Killzone 3 Review
A few of my fondest modern gaming memories come from Killzone on the PS2 and Killzone 2 on the PS3. In the first Killzone, my team of soldiers and I had just blasted our way through dozens of terrifying Helghast soldiers to emerge in an open field littered with blooming trees and falling flowers. The battle that took place there had me running from safe spot to safe spot, desperately trying to disable huge gun mounts while also dealing with the population of rank-and-file bad guys. The game's difficulty, the enemy A.I., the "weight" of the weapons, the environment; all of these made me feel like I was RIGHT THERE, dodging bullets alongside my team members. Killzone 2 stepped up the immersion with its first level, an extremely intense affair that had me storming a beach, destroying a bridge and fighting through a factory. I watched comrades fighting and dying right along side me, and the Helghan forces were made even more horrifying by the PS3's HD capabilities. Again, I felt like I was ACTUALLY THERE on the battlefield, a feat that so few games manage to accomplish.
Now, after what has seemed like an eternity, Killzone 3 has arrived to once again drop us into enemy territory and trust us not only with the fate of the ISA forces, but the very future of planet Earth. But does this, one of my most anticipated games of all time, manage to measure up to the pedigree created by its forbearers?
Let's talk story first. At the end of Killzone 2, ISA soldier Rico had jumped the gun and killed the captive Helghast ruler Visari, leaving your small squad trapped on planet Helghan. Killzone 3 follows the same soldiers as part 2, but the narrative is a disaster. Like an action movie cliché, the squad without a hope in the world comes to save the day and dabbles in every other concept originally stolen from James Cameron's Aliens. Killzone 3 hits all the high points: Wise cracking soldiers, an incompetent leader ordering troops do things that said troops know to be wrongheaded, impossible last minute saves, storming and escaping bases with recaptured prisoners; you've seen all this before. I'd be fine with a generic story, but the events jump forward and back in time, leaving the player completely confused about what happens when and why. The first three main levels all take place at different times, and a sequence is even repeated later in the game, further muddying the waters and making things far too tough to follow.
To make matters worse, the immersion that made past games in the series is almost completely gone. There are an inordinate amount of cutscenes in Killzone 3, and unlike part 2, they come across as choppy and uneven. For example, in Killzone 2, players watched a scene that had a flying ISA dropship crashing onto a beach and Sev, the main character, beginning his fight. The camera zoomed from third person to first person view elegantly, and there was no break in the events. In part 3, you'll know a cutscene is coming when you have reached a certain point and are frozen in place. The game then cuts to the scene, with no smooth transition between the two. It's a huge step backwards for the series, and only further separates the player from the confusing and generic story.
Even though I've hammered home the loss of the "being there" feeling in this sequel, I wanted to take a second and go over where it hurts the game the most: the very end. Killzone 3, an amazing FPS with eye-popping graphics and some seriously fun gameplay, ends with an on-rails segment that only tasks you with blasting a few missiles and hitting the circle button. I took issue with Killzone 2's unfairly difficult final boss battle, but I'd rather fight ten million General Radec's than see such an epic game come to such a whimper of a conclusion. No where else is the lost immersion so evident as it is in the game's final moments, and the entire experience suffers for it.
Thankfully, the gameplay is every bit what I was expecting from this sequel. This is the first person shooter at its finest. The guns all have the trademark Killzone "weight," the action is fast and intense and the new brutal melee kills add a lot more to the game than just a gross-out factor. The Helghast soldiers have gotten even smarter this time around, and will realistically flank you, fight to the death and generally behave like real soldiers. It boils down to this: If you've ever enjoyed a FPS, you're going to love Killzone 3.