The focus for the third main series game in the Killzone saga has been to polish up the combat in close quarters and to tell a more intimate, personal story. Guerrilla Games' Hermen Hulst said that the goal for Killzone 2 was to perfect the shooter mechanics, while they wanted to perfect the brutal melee attacks in Killzone 3. Both elements have been polished to perfection - and the foundation for a great action experience is in place.
Killzone 3 gives us eight hours of action, action and more action. There are no breaks for puzzle solving or time for contemplation, one explosive encounter after another all the way to the end. But even if the game is completely focused on delivering a rollercoaster ride full of action, the quality is solid all the way through. Killzone 3 may not introduce many innovations, but it delivers a spectacular shooter experience.
The game starts off where it's predecessor left us, as the human forces have killed off Visari, but not before he was able to send his entire war machine bearing down on the human fleet. The result is a rollercoaster ride of a battle for the human ISA (Interplanetary Strategic Alliance) forces.
Power amongst the Helghast is passed on to its political leaders, and we are given an insight to the dark and cynical world of Helghast politics. This is portrayed in a brilliant fashion and the characters reek of evil and desperation. It appears as though the inspiration for this has been take for the political game played out of in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during the second world war. It adds an extra layer of inspiration and motivation in the battles.
In parallel to the grand political story we are also treated to a more up close and personal human story on the battlefields. Through the eyes of the main character Sev and his friend Rico we experienced their desperate struggle for survival against the seemingly endless onslaughts of Helghast troops. Thanks to tons of spectacular cut scenes with brilliant motion capture animations, the feelings of the characters come to life. It's not just a struggle to survive, but to hang on to the last shred of human dignity.
The game starts in a Helghast base, where our friends find themselves on a mission behind enemy lines. We are given a quick tutorial on the basics of shooting, aiming and using cover in a training course. The objective is to not shoot dark men with orange eyes, but instead cowering humans. A fun twist. The controls are as sharp as they come.
The design of Helghast troops, vehicles and special forces are splendid. The orange eyes puts the fear in you, and it feels great to pump them full with lead. The bloodspray is fittingly brutal and you get the sense of the true force between each bullet that finds its home in a Helghast. It feels great to shoot your enemies in Killzone 3.
There is ragdoll physics second to none. Both when it comes to melee attacks in close combat, but also when it comes to soldiers who meet their demise with a bullet from a distance. One example of this was a Helghast who sat behind a sandbag, leaning with his arms and gun in the direction of the human enemies, but without his head in place. The battlefield is constantly changing.
In addition to the brutal battles with Helghast foot soldiers you will also face several Helghast crafts that are just as satisfying to put down as the soldiers. There is a nice ring to the metal as missiles and fire rain down on the enemy craft, and it often ends with a great explosion followed by a crash landing complete with fire and smoke. While this is nothing new in itself, the level of polish and visual excellence makes it an experience worth remembering.
We are also faced with enemies equipped with jetpacks and these encounters are some of the best in Killzone 3. It you manage to hit the jetpack with a bullet it will send the Helghast spinning out of control. As I was engaging three jetpack soldiers I managed to hit the first one in his jetpack and he was thrown 20 metres into the air and rammed into one of the others to explode. It wasn't a set piece, but rather the result of a polished and dynamic game engine and it's what makes Killzone 3 stand out.
But vehicles aren't only included in the game to be shot down as we get to man several cannons and guns on vehicles both on the ground and in the air. It works well as a bit of a break in the game, and this sequences are often visually very pleasing. We also get to control a mech for a bit, and while this is by no means the highlight of the game, it adds a bit of variation.
The soundscape is spectacular in Killzone 3. Voice acting and music adds to the atmosphere, but it's the sound of the weapons that's the real star of the show. The sound of a bullet making it's way through the barrel of the gun, followed by the case hitting the ground, something that really makes the game come to life with a surround system.
Killzone 3 supports both stereoscopic 3D and motion controls. And even if both are interesting on paper, I chose to play the game without 3D and with a traditional controller. While Sony and Killzone 3 may be breaking new ground with 3D, there is little benefit from using than a better sense of depth, but after 10 minutes you will want to turn it off for a superior and less straining 2D experience.
Move works surprisingly well if you are patient enough to sit down and learn the controls properly. Once you get used to it, it's fun. There are several settings where you can set just how automatic the motion controls should be, so everyone should be able to find a setting that suits them. Sony claims that the experience is more realistic and precise, but I don't agree and somehow I feel that they knew this themselves as there is auto-aim as default when you use Playstation Move unlike what's the case with the standard controller.
Unfortunately I was not able to play the multiplayer mode for more than 30 minutes as I wrote this review, not much to base an opinion on. Killzone 3 offers mission based multiplayer, where you get to choose from various roles. It comes across as solid and exciting, and is more story-driven than the multiplayer in similar games.
You can play through the entire campaign with a friend next to you in split screen mode. Unfortunately there is no online support for co-operative, something that would have been thoroughly enjoyable. It's definitely a disappointment.
Killzone 3 doesn't win any prizes for innovation, but it perfects most elements you expect from a shooter. It's an incredibly hectic and intense game filled with explosive action scenes. A brutal shooter that will keep you glued to your Playstation 3 from start to finish.