responsive. It’s much easier now to make tiny, precise adjustments to your aim and the sensitivity settings in the menu allow for the full spectrum of preferences. Thankfully, the game still feels as weighty as it did before. The great first-person animations convey this sense of weight in their movements, thankfully this time without sacrificing the player’s control. The new “brutal melee” moves are cinematic and gory in all the ways you could hope for.
While I’d be hard pressed to find flaws in KZ2’s multiplayer mode (minus the controls), somehow KZ3 manages to improve the mode tenfold. The new class system is much more accessible and much less grindy. Rather than having to spend hours in one specific class in order to unlock upgrades for it, you now earn universal points no matter the class you play as. You can then use these points to unlock equipment of your choosing for class. For example, you can play as a field medic and earn points, then use them to unlock stuff for the marksman. This is great because it allows you to save up points using a class you’re comfortable with, or have already maxed out, and then use them toward the next class you’d like to try out.
Warzone makes a return, with all of the same objective types it had in KZ2. Also featured now is Guerrilla Warfare, which is just straight-up team deathmatch. The new addition to multiplayer is Operations mode. Where Warzone was the unique draw of KZ2 multiplayer, Operations is the same for KZ3. The mode is objective-based and rewards deep teamwork. It pits two small teams against each other, usually in offensive and defensive situations.
Operations is interesting because it shows cutscenes before and after each round, showing the top scoring players on each team. For example, you may see yourself escaping just in time if your team wins or being captured by another player if your team loses. These cutscenes use whatever class model you’re playing as (and show the players’ names over their heads), which is rather cool.
Multiplayer has a few problems that are worth mentioning. The team balancing is nearly broken at the moment. You may find yourself in a match where one team has eight players and the other has four and the game makes no effort to shift players around to make the match more fair. Hopefully that gets fixed in a patch soon. Also, some people are having problems with multiplayer mode causing the game to freeze and forcing a PS3 restart. I haven’t experienced this myself, but it is also something that I hope gets fixed. Guerrilla seems to be pretty good about patching and fixing bugs (there have already been two or three patches in the first week), so let’s hope that support keeps up.
All in all, Killzone 3 has a little something for everyone. The multiplayer is one of my favorites on consoles and gives the game tons of longevity. (I’m confident that it will stay populated for quite some time.) The single player has a few quirks and oddities but is still a solid and engaging campaign. The Killzone franchise may have stumbled here and there with each release, but it’s still an outstanding first-person shooter in a cool sci-fi universe. Here’s hoping there’s more to come.