Desperation, sadness, loneliness, a desire to escape from tyranny, suffering, and a yearning to rise up and right injustices; these are just some of the emotions conveyed by the game’s opening violin requiem – listen to it here. Reaching into the very depths of your soul, the violin piece sets the mood for the entire game: pain, anguish and the aspiration to rise up. At the conclusion of Killzone 2, a great victory was won by the ISA, but the true challenge was still to come.
Killzone 2 didn’t have a strong narrative, but Guerrilla Games looked to correct that with Killzone 3. With a larger emphasis on storyline and behind-the-scenes happenings, Guerrilla Games delivers an experience that reveals why the Helghast are so feared, why the ISA are fighting to liberate the people of Helghan, and why the war is being waged. The Helghan government is in shambles following the events of Killzone 2, but the government leaders refuse to give up.
Instead of solely focusing on the ISA and their struggles to overcome the Helghast, Guerrilla Games, instead, delves into the inner dealings and scheming of the Helghan government, thus, showing their desperation and humanity in a way that has never been delivered in previous Killzone entries. Showing the political turmoil and the inner struggle for power among the Helghan leaders, the more in-depth storyline sheds new light on the war and the mentality of the Helghan people and its leaders – just because some are sinister monsters doesn’t mean they all are. On the other end of the battlefield is the ISA. Sev, Rico, and the rest of the ISA battalion are looking to escape the planet, but more personality and emotion is conveyed by each character to allow you to care or, at least, form a connection of some sort with them.
The storyline leaves many questions to be answered, but it does a nice job of getting you interested and personally involved. The parallels between the Nazi regime –fans of history will likely enjoy the Killzone 3 storyline a little more for this reason — and the Helghast is further intensified with the new storyline details, as the Helghast leaders are egotistical elitist that blame the ISA for their current state of poor conditions and suffering country. The basis for the story is great; it only stumbles in some of the execution as to how it is being told. Certain elements aren’t told strong enough and leave you having to assume some of it or things aren’t told at all. The FPS genre isn’t renowned for great storylines, but Killzone 3 delivers a fairly strong and emotional one. Giving personality to the Helghan officials and the ISA forces, Guerrilla Games delivers a storyline that will pique your interest and have you eagerly anticipate what’s coming next.
Initially, Killzone 3 plays just as you’d expect a first-person shooter to. You’ll navigate through corridors that have been created by the destruction of the urban setting and gun your way through Helghast forces. The vast majority of the game is still conducted in this style, but Guerrilla Games offers a lot more variety as you further yourself through Killzone 3. One of the mid-range chapters takes place in a jungle swarming with reconnaissance Helghast troops. Since they are hunting down the ISA and searching for your base of command, shooting at them will only create a stir, so you must use the long grass and shadows to your advantage to creep and stealthily kill the occupying troops with the new ‘Brutal Melee’ mechanic that has you poking the eyes out of the enemy or slicing their throat.
You’ll also find yourself strapped into a jetpack and piloting through enemy locations while airborne. This change of pace creates a fun experience and gives you the chance to have the advantage of a surprise attack and height benefit. The jetpack is limited in mobility and can only remain airborne for short spurts, but mastering this contraption is great fun and will make you wish it was available more prevalently in the title. Other instances will have you pilot a mechanical suit, tank, or a gunship — which plays more like an on-rail shooter — as you lay waste to the Helghan troops. Of these mentioned game styles, the gunship sections were the only that gave us any trouble. The limited range of aim left us more vulnerable to enemy fire. It took a few tries to get adjusted to and able to overcome these sections. The action conveyed in Killzone 3 is incredibly movie-like and it never seems to cease or get tiring. It’s over-the-top, intense, epic, and thoroughly rewarding.
Another game changer Guerrilla Games has implemented into Killzone 3 is Move support. The Wii was supposed to deliver a new way to experience FPS, but early titles were gimmicky or suffered from horrendous control. More refined titles like Ubisoft’s Red Steel 2 and Nintendo’s Metroid Prime 3/Trilogy showed that FPS could work with motion-based controls, though, and Guerrilla Games has solidified that fact as Move controls also work very well in Killzone 3. You will use the navigation controller to move, while the Move controller aims, adjusts the camera, and shoots. This method of control works very well and is a viable substitute to the dualshock control method.
There are still many traditional run-and-gun sections that are filled with high intensity moments that are will give you a sense of wonder and amazement. Navigating your way through a corridor of a destroyed city, you’ll come to the conclusion that it’s the standard makeup of a FPS, but you’ll unexpectedly find yourself being shot at by snipers from a distance or being forced back by flamethrower equipped enemies that are raining down the flames from above. You need to use cover and be aware of your surroundings at all times while exploring because enemies come from every angle. To make the situation even more nerve-racking, the AI of Killzone 3 is extraordinary. Helghast soldiers will evade your grenade throws, run to better cover, and will attempt to flush you out of cover with highly accurate grenade tosses of their own. This is among the best FPS AI ever witnessed.
