Truth be told, I finished playing Killzone 3 about two days after release, and I do mean finished; I haven’t played it again since then. It’s not a terribly difficult game if you’re not on Elite difficulty nor a notably lengthy one coming in at a shade under eight hours, but I also didn’t get hooked into the multiplayer like I did in Killzone 2. For all its faults and highlights and almost a month of reflection, I still can’t tell if this fourth installment of the franchise (don’t forget Killzone: Liberation) is better, worse, or just $60 of the same thing from 2009.
The campaign starts out rather strong. In fact, despite having to do the usual “head to the firing zone” gun tutorial, I was immediately hooked. You immediately step out into what is apparently a Helghan base of operations (also, ostensibly, as a Helghast soldier yourself), and your eyes are immediately flooded with colors. You vision is almost overwhelmed with painting-esque visuals and your mind is atwitter trying to work out why you’re a Helghast soldier all of a sudden. I mean, it’s not like it’s an intricately constructed mystery of how things will unfold, but it’s definitely a nice start.
This continues for a good while (the quality of the game, I mean). You jump right into some nice gunfights and are immediately treated to some nice battle areas and sizable enemies to gun down with a detachable turret. I even had some fun in the first true turret sequence as you mow down enemy vehicles and minor encampments with rockets and lead.
Unfortunately, it never progresses much further than that. As far as Killzone 3 is concerned, turret sequences are the pinnacle of game design. If I recall correctly (which may be a problem considering it’s been almost a month since I last played), there were about seven or eight turret sequences, and that doesn’t include the fact that the entire final battle of the game is three on-rails turret sequences back to back. I actually felt kind of cheated in the end, especially considering the ending was rather lackluster and 95% of my deaths in the campaign came from the very last turret battle.
There’s something about the core gameplay that irks me as well. It’s not the movement or the aiming (which is drastically improved over Killzone 2 even post-patch) or even how the guns feel as you unload countless shots into sometimes seemingly endless bullet sponges in Helghan military attire, but just something doesn’t play quite right. Perhaps it’s the almost-sticky cover mechanic that carries over from Killzone 2 and still feels just as stupid whenever you find yourself kneeling behind a piece of cover barely tall enough to cover your kneecaps, but I’m not sure.
It’s not all bad, though. I usually reserve this word for paintings of horses or pictures of breakfast foods or when describing Kristen Bell, but this game is beautiful. Especially once you find yourself messing around the “jungle” of planet Helghan (which unfortunately houses a seemingly endless stealth sequence), the bright and varied colors of this alien world make you truly almost weep Crayola-branded tears. There’s also just so much going on in the background almost constantly. If not actual stuff like people milling about or robots assembling, uh, other robots, then you definitely get to see firsthand how far Guerrilla’s burning ember particle technology has advanced (hint: it’s a lot).
You should know, though, that I didn’t play Killzone 3 in 3D considering I don’t have a 3D TV nor do I want to encourage the 3D trend in gaming.
The only knock on the visuals is that animations are sometimes…odd. It’s as if an enemy or ally AI wants to go a predetermined distance but can’t quite decide whether or not to go with his running or his walking animation and whether to make it as stiff as an old man’s joints on a rainy day, but there are definitely cases when you see these issues. This may just be an affectation of the game’s AI issues in general, though, as you will regularly go down in battle literally RIGHT NEXT to your AI partner only to hear him say “I can’t reach you!”
Voice acting is also a showcase. Although the stars really shine through with Malcolm McDowell as Jorhan Stahl and Ray Winstone as Admiral Orlock, everyone performs rather well. It doesn’t quite make up for Rico being a dick for 10 hours in Killzone 2 or the humdrum, poorly paced, occasionally nonsensical story of Killzone 3 (I mean, the revisit of the opening stage later on in the game is totally and inexplicably different from the first time you went through it), but it’s definitely worth noting how good the voice acting is.
The multiplayer is also what I’d consider a positive. I’m not much of an online multiplayer sort of guy, but Killzone 2 really got me hooked for some reason. Killzone 3 does the same for me for the most part, but I think that can be largely attributed to the way games are played. In Warzone games, you’ll find yourself completing objective after objective with no downtime (read: map loads or game resets) until one team has achieved a certain number of mission wins. With this structure, you can find yourself unwittingly playing for hours on end when you originally told yourself “all right, just a couple quick matches.”
You can of course still get your jollies the old fashioned way with “Guerrilla Warfare,” which is just Killzone 3′s way of saying team deathmatch, but you’ll also notice that much of Killzone 2′s openness to user configuration is gone. You can’t restrict game types in Warzone or configure player classes or even create a god damn match. You pretty much just choose a preset class loadout, hit find a match, and get on your way. There’s definitely something to be said about simplicity, but this isn’t a case where everyone will agree with it.
It may sound like I’ve been overtly negative on Killzone 3 to the point where I don’t like it, but that’s not entirely true. I guess I just had rather high expectations going into it. I figure Killzone 2 was way better than Killzone, so the third major release has to be better than the second one too, right? Wrong. If anything, I would say it’s just marginally improved in ways you would expect Madden to improve each year, which isn’t a bad thing. If you were coming off a pedigree of Killzone 2 and simply met its level of quality as well, you would have no reason not to be pleased with yourself. I guess I just wanted to more, but Killzone 3 couldn’t provide.
Final Grade: B