“Colours! Reds, oranges, greens, even a bit of puce!” My first thoughts when swapping the Killzone inner-city battlefield for the Helghan wilderness in the game’s third chapter, and simultaneously the first time it becomes apparent I’m not playing a Killzone 2 expansion pack.
In fact the colour palette isn’t the only first for the Killzone franchise, the section also offering a tease of stealth mechanics, almost a tutorial of sorts as Sev – yep the Sev from KZ2 – sneaks up on Helghast patrols.
It’s a memorable section, the never before seen Helghan wildlife even lending a hand as plants can shot to down nearby soldiers and long grass provides cover. There’s also a silent pistol on offer to facilitate Sev’s progression while a new Helghan trooper rears its head, the deadly and fearless Capture Trooper. He’s a real handful in these opening stages, where big guns are as yet unavailable, but towards the game’s latter stages becomes mere cannon fodder.
That’s because, it seems to me at least, that he’s something of an after thought it a game which seems oddly disjointed for such a heavily invested title. Yes there’s a story – Helghast have Earth-killing weapon, Sev, Rico, et al think it a good idea to stop them – but it’s hard to escape the feeling that what you have here is a series of “wouldn’t it bee cool if…” scenarios which have later been stitched together.
The aforementioned stealth section for example works well, serving as a nice change of pace but it’s a mechanic which you will never come into contact with again throughout the entire campaign which leads me to question why they bothered to include what feels like a tutorial for tougher stealth sections to come.
Similarly, the well publicised jet-pack flying is something you’ll experience just the once. You get just enough time to get to grips with the flying and boosting controls before the jet-pack is taken from you, never to be returned. A real shame and again, something which leads me to think that maybe there was a plan to have more jet-pack flying that was quashed for whatever reason.
At least the game’s introductory sequence works well and feels nicely integrated. You’ll find yourself amusingly in the boots of a Helghan soldier, some six months after the previous instalment’s conclusion. Walking through the Helghan base is an experience in itself as your fellow soldiers give you a verbal ribbing; then there’s the coup de grace: target practice. Standard stuff you might think but take a closer look at the hostile targets (and the friendlies) and tell me it didn’t raise a smile.
Next you’re sent hurtling back through time to play out the events following the death of the Helghan Emperor, Visari at KZ2’s conclusion. This time firmly back on the familiar side of the ISA, assuming the role of Tomas ‘Sev’ Sevchenko. Never a series to stand on ceremony you’re instantly plunged into a combat situation and well, it’s fair to say it play almost identically to its predecessor.
The cover system is OK, enemies will occasionally outflank you and your fellow troops are essentially nothing but bullet sponges; basically there’s nothing here you haven’t done before, over and over ad nauseum. Even the close-quarter fighting improvements aren’t all they were made out to be. There is a better repertoire of knife attacks but they are simply one-hit-kill moves, not the rich tapestry of hand-to-hand combat that might have been.
Environments rarely leave you room to strategise, instead channelling you down a set route, while the next deployment of Helghan soldiers is usually triggered by encroaching a set distance through the environment meaning it all gets a little predictable.
Vehicle sections impress too in the chaos stakes, usually involving getting behind a big gun onboard anything from a tank to a troop carrier. You’ll have so much to shoot at that the only time you stop firing is when the gun inevitably overheats. In fact identifying your most pressing target is often tough. Hostiles will make your cursor glow red but the key is knowing which target to focus on first, knowledge often gained through a series of bitter deaths.
In fact death can be a common occurrence, just a few well placed bullets making do for Sev. Rico, if he’s nearby, can occasionally revive – thereby saving you from restarting from the last checkpoint – you but this occurs haphazardly and unpredictably, depending on Rico’s positioning while inevitably the second you revive you’ll be instantly under concentrated fire once more often resulting in a second instant death. Frustrating much!
At least the action reaches epic levels at times, much as you’d expect of a game that can throw some 20+ soldiers from both sides into the fray. With so much fire being exchanged you can guarantee the effect is at times spectacular, if you’ve got surround-side expect to be entertained.
KZ3 is glorious throughout visually too although, having said that, there isn’t much to feast your eyes on that wasn’t already just as resplendent in KZ2. One other thing I would also point out is that there’s a hell of a lot of floating debris on show. Yes I’m sure it looks spectacular if you so happen to be in possession of a 3D TV, but given that amounts to just a few percent of its target audience I’d say it’s a tad overdone for what was really necessary.
A lot has also been made of the game’s Move compatibility, I played through the single-player campaign using both Move and DualShock and can report that Move probably is the way to go, just. After the initial calibration it’s possible to tweak the sensitivity of the Move to your heart’s content, with auto lock on, turning speed, etc. all adjustable.
In play you’ll suddenly be able to snap from Helghast head to Helghast head with just the flick of the wrist meaning I was able to progress through the game much more rapidly than with DualShock. It isn’t all good news however, it’s easy to get something akin to tunnel-vision whereby you follow the reticle rather than taking in the general scene, while after cutscenes I’d often find myself staring at the sky when the action returned to first-person. Still, all-in-all, a better experience than with the analogue and one I look forward to taking online.
Speaking of which: multiplayer. At the time of writing the only multiplayer scene available was the Killzone 3 open beta currently available via the PSN Store – believe me, I tried connecting via the full game but the servers simply aren’t running. However look out for a follow feature in which we’ll be comparing the multiplayer aspects of all the major FPS out there right now, namely Bulletstorm, Crysis 2, Homefront and Killzone 3.
What all this boils down to is that Killzone 3, while a must for FPS stalwarts, isn’t exactly the marquee title we were all waiting for. I completed it on the third of four difficulty setting in around 15 hours – worse it just kind of ends with little fanfare afforded.
Certain sections are fantastic – an assault on a MAWLR (a kind of gigantic AT-AT) proving particularly stand-out – while others feel tacked on for the sake of it (stealth and jet-packs sections for example) and the bulk of action, the trawl through troop infested battlegrounds, offers no advance on its predecessor. Good yes, but not quite great.