Killzone 3 Review

Note: This review is based on playing the game with a regular controller ONLY.  Since the reviewer has not played the game with either 3D visuals or Move controls, they will not be factored into the review.

Killzone, as a series, has always been in a tough spot in the highly saturated FPS market. Unfortunately, being a Sony-exclusive with a long development cycle seems to have effected the series’ overall popularity. As a result, the series can seem to be under-appreciated compared to some of its more popular cousins. Unfortunately for developer Guerilla Games, Killzone 3 does not exactly help the franchise to set itself apart from the pack. Though it looks absolutely fantastic, Killzone 3’s single player campaign becomes repetitive at times. Meanwhile, the game’s multiplayer is as great as ever, and an excellent departure from other popular FPS series. The game might not hold your attention for long though as it only adds one new game type to multiplayer and there are only so many levels that provide a diverse set of experiences. Still, the game is fully worth checking out and is a strong effort.

Killzone has always been a visually stunning series. The opening cutscene of Killzone 2 was used as a  PS3 tech demo, and the full game had stunning visuals. Killzone 3 builds on that tradition, far surpassing every conceivable standard for visual excellence. This game has some of the best looking environments in a video game. Ever. It seems like the plot was specifically written to incorporate a diverse set of environments, ranging from weird alien swamp/jungle, to ruined city, to arctic tundra.  The game is beautiful to see in action, not just because it’s pretty, but because of the sheer number of moving parts in many of the game’s larger setpieces. In sequences with large horizons, you can literally see dozen of background soldiers moving independently, and all of them will react if approached or attacked, without a framerate drop. The game’s textures are very smooth and characters, particularly faces, look flawless. It also helps that, in spite of the game’s story woes, the voice acting is excellent.

While Killzone 3’s campaign is very pretty, it can be a difficult trek. The game has a set of great gameplay moments, but between them are long stretches of linear, cover-to-cover shooting that is tactical at best and frustrating at worst. Unique sequences, such as Sev’s stealthy trek through the jungle, and the Jet-pack sequence are a lot of fun and ask players to do things outside of their comfort zone. During those moments, Killzone 3 is a superior game – players genuinely feel tense and in the moment during sequences where every action is an objective unto itself.  Unfortunately, these sequences are stuck between dime-a-dozen cover-based shooter moments.

It’s in these stretches where the game’s difficulty can become an issue. If you don’t choose the right cover, you will die. You might die because an enemy will have a clean shot at you, or you might die because hiding under cover does not guarantee safety. That fact adds tension to these scenarios, but can also you die repeatedly for what seems like no reason. Since these sequences make up the bulk of the game, there are times when it seems to move at a snail’s pace.

To break up the long stretches of cover-to-cover shooting are a seemingly infinite number of sequences where players take control of some kind of vehicle in an on-rails turret sequence. Simply put, there are just too many of them. Almost all of the sequences are at least somewhat fun, and would be fine if they were the only sequence of its kind, but the differences between them are negligible, so they all begin to blur together and become collectively boring. It’s especially irksome that the game ends in one of these sequences, especially because it’s that the reason for doing so was to avoid a boss fight or another type of endgame scenario.

The plot of Killzone 3 picks up right where the end of Killzone 2 left off. (This may contain some Killzone 2 spoilers, so if you haven’t played it yet and plan to, I’d skip down to the next paragraph.) Players return to the role of Sergeant Sevchenko, A.K.A. Sev, directly after your teammate Rico has shot Helghast leader Visari instead of capturing him. Unfortunately for them, the assassination of their leader galvanizes the Helghast army instead of crippling it, and the remaining ISA forces are driven into hiding on the planet.

Meanwhile, the shakeup in leadership leads to infighting and political intrigue amongst the Helghast’ generals, which in turn creates a plan for the Sev and Rico to foil.  The problem with the plot of Killzone 3 is that it has exactly the wrong amount of it.  The campaign has many cutscenes, but there is very little in the way of plot.  Mostly, they give the player some immediate context for why they’re doing what they’re doing.  That wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if they were about half as long, but as they are, the videos only serve to take players out of the action.

