Review: Killzone 3

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Killzone 3 delivers everything that you’d expect from a modern shooter. The mythology and story of the campaign is entertaining and fun to watch, and the multiplayer will undoubtedly be played by millions of people across the world for its generally well-balanced classes and unlockable perks and weapons. Killzone 3 does so many different things very well, but it just doesn’t have the one feature or aspect that pushes it into the pantheon of gaming excellence.

The one part of the game that comes close to perfect is the cinematography. Somehow, the Helghast city that was just ground zero for a nuclear strike is heart-wrenchingly beautiful, with the husks of broken buildings and embers flittering across the red sky. After the native flora and fauna take over, the city is transformed into a vibrant landscape that feels like a living, breathing ecosystem. From there the game travels to a craggy, wintry coast that looks more real than an obligatory “snow level” should. Finally, the ships and explosions in space are on par with the gritty look of Battlestar Galactica or Firefly.

That’s right, Killzone 3 has fully embraced its science-fiction setting. The new technology and weaponry introduced by the Helghast civilian contractor Chairman Stahl are devastating and fun in their green gooey wonder. Unfortunately for the Helghan people, Stahl has designs on filling the recently deceased Emperor’s shoes and he clashes with the military for control of the state. Malcolm McDowell, of A Clockwork Orange and Star Trek: Generations fame, plays Stahl adequately, but his vocal performance lacks the punch that the rest of the cast offers.

We meet the good guys, the ISA, right after the events of the last game. Sergeant Rico Velasquez just gunned down the Emperor against his orders to capture him alive, and Captain Narville is the authority figure who constantly yells at Velasquez for not listening to him. In between, is Sevchenko, who is busy doing a bad Jake Gyllenhaal impression for most of the game. The military banter between these three characters is generally above-average and I liked that the writers didn’t shy away from a colorful expletive when warranted. Other than these three, the supporting cast is largely forgettable, and I still don’t know why the token female Jammer is included other than for eye-candy.

Every common trope seen in shooters over the last ten years makes an appearance in Killzone 3. From the get-go, you are encouraged to use cover, but most obstacles can still be shot through by your opponents, leaving you frantic to find something solid to hide behind. The frequent on-rails sequences are definitely fun and showcase the lush environments well. Getting to fly around in short bursts using a jetpack suit, complete with a machine gun, is fun but other than one nicely laid out boss fight, you don’t get to explore the world with it.

The variety of infantry rifles and machine guns all feel very similar, but the selection is peppered with standard deviations: shotgun, sniper rifle and rocket launcher. The special weapons stolen from Stahl’s troops are fun but have severe limitations. The Bolt Gun shoots heat that explodes with a delay on bigger targets, while an experimental weapon shoots green mist that makes enemies bodies burst like water balloons. It’s a nasty effect, but the “ammo” runs out too quickly to keep the novelty of it worth filling up the weapon slot.

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The entire campaign is built to be played cooperatively. This is reinforced even in the single player campaign by the NPCs running up to you after you die and reviving you. Hearing the characters call out that they are trying to get to your position is an interesting mechanic, allowing you to restart without resorting to the nearest checkpoint, but it gets a little old after waiting a few moments only to hear, “I can’t get to you” or “I’m getting shot to hell myself.” Still, the coop campaign is a lot of fun to play through with a friend.

Or you can delve straight into the robust multiplayer system in Killzone 3. The default mode is called Warzone and gives random, and often opposing objectives to the teams, such as assassinating one enemy while the other team has to keep him alive. At the end of the time limit, whichever team wins that minigame gets a point, and then another objective is assigned. The multiple objectives are inherently more fun than picking a mechanic such as capture the flag and sticking with that for the whole match.

Each of the multiplayer classes – tactician, engineer, field medic, infiltrator and marksman – play very differently and the amount of customization increases as you level up. The infiltrator (read: spy) is definitely my favorite, allowing you to sneak up on unsuspecting enemies to blast them away with a choice shotgun blast or two. The multiplayer maps are as wonderfully beautiful as the campaign set pieces, with great variety in layout, chokepoints and spawns keeping each match fresh.

I especially like that you can practice loadouts and get a feel for each arena in the botzone, a feature that I’ve missed in shooters since the days of Perfect Dark. The difficulty level for these AI controlled opponents and teammates was enough to make me feel like I had a sense of what to expect even against more skilled human players, but without feeling like I was completely overmatched.

Killzone 3 is a well-made game that hits all of the right notes for a AAA title. There isn’t a twisting plot or engaging character development in the campaign but I was impressed with the scope of the story of the Helghast Empire dealing with the death of their fearless leader and the gritty ISA military folks fighting for survival in a hostile environment. The generally short length of the campaign (5-10 hours) will leave some consumers wanting more for their 60 bucks but the beautiful graphics and balanced multiplayer will be enough to keep most pining for Killzone 4.

Bottom Line: Killzone 3 does everything that it should without providing that extra oomph to make it transcend the genre.

Recommendation: It’s worth playing through the campaign of Killzone 3 as a shining example of what a current generation game should look like, so I’d give it rent if you can. If you love shooters and have a PS3, get ready to get sucked into the multiplayer for months to come.


What our review scores mean.

Game: Killzone 3
Genre: Shooter
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Publisher: SCE
Release Date: February 22, 2011
Platform: PS3
Available from: Amazon

Greg Tito kind of wishes that they did get Jake Gyllenhaal and Oates to voice Sevchenko.

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