The friendly AI is just as well tuned. When you have a squadron around you, enemy soldiers will target them just as much as they will target you. You’ll never feel like you are alone in the battle, you’ll feel like you are part of a team and everyone is doing their part to make the mission a success. Over the course of the game, you may find yourself getting shot and downed, but, thankfully, your comrade can revive you during battle to keep the action moving along. It is limited as to how many times you can be revived it seems – around four it appeared on Veteran – but it’s not a guaranteed thing, either. If you are too far away or surrounded by too much enemy fire, your partner will not take the chance to revive you. A handful of times the AI didn’t respond well and claimed we were out of reach although they were crouched right in front of us. You can go through campaign mode in local-only cooperative play, but there are some slight performance hiccups while doing so. While playing on your own, the game loads remarkably well and you hardly notice the slight pause during these load sequences, but when in co-op is becomes more noticeable and there are some framerate issues. It’s not enough to discredit the co-op mode, but the best way to experience the game will be on your own.
Once the campaign is over, it’s time for the true heart of the game: multiplayer. Online multiplayer is the blood of any FPS and Guerrilla Games doesn’t treat Killzone 3 any differently. All the essentials are in place: Warzone, Operations, and Guerilla Warfare. Of the three, the one mode that is the most appealing and, likely, the one that will be the most heavily populated with players will be Warzone. What makes Warzone so unique is how the mode is composed. Consisting of several play types – team deathmatch, VIP, placing a bomb, disusing a bomb, etcetera – into a single match, the constant change of game modes keeps things new and players can never become too complacent with how their team is performing, which leads to some exciting matches. Operations mode has you either defend or attack a location on the map. Lastly, Guerilla Warfare is your standard team deathmatch but has all the features the rest of the game has: turrets, jetpacks, mobile suits, and more. It may not sound like much, but there is plenty of content here to be had and it’s all thoroughly enjoyable.
Multiplayer is just as reliant on game modes and features as it is on map size and quantity. At launch, the map quantity is somewhat low and that is disappointing, but the scope of each map is quite substantial and more than meets the needs to provide a satisfying go at each game mode. Though spacious, the maps have a clever design that makes getting to battle and moving throughout the map easy, meanwhile making it difficult for players to find a spot to camp. You can find areas that will provide you cover from certain types of attacks, but it may leave your back open for a sneak attack or a snipe shot. It can become quite riveting.
Based on your performance, you’ll be rewarded points, medals, and level up accordingly. There are a number of different classes available to select from: Engineer, Marksmen, Medic, Infiltrator, and Tactician. Each has their own special skill like using turrets, cloaking, camouflage, or reviving other players. Using these skills will be crucial for individual success and team success. The only things that can be viewed as a negative on the multiplayer aspect is that leveling up doesn’t have as much of a benefit as it did in Killzone 2 as many of the abilities are given early on in Killzone 3 and the map selection is slim – as of now.
It goes without saying, but Guerrilla Games has crafted one beautiful title. Killzone 2 looked great, but Killzone 3 out performs it in every aspect. Killzone 3 runs smoother; hardly any noticeable load times when playing on your own, the environments are lively and breathe with realistic detail. Watching a building crumble or any of the environmental destruction occur is mesmerizing. The artists and tech team at Guerrilla are top-tier. For those with a 3D television, the game supports stereoscopic 3D effects and will immerse you in the wonder of the Helghan like never before.
So, is Killzone 3 a gaming masterpiece? As defined by Merriam-Webster: Definition of MASTERPIECE
1: a work done with extraordinary skill; especially: a supreme intellectual or artistic achievement
Yes. Guerrilla Games’ Killzone 3 is a gaming masterpiece. It is the finest product to come from the talented people at Guerilla Games and is one of the finest FPS of the generation. Killzone 2 was a step in the right direction, but Killzone 3 proves that Guerrilla Games has the skill to create a memorable game. Some minor story mishaps, small campaign issues, and sparse selection of multiplayer maps keep the experience from achieving perfection, but the rest of the game is simply too good to skip over. Once again, it’s a masterpiece in every sense of the word.
(Editor’s Note: An early copy of Killzone 3 was provided by Sony for review purposes. The single-player campaign was completed on ‘Veteran’ (Hard) for this review. Multiplayer impressions are based on multiplayer sessions hosted by Sony. 27/52 Trophies were earned.)