Between the overuse of turrets and the lack of diversity in the base gameplay, the game’s pacing can get a bit stilted. Large areas are crudely broken up into “levels” using cutscenes and on-rails vehicle sequences. Though the game has some natural stopping and starting points when environments change, more frequent stopping points are necessary because of the lack of diversity in combat scenarios.

The problem is, Guerilla clearly intended for Killzone 3 to be a story-intensive game.  The plot actually does lay the groundwork for an interesting story with a distinct theme. Unfortunately, the cutscenes waste time that could have been spent building said story, ultimately making the player wish there was no plot at all.  The lack of plot development shows through most clearly in the characters. Almost every personality relies on ever-popular “space marine” stereotypes to make them feel familiar, which they do.  They feel familiar and boring.

On the other hand, multiplayer continues to be the place where Killzone series shines.  Similar to differences between the last two Call of Duty games, Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops, Guerilla chose to leave the multiplayer of Killzone 2 largely unchanged, with some tweaks intended to optimize the experience.  “Intended” is the operative word here; while most of the changes don’t hurt the game, they don’t exactly tighten the gameplay either. Still, Killzone’s special brand of team-based multiplayer is refreshing, especially if free-for-all and slayer are starting to wear thin.

All Killzone 3 matches are teamwork-centric objective-based challenges. Warzone, the main multiplayer mode, places players in 12-on-12 marathon matches where teams have to accomplish different objectives ranging from the usual team deathmatch to assassination, where one team has to kill a specific member of the opposing team, who is presumably being hidden and protected.

Fans of the last game will be very happy to see the return of all the modes from Killzone 2. They won’t (or at least shouldn’t) be happy about the lack of any new ones.  All of the modes are fun, but there are only five game types and playing them over and over, especially over two games now, runs the risk of becoming repetitive.  Most levels add at least one environmental feature to mix things up, including vehicles and the game’s uber-hyped jetpacks, but they’re rarely game-changers and can feel gimmicky in some instances. Killzone 3 multiplayer is most-definitely a one-trick pony. That said it’s a pretty fun trick, one that you won’t get sick of.

The main addition to KZ3 multiplayer is “operations” mode, which uses character voice-overs and cutscenes to add a bit of context and urgency to the match.  Other than being shorter, the differences between operations and warzone are cosmetic.  Rather than being best of 7 where both teams switch up playing offense and defense, an “operation” has 3 rounds, picked from the same set of game types. One team has to accomplish a set of objectives, and the defensive team wins if they manage to stop the offensive at any point.

Each event is connected with a cutscene that shows the top players from the winning side completing their goal. You would think that the novelty of seeing yourself in cutscene would wear off, but it doesn’t really.  The only problem with operations is that there aren’t enough of them, just as the core gameplay of the Killzone 3 matches can start to feel redundant, the fact that there are only three missions, (each with separate offense and defense missions/cutscenes) mean that you will start seeing those same cutscenes over and over. The novelty of seeing yourself being a winner doesn’t get old, but what does is seeing the same three guys blowing up the same three doors does.

Now, the majority of this review is overwhelmingly negative, so I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t clarify that I think Killzone 3 is a very good game in spite of its faults. The campaign has issues, issues that are disappointing for a game that should be considered as one of the top franchises in the genre. That said, fans of the series will be able to overlook the campaign’s faults and enjoy the game’s distinct brand of action. For FPS multiplayer fans, Killzone 3 is definitely one of the best for competitive, team-based matches. Again, because of the game’s lack of level and scenario options, some players might get tired of Killzone, but if you get hooked on it, the teamwork and strategy necessary to be competitive adds enough depth to keep you hooked for just as long as any other FPS.

The game is not bad, by any means. A little disappointing? Yes. But it’s still one of the stronger PS3 titles out there. Perhaps it wasn’t the ‘GOTY’ contender that everyone had hoped for but ultimately it’s a solid effort from Guerilla Games and definitely deserves your attention.

Killzone 3 Review

Stunning visuals and great team-based multiplayer mixed with intense tactical action make Killzone 3 a must buy.