Killzone 3 is intense. It’s so intense that it often feels as though you’re being guided at break neck speed through rush hour traffic by a taxi driver who 1) has no license 2) has no brakes and 3) learnt to drive by watching and re-watching The Fast and the Furious.
As a result, somewhere around the half-way point, Killzone 3 begins to lose its way; the unrelenting barrage of explosions, headshots and space marine ‘bromances’ numbing you to the point of apathy. Only once throughout the 6 hour-ish campaign are you afforded room to breathe. That moment comes in the form of a stealth mission deep in enemy territory through the Helghan jungle; it’s hardly original stuff but at least you’re tasked with performing something other than aim-shoot-kill.
That’s not to say that Killzone 3 is a bad game because it’s not. What it tries to do it does extremely competently. It’s just that, at least in single-player, it doesn’t try to do anything that we’ve not seen before. The visuals are stunning (truly stunning), gunplay feels suitably hefty and enemies provide enough challenge to fill you with a sense of achievement come the end of each level. It’s just a shame that the overriding sensation is one of déjà vu.
For anyone looking for exactly this kind of visceral experience though, you’re certainly not going to be disappointed. This is a game that doesn’t leave anything on the table. Within the first hour you’ll have mowed down Helghast with the fittingly mighty mini-gun, unleashed hell as a tank gunner and traversed a crumbling city in a bi-pedal mech suit. If you want to feel big, masculine and powerful you could a lot worse than spend a weekend with Killzone 3’s campaign.
That’s not to say it’s mindless though. Enemies are roughly equal to you in terms of how much damage they can absorb and they’re definitely not stupid; they’ll attempt to flank your position, they make good use of cover and, unlike many shooters out there, they actually aim as well as you’d expect from a trained soldier. Playing Killzone 3 on the regular difficulty is roughly comparable with what would be labelled as ‘hard’ on most games.
This enemy competency forces you to make constant and intelligent use of cover. Fire-fights tend to involve finding cover, identifying high priority enemies (i.e. those with sniper rifles or RPGs), taking out said enemies, moving to a new position and repeating until resistance has been crushed. To allow you to achieve this you’re given access to a decent assortment of weaponry. The standard assault rifles, pistols and light-machine guns are joined by some altogether more impressive fare in the form of an explosive bolt gun (a personal favourite), a portable homing missile launcher and, among others, a green orb shooting flesh disintegrating thing-a-ma-jig.
It’s a shame that the team at Guerrilla haven’t pushed the game design boat out a little more because when the action moves away from the standard shooting gallery format, things become more interesting. A memorable sequence in which you commandeer a nifty jet-pack ends all too soon and the stealth sequence (unlike the rest of the game) is paced brilliantly as, when bullets start flying, you get a real sense of drama as a result of the slow build-up and ever-increasing tension.
As is the case with the majority of linear, all action shooters the storytelling is predictably poor. Following the ending of Killzone 2 (which I won’t spoil for those that haven’t experienced it), the Helghast have rallied and are preparing to launch an attack on Earth. While this main thread is easy enough to follow, the details are less well presented. The cut-scenes and in-game storytelling is very poor, I found myself constantly checking my objectives mid-game in a bid to learn what I was supposed to be doing and why I was doing it.
Some degree of narrative respectability is through the quality voice acting of Ray Winstone and Malcolm McDowell. The two play political rivals vying for control of the Helghast empire (thus preventing the Helghast operating at full strength) but, this yarn ends rather abruptly and leaves you feeling empty and unsatisfied.
While the single player is ‘merely’ a supremely capable example of FPS level and combat design the multiplayer is excellent and by far the game’s greatest achievement. In short, access to the online multiplayer modes is worth the price of admission alone.
There are three game modes which, on paper, doesn’t sound like all that much but two of the three are deeply involving and do a decent job of mixing things up. Joining standard team deathmatch (here known as Guerrilla Warfare) are two objective based modes; Warzone and Operations.
Warzone sees two teams (of up to 12 players each) battle to complete randomly generating goals. These include controlling a specific location, transporting an item from place to place and assassinating a randomly selected member of the opposition. This kind of thing has been done before in other online shooters but Killzone 3 manages to achieve near perfect balance thanks to the well thought out maps and by presenting you with enough different objectives to keep things fun.
The star of the show is Operations, however. Rather than random objectives, Operations features the same objectives each time you play a given map; one team must work to complete the tasks within a time limit while the opposition must prevent them from doing so, as soon as the attacking team fails an objective they’ve lost.
What’s neat is that Operations plays short cut-scenes that mark the start of each new objective that give a bit of context to what you’re about to attempt. The objectives are fairly standard (plant three bombs, capture a room etc) but the cut-scenes give them that bit extra weight. Each cut-scene is populated by the top three players from each side up until that point so, if you want to pose for the camera, you’re going to have to score a lot of points and the easiest way to do so is by completing objectives; thus encouraging team play.
If Killzone 3’s campaign was as entertaining and engrossing as its multiplayer I’d not hesitate to single it out as a classic. However, while the single player is good enough, the lack of originality and variety means it gets old pretty quickly.
Online multiplayer shooter buffs should most certainly pick this up. Those looking for a groundbreaking single player experience will find one in terms of visual quality but not when it comes to gameplay. If you’re interested only in the single player you can knock ten percent off the following score and consider it a rental.