Saturday, May 21, 2011

Review: Killzone 3

I sometimes wonder if the art of the plot is dead. 
Take Vanquish, for example - great game, rubbish plot.
 Or Final Fantasy 13. Rubbish game, long, boring plot.
 And now we come to Killzone 3, the third in a trio of games which have plots consisting entirely of:
"Oh no! Space Nazis have invaded our planet!" (Killzone.) "We beat them! Now we're going to take the battle to their planet!" (Killzone 2). And Killzone 3's plot? "The Space Nazis are going to do bad things! Let's stop them!"
 And that's about it. Hardly 'Animal Farm'.

That said, if you're looking for a gorgeous shooter with some brilliant set-piece battles, chunky action and addictive multiplayer, look no further.
 The game's plot (predictable as it is) picks up right after the events of Killzone 2. 
ISA troopers who invaded Helghan, the homeworld of the Helghast - red eyepiece-wearing space Nazis with a major bee in their collective bonnets - have been left scattered and demoralised after the leader of the Helghast nuked his own capital city.
 The rest of the game sees our two heroes, stocky and gruff Rico (who is still lacking the giant cannon he favoured in Killzone), and snippy Sev facing wave after wave of space Nazis, while taking time out to drive around in giant walkers, a neat scooter dripping with weapons and a couple of tanks, in scenery that will make your eyes water.

While the plot does make an effort to detail the political infighting of the Helghan high command (who are so much a caricature of the Nazis that it's plain silly), this is sadly under-developed, and though the cutscenes are top quality they often interrupt the action at precisely the wrong point, and ruin the flow.

Aside from this, Killzone 3 is another brilliant slice of shooter heaven, offering a continuation of the gritty feel the series does so well, with all the hefty gunfighting and brutal close combat you've come to expect – and a surprisingly good stealth section thrown in for good measure.
 The majority of the game sees Sev-and-co blasting their way through gritty urban environments as huge battlecruisers meet in the skies overhead, and aircraft crash all around.

Later the action shifts to the planet's jungles, and finally the polar ice caps, and you'll find yourself zipping between glaciers and icebergs on a flying landing craft, blowing the hell out of oil rigs, before taking to the skies in a rather nifty jetpack which, for a few levels at least, makes the blasting a thrilling blend of dogfighting and gunplay.
 Though the action goes from burnt-out city to lush jungle to blasted icecap, the general gist of the shooting is all well balanced and hefty. 
Sev can take cover behind most objects, allowing you to pop out for a snapshot or to lay down some covering fire.
The weapons on offer are a nice blend of old favourites (the explosive boltgun being my personal weapon of choice) and a few new additions, including one BFG-like weapon, which kills anything it touches in a ball of green fire.

There are also a few close combat attacks which are pretty brutal, and thankfully the developers have ignored the Sixaxis controller's motion sensor, so your sniper rifle doesn't wobble about as badly when you're aiming down the sight.
That said, the game also features support for the PlayStation Move controllers, but I wasn't able to test that - I don’t like waving my arms around when I want to play games.
 Nor was I privy to the 3D TV support the shiny disk comes boxed with, but honestly I wouldn't bother - boy, does this game look good.
 In HD, Killzone 3 looks amazing. There's no draw distance, no texture problems and you can see the effort the developers went to to get the feel of a battlefield right. There's smoke gushing from piles of blazing machinery, the shadows on the snow as rifle fire blasts cones of light, the eerie glow of the Helghast's orange eye lenses in the darkness of a gutted building - it's all bought off to great effect.

The sound design is also brilliant. The guns are meaty, and the sound of a firefight can turn your living room into a battlefield in mere moments. 
I'm particularly unnerved by the throaty rasp of the Helghast's rebreathers - guttural snarls and threats that can make you jump when you get charged by one of the neo-Nazi nitwits.
This brilliance in visual and sound design extends into the game's multiplayer offering, which is just as much fun as the previous title's offering - and is actually a little too similar for its own good.

For the most part the battles follow Killzone 2's particular style of multiplayer - teams facing off against each other on one map, with the objectives changing every few minutes - making what was a standard team deathmatch become search and destroy in one fell swoop, turning things on their head in a surprisingly refreshing way.

The gameplay is mostly dominated by the various character classes available to the gamer, and the powers given to them. 
An engineer can assemble a handy turret, while a team leader has a mortar strike and the infiltrator can disguise himself as an enemy trooper - and get a few sneaky stealth kills in.
 This time around the maps are bigger and more suited to snipers (which is a good thing for me). There are also a few exo-suits (massive, bipedal walkers) dotted around, and jetpacks take the battle vertical at points, it’s all very good fun.
The skills progression has more than enough length in it to keep even the most committed gamer going, and the servers are fast and well designed, making matchmaking a breeze.

So, despite the poor story and general similarities to the previous titles, Killzone 3 has more than enough bang for your buck, and will keep shooter fans absorbed for hours. A fun, if predictable, singleplayer campaign has some brilliant gunplay and set-piece battles, and the multiplayer has more than enough action and skills progression to keep feeling fresh, despite the slightly generic nature of the fighting. If you've got a PS3, this is well worth a look.

*Reviewed on PS3


When you mention the mortar strike, not only the "team leader" can use it. It is spawned every few minutes and can be used by any member of the team. Mortar strikes are not on every level, and only appear in the Warzone game mode. Basically, they are what they say they are, Mortar strikes. You pick one up and can toss it (very far might I add) anywhere on the map and a few seconds later a mortar strike rains down and kills any enemies in the area. Some compare it to an airstrike in COD, it is similar but you do not need to earn a "killstreak" to use it. They are found at most spawns on the levels that they are included on. Only the team that has the particular spawn captured at the time can use it.

Good review overall, though I still do not understand why reviewers always say that the Helghast are a carbon copy of Nazis, just in space. Why is that a bad thing? Would you rather them make another real life based war shooter with real Nazis? That's already been done and is depressing. So what they are basically "space nazis", makes no difference to me as long as they look like freaks and I can kill them! =)

Annoyingly - there's actually a very good story behind the Killzone series. Unfortunately - they neglect to put it in the games...

If you know it, then it does actually give another level to the game story, but all Guerilla have done is put it on a website. Bioshock it is not.

Makes you more sympathetic to the Helghast though. Maybe in Killzone 4 they'll let us put the orange glasses on :D