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LCG’s Killzone 3 Review

Sony’s flagship FPS is touching down on the PS3 for a second time and boy is it a looker. Killzone 3 is continuing the franchise’s tradition of high-caliber weaponry and testosterone-fueled interplanetary drama. This time Sev and the ISA forces are on the move to escape the Helghast homeworld after killing the Helghan leader, Visari. As you can imagine, the remainder of the Helghast forces aren’t too happy and are on a planet-wide hunt for the ISA.

While the premise of the story is fairly straightforward, it doesn’t do a good job of presenting it. You really don’t care too much for the protagonist you play as. Sev and Rico are simply two dimensional military meat heads. They’re not bad characters persae, they’re just in place to be badasses and perpetuate the drama. Malcom McDowell steals the show with his role as General Stahl and James Remar did passable voice work as Captain Narville.

Malcom McDowell will voice act the shit out of you.

The Killzone 3 timeline jumps back and forth so often that you never really get a sense of how much time actually passed. At the very beginning of the game, there’s a moment where you’re treated to a cutscene where particular members of the ISA are in a bind. Right when things start to escalate the story jumps to another shot in a completely different setting with the words “Six Months Earlier” at the bottom of the screen. Just as soon as my confusion set in, bullets were flying and explosions were going off all around me. There’s a bit of tedium before the action kicks into full gear, but when it does you’ll be reminded quickly as to why you play Killzone games in the first place (on the PS3 at least).

The Killzone series is known for it’s iconic heft. Love it or hate it; it remains intact to greater effect. Every action in the game is very deliberate in making the player feel like they’ve assumed the role of a ground-pounding trooper. Weapons have an immense sense of firepower and weight. Actions like tossing a grenade or reloading are appropriately jolting. It may sound strange on paper, but it’s something that is better understood when seen. The controls now have you toggling in and out of cover rather than holding down a button to stay in it. This allows players to easily ADS without overhauling the control scheme like in KZ2. Largely the control schemes are limited to the default and a very CoD-esque layout. Each one is excellent in their own right and get the job done.

Guerilla didn’t pull any punches when it came to giving players an excuse to blast away  science fiction’s version of a Nazi. While the Helghast may not be too original, they certainly have personality. The enemy is well coordinated pack that will work together to constantly out-flank you. They’ll lay down some fire or throw some grenades at you, while others move in for the kill. The feeling is indescribable when a crimson-eyed commando runs up and unloads on you while you’re exchanging bullets with another group. You’ll be gunning down humanoid enemies for a large portion of the campaign. It’s a good thing that the foes are so intelligent; since it makes encounters with the Helghast all the more engaging. The Helghast are well animated and will appropriately recoil when shot. The impressive hit detection contributes to a large part of the realism. If you cap one in the legs he’ll stumble and limp, if you unload an entire clip into his torso he’ll writhe and scream as each individual round impacts his body differently. There’s a strange morbid sense of satisfaction when you put down a soldier in KZ3 that you don’t get in other shooters.

We get it. You're evil.

A brutal melee mechanic now brings you closer to the action. When you’re in close enough proximity to a Helghast soldier a button prompt will appear that allows for some dynamic melee moves. It’s contextual depending on where you are. If you remain unseen and behind the enemy, you’ll just get a silent throat slit. If the enemy is behind cover, the player may punch or kick him up against sandbags and stab him. It’s all very gruesome and never gets old. The downside is that you’re completely open to fire when you have a knife in a space Nazi’s throat. But try and tell me it’s not worth getting shot at to jam your thumbs into someone’s eye sockets. The melee mechanic is a welcome new addition that makes the already intense firefights much more intimate.

Knife; meet throat. Throat; knife.

Killzone 3’s campaign does an excellent job of giving players new things to do in a variety of different locales. One moment you’ll be linking up with remnants of the ISA forces for some house-to-house urban combat, the next you’ll be punching up a highway as Helghast forces try to prevent you from evacuating the planet. While all the objectives underline every FPS cliche (blow up this AA gun/plant explosives on this wall/follow this guy, stab that guy), Guerilla did a great job of varying them so it doesn’t make you feel like you’ve done the same thing twice. For a game that’s simply about shooting dudes; Guerilla succeeded in setting up encounters so they feel appropriately epic. Inevitably, players will find themselves on the front lines in variety of environments. KZ3 features some of the most intense and populated battlefields in videogames today. Every time the game brings you into a new locale, you can be guaranteed that you’ll be shoulder to shoulder with fellow ISA troops.

The setpieces are truly something to behold. It feels like your contributions during a firefight are only a small part of a bigger picture. Many of the game’s battlefields are genuinely intimidating when you first come across them. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the enemy’s numbers and the sheer scale of the battle at hand. The skyline is dotted with dropships, sentry bots are flying around chopping down your fellow comrades, the ever-advancing Helghast are shouting obscenities and shooting at you from the other side of the battlefield. Sensory overload is an understatement, especially later on when you work with other squads to take down a towering mech that  occupies the ENTIRE view of the sky.

