Let’s not beat around the bush here. I was not a fan of the first two Killzone titles. Sure, part two had some truly amazing multi-player that PS3 gamers are still enjoying, but the campaign was a snooze fest, in my personal opinion. That has all changed with Guerilla Games’s latest entry in the franchise. It does appear that the third time is the charm. Killzone 3 now sports a complete package: jaw-dropping visuals, a solid online component and a campaign that will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Even if you have not been a fan of the series to date, KZ3 is easily one of the best FPS experiences I have had in quite some time, and I highly recommend it.
Like most of Killzone 2 the story seemed to take a backseat to the visuals and online mode. I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit for more Helghan hijinx in KZ3, but I was proven wrong. The story grabbed me and drew me into the universe. So much so, in fact, that I want to go back and catch up on the lore that precedes this chapter. Most of this is thanks to some wonderful vocal performances, such as Malcolm McDowell as Jorhan Stahl. The Helgan Army is an evil faction that Guerilla Games really fleshes out in the third game. Once again, you step into the shoes of Sev, with the story picking up immediately following the events of the second game.
For those that want to avoid spoilers I suggest skipping this paragraph. Basically, Sev, Rico, Narville and the rest of the ISA are on their way out of the Helghan city after eliminating the Helghast leader, Visari. With no leadership in place, it appears the ISA have finally taken control of the war. Of course, what is a gritty FPS without conflict? Immediately, it appears in the form of Jordan Stahl, the man behind the new Helghan weapons with his eye on becoming the commander of the army. New Helghast weapons, along with a brand new leader for their army, lead to plenty of twists and turns and one hell of a ride for our ISA troops. The game manages to keep you interested from beginning to end, even if does use some standard clichés.
The single player campaign was the first thing I tackled, mainly because I found the last one to be so lackluster. At first, it felt familiar and concern flooded me, but then, the game really took a turn for the better. The pacing of KZ3 is immaculate, to say the least. The on-foot levels are as intense as you remember with Helghast doing everything to take you down. This is no run-and-gun shooter, and playing it as such will end in plenty of game over screens. While these conflicts are great, they tend to get old after a while. Guerilla realized this and packed in plenty of segments to switch up the action. Whether you are driving an ice cutter down the side of a mountain or blasting dropships with a massive cannon, you are never left bored. The sniper mission stands out as one of the most intense sequences in recent memory. This game is chock full of fantastic moments.
One of the reasons Killzone stands out is its ‘weighty’ gameplay. Everything you do in the game seems to have impact to it. Whether you are slamming into cover or slugging a mounted gun around it feels like the objects have some mass to them. This was an issue for some in Killzone 2, which Guerilla patched later, drawing criticism. The controls in Killzone 3 just feel “right” to me. There is enough weight to make it feel realistic, but also enough give to make it accessible. I love the way most of the guns feel and there are some truly fun weapons later in the game, including one that zaps your enemy until he explodes. Speaking of small touches, I love how every kill in KZ feels unique. Enemies fall off scaffoldings and the brutal melee kills are just that: brutal.
Expanding the universe, Guerilla is also supporting the two new bullet points for Sony’s console. KZ3 supports both the Move motion controller as well as 3D TV. The latter is done well but, as always, is dependent on how much you actually enjoy 3D viewing. Move controls are also done well but are not for everyone. You can adjust just about every aspect from turn speed to cursor movement, but I still could not replace the standard controller, as far as accuracy is concerned. It is a nice addition, but not one that will be game changing in the FPS space.
Much like the original game, the online mode will have you coming back for months. There is a reason why KZ2 is still one of the most-played online PS3 games. KZ3 boasts three modes that cover the standard bases including team deathmatch and objective-based matches. You can also hop into bot matches to practice your skills against the AI. The added Operations Mode awards the best players by showcasing them in between matches. Our online matches ran relatively smoothly. We experienced minor lag and some slowdown, but it wasn’t anything more severe than other online shooters. Once again, this will keep the disc in PS3 owner’s trays for months and months to come.
The Killzone series has always excelled in the area of visuals. KZ3 is a damn fine looking game. The environments feel worn and lived-in and, of course, shattered by war. The animations are absolutely incredible and everything moves at a smooth clip. The main characters look great, but still shy of that infamous target video from E3 a few years ago. You will be hard pressed to find a better looking game outside of the PS3, though. This one is up there with the likes of Uncharted. As for sound, I mentioned earlier about the solid voice acting ,and the musical score is also well done. The highlights, though, are the explosions and other sound effects. Hearing buildings crumble and guns recoil on the proper setup is definitely an audio delight.
Killzone 3 is a fantastic follow-up to Sony’s flagship FPS. Guerilla Games has done an amazing job of creating both a compelling campaign and a solid online component. The pacing is near perfect and the vehicle segments break up the action at just the right times. Not being a huge fan of the last outing, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself engaged in the universe. Killzone 3 is a must play for fans of the genre and yet another outstanding exclusive for the PlayStation 3.
Review copy provided by publisher.