Killzone 2 released just about two years ago and had a lot to live up to. There was the pre-rendered E3 2005 trailer drama which led to lofty expectations. Quite frankly, very few people thought Guerrilla Games could make a game that looked as good as that trailer. Let’s be honest with ourselves. Killzone was a decent game but nothing special, and before that they were a Game Boy developer. Against all odds they not only launched a game that rivaled and in some ways surpassed that trailer, but the game itself was great. Killzone 2 became the premier shooter experience for the PlayStation 3, but Guerrilla wasn’t about to rest on that. After completing Killzone 2 they began work on Killzone 3. There were no pre-rendered trailers to compete with or exorbitant hype, this time it was about making an even better game. While shorter than Killzone 2, Killzone 3 has a worthwhile single player campaign and further refined multiplayer making it once again, the definitive shooter on the PS3.

Killzone 3 begins right where Killzone 2 left off. Emperor Visari is dead and the Helghast are less than pleased. The few remaining ISA soldiers must regroup with the ISA orbital fleet if they are to have any hope of escape. Surely this will be no easy task. Luckily for the ISA, the Helghast are having their own internal power struggles. With neither side at their best, but neither side willing to give up, the campaign is action packed. Players will trek across Helghan on foot, on turret gunner seats of tanks and jeeps, and on intruders as they attempt to defeat the Helghast and get off the planet. As mentioned earlier, Killzone 3 is a shorter experience. Killzone 2 wasn’t terribly long, but Killzone 3 can be completed in five hours or so, less if playing on easier difficulties. What is available is fun, but it ends rather abruptly leaving a few lose ends that likely could have gone to make this campaign even better.

Killzone 3 offers a few changes from Killzone 2. The control mapping variations have been changed to accommodate those more familiar with games such as Battlefield or Call of Duty. This has come to the delight of many players of the previous game who found the controls less than favorable. The weighted feel and movement apparent in Killzone 2 has been reduced, but is still there. It is very similar to Battlefield Bad Company 2 in this respect. There are also a few well designed stealth based missions that take advantage of the new brutal melee system. Pressing R3 when prompted will cause Sev to execute a brutal kill. These can range from slashing the throat of an unsuspecting soldier, to my personal favorite, pushing your thumbs through the eyes in their helmet a la Kratos versus Poseidon. The same brutal melee kills are also available in the multiplayer. The most substantial addition to the single player, is another player. Yes, now you can stick it to the Helghast with a friend in split-screen. Co-op will put the second player in the boots of Natko, one of the squad members in Killzone 2. This has no impact on the story itself, but it is a nice addition to add some replay value. You may find some minor performance issues in the co-op, but nothing that will break the experience. Also, there is no online co-op, which feels like a huge missed opportunity.

The Helghast are looking for a new leader, Chairman Stahl nominates himself.

Living up to Killzone 2, this latest entry in the series looks fantastic. Anyone who has been away from Killzone for a while will likely be as blown away as new players. Environments look sharp and character models look just as good, though some close-ups in cutscenes can reveal some flat textures. Guerrilla has also expanded the color palette in Killzone 3. While the second game looked just as good as Killzone 3, it did receive a small bit of criticism for using bland colors. This time they proved that the game could look good no matter what and the diverse locations of Helghan make this very apparent. Familiar city settings from Killzone 2 still look good, but they are quickly put to shame as you enter the vibrantly colored Helghan jungle. Plants radiate colors, caves are lit by glowing bugs, then comes the snow covered mountains and the nearby ocean platforms. No matter the environment, you will be left impressed.

Killzone 3 features a good orchestral score and the music fits the situations at hand. The sound design is especially good. The variety of weapons at your disposal each have their own distinct firing sound and even better sound when they make contact with your unfortunate foes, leaving them screaming…and dying of course. Explosions are accompanied by an appropriately large boom. The vehicles sound good as well when you find yourself in one. The voice acting can be spotty depending on the character. Most of the time the it is good, but some characters give inconsistent performances. Standouts include Chairman Stahl and, surprisingly, Rico who at least stays consistently over the top. It doesn’t help that most of the writing is either too cliché or too over the top for its own good, a problem that continues to plague the series.

Speaking of Rico, he is a much more likable character now. Gone are the “f*** this” and “f*** that” days. Its not as if they did away with foul language, they just use it more sparingly for everyone. Rico is much less annoying, and he is actually nice to have around considering his promising new feature. Rico can revive you if you are downed and in a relatively safe location. This means less starting from checkpoints and more staying in the action longer.

The multiplayer is where you will be spending most of your time in Killzone 3. Unlike Killzone 2, which had only one mode, Killzone 3 features three. Warzone returns as the largest mode, able to accommodate up to 24 players. While this number is smaller than that of Killzone 2’s 32 players, it is hardly noticeable and keeps the areas from feeling swarmed. Guerrilla Warfare is a standard team deathmatch mode. The team that reaches the required body count first wins.

The Helghast are dressed for success in the snowy mountains of Helghan

Operations is the most ambitious new mode. At its heart it is an attack and defend mode. What makes it special is that there are cutscenes highlighting the star players in game. The game starts with a scene showing the ISA attacking a Helghast position while the Helghast set up defensive positions. The ISA are then given an objective such as capturing and holding several positions or planting charges. If the ISA completes its objective, the game continues until they either accomplish all objectives or the Helghast prevent them from doing so. Each objective is like a new game, allowing different players to shine in the spotlight. The player with the most kills may not be featured if he or she didn’t plant any charges, while players with little to no kills can be the heroes by placing multiple charges themselves. The only drawback to Operations is that only three maps are compatible which can make the mode feel old very quickly, much faster than it should.

Killzone 3 also uses an arguably better leveling system than its predecessor. In Killzone 2, you gained XP to level and unlock new classes and weapons in a linear progression. This meant that all players progressed in the exact same way and put newer or less frequent players at (in some cases) a sizable disadvantage. In Killzone 3 all classes are available from the start. Leveling grants you points which can be used to unlock weapons and abilities for any class. Players who want to play medic, but want to use the LMG, can play engineer with the LMG until they have enough points to unlock it for the medic. This was no doubt to give players more incentive to play other classes without having to level them separately and to allow players their own unique progression. The classes include:

  • Infiltrator
  • Tactician
  • Field Medic
  • Engineer
  • Marksman

Every class has its own unique ability such as the marksman’s ability to cloak or the engineer’s ability to repair and place turrets. Each class has its own play style and weapon selection to compliment its role in battle. Everyone can find a class and role that suits the way they play. Killzone 3 also does a good job of matching players up with those of similar skill. That’s not to say you won’t find yourself pitted against much better players, but the game will usually surround you with players who can keep things in check. Guerrilla has crafted one of the finest multiplayer shooters on the market and the best on the PS3 to date.

Yep, jetpacks. Everything is better with jetpacks!

Other interesting features include 3D and Move support. The latter is fantastic and is only further complimented by the Move Sharpshooter. Killzone 3 supports the finest implementation of Move to date and is one of the best motion controlled shooter, period. Unfortunately, my lack of a 3DTV has left me unable to test the 3D gameplay, but word is that it works pretty darn well.

Killzone 3 is not only the best shooter on the PS3, but is one of the top games released so far in 2011. The multiplayer alone is worth the cost of entry. The single player, while short, still delivers solid fun, and being able to play with a friend makes the deal that much sweeter. If you’re looking for a game you’ll still be playing at the end of 2011 and have a PlayStation 3, look no further than Killzone 3.



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