The environments that KZ3 place you in are as sporadic as the story’s timeline. You’ll be running through the obligatory crumbling urban warzone, sneaking through a strangely lit neon jungle, and trekking across Hoth-like tundras. While the game made up poor reasons to visit these places, I appreciated the variance they came in. Not only are they easy on the eyes, but they carry the story through it’s paces. Although the story isn’t cohesive by any stretch, it merely serves as a conduit to let players jump into a mech or blast away in scripted on-rails sequences every once in awhile. On too many occasions the cutscenes write a blank check that attempts to excuse a turret sequence or a change in scenery.

I would suddenly find myself thrust into a vehicle sequence or manning a gun when only moments before I was on foot shooting bad guys in the thick of it. It’s a shame since KZ3’s base gunplay is so engaging; being repeatedly forced to view the action from behind a stationary gun makes the experience feel more like a shooting gallery at times. I understand a developer’s need to put in turret sequences to break up the action and allow the experience to be mindless for a few moments; but the amount of time spent on-rails is more than I would have liked. It seemed like where Guerilla didn’t know how to smoothly transition story elements and action setpieces together, so they simply glue-gunned in a turret sequence. I won’t spoil much of the game’s ending but; the final moments of Killzone 3 = on-rails turret sequence. Anti-climactic; but many fans will find themselves content with the ending.

I was just indoors 2 seconds ago. Behold! The power of teleportation!

The campaign is fairly lengthy, clocking in between 8 – 10 hours on the “Normal” difficulty. It may not sound like alot to some people, but most shooters tend to clock in at around 6 hours these days. Bare in mind that the final playtime is always relative to a person’s skill and what difficulty they’re playing on, so your mileage may vary. You can also run through the campaign with a buddy via split-screen co-op. KZ3 with a friend is an absolute joy to play. There’s a strong sense of accomplishment when you work together to take out entrenched enemies and fortified positions, especially on higher difficulty levels. Unfortunately there is no online co-op. Hopefully this can be remedied with a patch. But if it’s online gameplay that you’re looking for KZ3 has that in spades.

Killzone 3 follows the obligatory ranking progression that was made popular by the Call of Duty franchise. Players will gain XP by killing other players or by completing objectives. There are five classes that players can choose from; marksman, engineer, field medic, tactician, and infiltrator. Each one plays a vital role in a team’s success and will yield immense amounts of XP if they utilize their specialties. Field medics can (you ready?) revive and heal other squadmates while engineers can repair sentry guns and ammo dumps. They all operate differently so it’s a manner of finding the best play style suited for you. There’s nothing quite like playing as the infiltrator; running into enemy territory and disguising yourself as the opposing force only to sink a knife into their backs when they least suspect it.

There are three main modes of play in KZ3’s multiplayer. Warzone has your team rushing around the map completing objectives against the other team. This mode offers alot of variety and chaos as objectives are constantly changing on the fly. Guerilla Warfare needs little explanation since it’s basically team deathmatch. Operations is an attack/defend objective-based mode. The attacking team will have to set charges or retrieve items to foward the team’s progress. The defending team would have to stop them at any cost before the timer runs down. It’s a neat mode that adds a little narrative to the multiplayer by placing players into cutscenes between objectives and at the end of the match. Players will accrue points that will allow them to access better weapons and equipment. You can either upgrade a class you prefer to stick with or ones that you don’t even play as. Dedicated players will find themselves occupied with the rich multiplayer long after beating the campaign. It ships with 8 maps (an additional 2 if you pre-ordered) and supports up to 24 players.

The strong multiplayer component is just begging for your time

Unfortunately, we at LCG don’t have a 3D television to test KZ3’s 3D capabilities on. So judgments about the quality of the 3D is withheld for this review. The Playstation Move is supported here but I found myself switching back to the Dualshock after getting shot in the face one too many times. It’s functional, but not responsive. Overall, Killzone 3 is a solid package with alot to offer. The graphical powerhouse that is the PS3 is on display here. The single-player campaign isn’t the most cerebral, but it is undeniably exciting and has some memorable moments you’ll want go back and revisit. Split-screen co-op is a welcome addition as well as the mountainous multiplayer suite that is sure to please shooter fans of all types. Hours upon hours of quality content are just asking to be devoured. Call out of work and put your phone on silent, Killzone 3 is here to suck up your time.

And you know what? You’ll let it.

+ Best looking game on any platform yet
+ Campaign is intense and fairly lengthy
+ Split-screen co-op is an absolute joy
+ Multiplayer will have you coming back again and again

– Weak story
– Excessive amounts of turret sequences
– No online co-op
– No split-screen online


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