The Killzone series has always been billed as Sony’s answer to Halo. Whatever they were doing, Sony was going to do it better with Killzone. With three titles now out of the gate, can it be declared a success? Killzone does many things right; the graphics are dazzling and the overall presentation has this unique ability to pull even the soul of its players into its world of violence and bloodshed. It also does many things wrong, and a lot of those things reflect the same problems as their main competitor; characters are two-dimensional and forgettable, the storyline quality ranges from tepid to completely pedantic and the enemies (a few thinly-veiled references to the Nazis aside) contain no depth or soul to understand... one simply shoots when they see the reds of their eyes.
Players are thrust, once again, into Killzone’s bleak world of futuristic violence and mayhem. Killzone 3 has a very “Empire Strikes Back” feel to it, with our heroes from the ISA now becoming hunted fugitives after killing Scolar Visari, the leader of the Helghast army. They are now on the business end of the Helghast’s wrath, and, as you would expect, a lot of people are going to die. This, my dear gamers, is all you really need to know about the story.
Let’s begin with the beauty. Killzone 3 just might be one of the most artistically gorgeous games ever designed, and is definitely light years beyond its predecessor in the beauty department. All of the war-torn urban landscapes one would expect are here, but with an enormous color palette that make each scene look like some kind of Photoshop-enhanced HDR vista. Completely unrealistic, but gorgeous, immersing and compelling nonetheless. The enemies are frightening to behold, and each weapon looks as menacing as it should. Killzone 3 is an absolute triumph in terms of getting the PS3 to do its hard pixel crunching with grace and fluidity.
The gameplay as a whole is a mixed bag. Yes, it’s a shooter. Yes, it delivers on all the warm buttery shooter taste you demand in an A-list title. The sour taste in your mouth that you’re sensing is likely coming from the fact that the load points are annoying, the co-op campaign is split-screen only (jeez... 1998 called, they want their co-op back) and the online-multiplayer lag occurs a bit too often. All of the requisite online modes are present here, with such mainstays as Team Deathmatch and a new mode called “operations mode” where the best of the best in each match gets to watch a replay of their performance. The developers took the complaints from the design of the last game seriously, and tweaked several options to make Killzone 3 a less frustrating experience. Ammo crates are liberally placed all over the war torn landscape, and the checkpoints are much more frequent. The enemy AI is smarter than the last title as well, even though you will notice enemies occasionally running in circles as if they had become confused in the melee. Allied AI isn’t so bright, either, and will often walk right past you when you’re in dire need of some health assistance.
Add in several vehichle-on-rails sequence and one absolutely thrilling jetpack set piece, and what Killzone 3 manages to become is a flawed masterpiece of futuristic violence. For those early adopters with the proper TV equipment, Killzone 3 offers a 3D option. This third dimension does add to the visual splendor of the title, but will more likely just give you a headache after a while. Three hours of gameplay in standard mode and this player was ready for more... 60 minutes in 3D mode (on a rich friend’s system) and this player was reaching for the Tylenol.
Killzone 3 also supports the move wand, which faired really well during gameplay, with simple flicking maneuvers and a lock-on target reticle adding to the fun. Admittedly, for a controller that is supposed to enhance realism, Killzone 3 felt more realistic and satisfying simply using the standard controller.
Killzone 3 will not disappoint fans of the series. Those who know what to expect are going to get what they want, albeit with “minor” flaws in the design and presentation. Why they chose to limit the co-op to an offline split screen design most will never understand, but then again Killzone 4 can always rectify that. So the question remains; has Killzone become the Halo killer that Sony always wanted it to be? Probably not. However, if the choice came down to Killzone 3 or Halo: Reach, well... most would be aiming their weapons at a set of red eyes every time.